BUSINESS MONDAY: American Art Marketing


Any individual who appreciates fantastic craft art currently knows to make an annual pilgrimage to the Berkshire Arts Competition that has taken put at Ski Butternut each July 4th weekend considering the fact that 1981 (this year’s dates are July 1,2 and 3) exactly where the operate of some 150 hand-picked exhibitors—jewelers, fashion designers, ceramicists, artwork glass makers, wonderful artists, sculptors, home furniture makers, and more—can be identified.

Joanna and Richard Rothbard, who operate An American Craftsman outlets and the many craft artwork reveals in the Berkshires.

But not everyone is aware of Richard and Joanna Rothbard of American Artwork Advertising, the few who created this exhibit and have run it for 22 several years now. Impresarios of remarkably profitable crafts reveals across the country, the Rothbards have a distinctive connection to the Berkshires. They very own An American Craftsman, which has had a retail outlet in the Berkshires considering that 1981.  Their Stockbridge keep operated from 1981 to 2020 the Lenox shop opened in 2017, and they briefly ran a third locale on the Stockbridge Highway in Fantastic Barrington. And now, they are incorporating a few new Berkshire displays to their summer months plan, all at the town park in the heart of Lee, Mass. These reveals in Lee will acquire location Memorial Working day weekend, the very last weekend in August and Labor Day weekend. Just about every of these reveals in Lee will feature a revolving array of 25-35 fine craft artists. And one more display is planned for the Oct 1st and 2nd on the grounds of Shakespeare & Co. in Lenox.

Glass and metal console desk by artist Sabra Richards. Observed completely at An American Craftsman.

Richard Rothbard is the extra general public facial area of the couple, while Joanna has been his associate and support considering the fact that 1976 when she applied for a task at his first gallery on 29th Road and 3rd Avenue in Manhattan, and they married in 1977.  And she seems to have loved using the rollercoaster of Richard’s entrepreneurial adventures while sustaining impressive equanimity.

Jelly Fish by Weston Glass, for sale at An American Craftsman

Richard grew up in Lawrence, Long Island, where by, he states, the competition was fierce, and the results ended up rather a great deal all that mattered.  So, how did a kid from Extensive Island, who caught the theater bug when earning a degree in finance at Hofstra University and invested many years as an actor (largely he had a long operate in the role of Boy in The Fantasticks on off-Broadway) end up producing great crafts exhibits in the Berkshires?  As you can imagine, it was not a straight line, but the journey tends to make for a superior tale.  And it also shows the kind of hazards and benefits that appear with a occupation as an entrepreneur in the hugely aggressive world of arts advertising.

Table by Peter Choose-Robles who will be exhibiting at Art in the Park in Lee. Photograph courtesy of American Arts Advertising and marketing

As Richard tells it, he still left the theater since he fell in appreciate with a dining desk.  “It was just one that my aunt obtained from George Nakashima.  Nakashima worked miracles with wooden and, at age 27, I turned a woodworker.”  Starting in the 1960s, he was creating furniture. By 1967, he experienced the very first of many merchants in Manhattan where he and other artisans ended up advertising their work. Richard is now regarded for the intricate puzzle bins he helps make himself less than the rubric of “Boxology.”  And how he commenced earning the packing containers is also a story.  He had moved his woodworking machines into the basement of the retailer on 29th and 3rd (where by he also met Joanna).  Just one day a man from California came in carrying logs of cedar. He had read that Richard had a band observed.  Could he use it to make some packing containers?  Richard watched and then examined and realized, and inside a couple of a long time he was earning remarkably polished wood packing containers and designed a name as an early band noticed box artist.

He begun providing his get the job done at shows around the state and in 1979 he was accepted as an exhibitor at the premiere display in the country, set on by the American Craft Council (ACC) at the Dutchess County Fairgrounds in Rhinebeck, N.Y. But, irrespective of his acceptance, he understood numerous talented artists who experienced been turned down by the ACC, and he read their grumbling.

Ceramics by Jennifer Cranna Cahalar who will be exhibiting at Art in the Park in Lee. Photo courtesy American Artwork Marketing

So, the up coming 12 months, in 1980, he rented the parking good deal across the road from the Fairgrounds and put on a show that he identified as “Rejects”.  “The present was enormously effective,” says Rothbard, “and it launched my vocation.” He experienced 50 exhibitors who have been not frightened to split absent from the ACC. Some 1,000 prospective buyers walked throughout the road to his clearly show.  The up coming 12 months, “Rejects” had 150 artists, and by 1982 there have been 300.  In 1984, the ACC moved its present to the Major E in West Springfield, and Richard moved in up coming doorway with about 80 exhibitors beneath tents. A few yrs later his tents housed 300 exhibitors.  A several many years afterwards, the ACC moved its exhibit to Columbus, Ohio and Richard stopped pursuing them close to.

