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Need your help To keep art fairs alive and well in Scottsdale Arizona, and everywhere!

Dear AFI friends, artists in Arizona could use your support! If you can get behind local artists who are contributing to a lively and vital downtown Scottsdale but are facing battles with galleries and merchants who feel threatened by what they call "pop up art shows" and "itinerant artists" "pitching tents" - otherwise known as artists doing art fairs - please consider learning about this issue (read below) and then signing and sharing the petition (link below), we're looking to get 2500 signatures and are well on our way.

In a nutshell, a very vocal group of local merchants and galleries in the downtown Scottsdale area are attempting to put the popular Artisan Markets out of business, citing issues such as unfair competition. They have thus far succeeded in having the Market's 2016 permit revoked and will not stop until they get the 2015 permit revoked as well. At the same time they are seeking to revise the special event permit definition to shutdown/exclude other events they do not like or that they feel threaten their businesses. The Market is run by a local promoter who has followed all the rules and puts on a successful event that draws significant numbers of people to an otherwise beleaguered gallery district. I recently moved back to Arizona and learned of this issue through some of my artist friends.

Articles (a sampling)

Why should we care?
This type of vitriolic speak out and aggressive action by galleries/merchants who feel threatened by artists who do shows in their "neighborhood", and / or who dare to practice a different business model, has the potential to affect us all, with precedents being set that may be looked at by chambers and associations around the country who wish to "retire" events they feel interfere with their businesses.

This is a link to the petition. Please sign and share on social media.

Thanks! Diana Ferguson

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I think we need to look at this from the merchant's point of view too, as there are always two sides to every issue.

Usually when a show or event comes to town, the local merchants are happy because there are lots of people in town that weekend who will do business with the shops as well as the exhibitors, and everybody benefits.

Evidently this is not the case.

I take it these shows are in the same part of town where there are galleries and the like, and the show arrives with work that is priced far below what's inside. I don't care how you  describe it, the events are causing those merchants to lose money. And they're not like us, where if we lose money we just don't return. They have a lease that must be paid every month whether or not they make any money.

The merchants should be allowed to complain and like it or not, they should have more say than we do about the locations of the shows. A gallery could have work inside that costs say, $3000 and up and here we come from Kansas, and set up right in front of their store and sell our work for $300.

The promoter should be out there making friends with the affected merchants, not fighting with them, Why isn't the promoter trying to address their concerns and work with them? It could be something as simple as everyone just coming into the shops wanting to use their bathrooms.

Hi Chris, I appreciate your point of view on this issue! Here are some additional thoughts.

The Artisan Markets has been going on since 2009 and is not located adjacent to any particular merchants but rather on the bridge(s) that connect the Scottsdale Waterfront with the 5th Avenue area where the complaining merchants are located. These bridges were built for the express purpose of hosting special events such as art fairs, farmer's markets and the like (see background at the bottom of this post).

She (the promoter) HAS BEEN working with the merchants all these years and trying to address their concerns, including having a kiosk that shares information about the 5th Avenue merchants and their art walk, and encouraging participants to share their local connections with Scottsdale, including recommending restaurants, shops, and the like to visit. There is more on this in the reading attached and in other articles that can be found on line. The petition only came after the City Council chose to revoke an ALREADY EXISTING permit for 2016.

Beyond eliminating this one event, what concerns me is the unintended consequences that may occur as a result of this action by the city council. Its a slippery slope. Actions may be forthcoming that have the potential to affect the livelihoods of many artists who come to Arizona during the winter months to participate in high caliber art events all around the city.

As I understand it, the merchants have submitted a six point manifesto to the City Council (who is in the process of revising the Special Permit process) that seeks among other things, to shut down ANY special events IN ALL OF SCOTTSDALE that would interfere with their Thursday night art walks and/or that occur at any time of year, even miles from their location, that take place over more than 30 days and that they perceive as competition.

This is an issue that has been ongoing for many years (galleries versus art fairs) but that has really gotten traction after a rash of gallery closings in the downtown Scottsdale area more recently -- related to not only the recession but a dying downtown and contentious issues regarding taxes and so forth. One of the benefits that the Artisan Markets brings to the downtown is that they attract a up and coming demographic that heretofore would not care to venture into the downtown on a Thursday night (someone described as "creepy") or any other time.

Obviously, this is an issue that is much larger than a few independent artisans selling their goods a couple of days a week during the winter months. It evolves in my opinion from certain businesses finding themselves unable to execute their traditional brick and mortar business models due to changing demographics, changing buying habits and a radically different economy.

Scottsdale historically has been the very heart and hallmark of capitalism. It is ironic that now, when the going gets tough, there is an effort afoot to legislate away the competition away. I do, by the way, fully support a level playing field in terms of increasing the cost for a special events permits, etc.


Scottsdale Waterfront is the most sophisticated and stylish community located in the heart of Downtown Scottsdale at Camelback Road between Scottsdale Road and Marshall Way.  The beautiful 1.1 million square foot mixed-use project has become the distinctive lifestyle destination to visit, to shop, and to be seen.  It includes a diverse collection of retail, office, restaurant and high-rise residential buildings.  Retailers include David’s Bridal Collections, Fit Republic, High Point, Primp and Blow – a Blow Dry Bar, Urban Outfitters, Verizon Wireless and Vom Fass.  Discover delicious one-of-a kind dining at one of our many restaurants including, Culinary Dropout, Olive & Ivy Restaurant + Marketplace, P.F. Chang’s China Bistro, Sauce Pizza & Wine, Wildfish Seafood Grille and Zoes Kitchen.  The development is also home to the Fiesta Bowl headquarters and museum.  Enjoy the surrounding paths landscaped with festive palm trees, dramatic flowers, spectacular public art sculptures and fountains, plus open air courtyards that give the property a European flair.  The Soleri and Marshall Way bridges link the canal to Southbridge and the Scottsdale Fifth Avenue Shopping district.  In addition, Scottsdale Fashion Square is located directly across from Scottsdale Waterfront.  Scottsdale Waterfront plays host to numerous events throughout the year including the Thunderbird Artists Fine Art & Wine Festivals, Artisan