Wearable Fiber by Vilma Mare, who will be exhibiting at Artwork in the Park in Lee. Photograph courtesy of American Arts Promoting

By then, the Rothbards had been now in the Berkshires.  The relationship to the Berkshires commenced in Richard’s childhood he went to summer months camp here and constantly preferred to appear again. They also felt there was a sector for fantastic craft art in the Berkshires.  So, the good results of the initial “Rejects” exhibit in 1980 encouraged them to broaden to Ski Butternut in 1981. They also opened a shop in Stockbridge at the similar time.  As luck would have it, as they drove into Stockbridge to do some pre-exhibit perform, an antique company was vacating a retail store.  The Rothbards ended up intrigued.  The landlord happened to be there, and they rented it on the place.  And they occupied that store right until early 2020.  In 2017, they purchased a making in Lenox where they ended up equipped to create a considerably larger retailer and develop the wide range of their products.

Mask puzzle containers disassembled, from Richard Rothbard’s Boxology assortment. Photograph courtesy of American Art Advertising and marketing

Above the decades, the Rothbards have viewed excellent alterations in the craft art sector.  In 1980, some 25,000 would arrive to the ACC demonstrate in Rhinebeck with income, and the artists could make a quite excellent living accomplishing exhibits.  At the exact same time, there had been other prestigious venues.  Both the Philadelphia Museum and the Smithsonian held yearly crafts reveals.  The American Craft Museum occupied a sizeable setting up on the exact same block as the Museum of Fashionable Art.  These shows no extended exist. Men and women have moved absent from utilizing the phrase “crafts.” For case in point , when the Museum moved into the former Huntington Hartford Museum at Columbus Circle, it  rebranded itself as the Museum of Art & Design and style.

Hot Hats by artist Carlotta Shelton, accessible at the forthcoming Art in the Park in Lee. Photograph courtesy of American Art Marketing and advertising

There are continue to tons of very well-proven displays, but other factors have aided make the enterprise more tricky.  The universe of artists who will do reveals is shrinking. “You applied to be capable to place up displays with some predictability.  Artists who would ordinarily get into their vans and travel six hrs, or even a day or two, to be in a demonstrate are now hesitating.  The cost of gasoline is discouraging them.” And a lot of artists do not want to get the hazard to rent a booth.  For example, the Rothbards observe, there are lots of artists in the Berkshires who won’t do demonstrates since they are fearful about laying out that original financial commitment.

Rocking chair by Tom Bazis who will be exhibiting in Artwork in the Park in Lee. Photo courtesy of American Artwork Marketing

“The problem of accomplishing a exhibit,” says Rothbard, “is that it has to be an fast accomplishment.  It is like opening a new organization in a moment. It’s a pop-up.  People both occur or they do not, and you really don’t have a likelihood to improve it above months or months.”  The good results of a exhibit relies upon on the preparation.  You have to get the proper combine of artists, and you have to create attendance by way of the suitable mix of marketing and promotion.  “As far as I know,” Rothbard carries on, “we are a person of the pretty few promoters who are commencing new demonstrates.”

The Rothbards have developed a reliable standing by using treatment of their exhibitors and bringing in the purchasers. “Our model is unique since we have an ongoing firm with reveals and retail stores and now a rising on the internet enterprise. We are even scheduling to open a new keep in Manhattan on Lexington Avenue at 63rd Avenue. We also have been watchful to preserve our expenses to artists fair and affordable. We are an group that a good artist can look to for possibilities, exactly where they can essentially participate. And we get the job done tricky to provide in the crowds.  When we 1st arrived to Butternut, we networked like nuts among the other enterprises and also among the lodges and inns.  On our pretty initially day, we experienced 2000 persons.  It was a wonderful results, and we have carried out effectively just about every calendar year given that.”

Portray by Jeanne DeCoste who will be exhibiting at Lee Artwork in the Park. Photograph courtesy of American Art Advertising and marketing.

They have loved working in the Berkshires.  The small business neighborhood here has been collegial and supportive.  And there is a large amount of curiosity in artwork between both inhabitants and readers. “But,”concludes Rothbard, “it carries on to be a challenge.  For a show to be a accomplishment, men and women want to come and artists need to promote.  The artists appear when they have religion in the men and women who are endorsing the demonstrate, but, even then, no a person will arrive if it is far too far or way too expensive.”



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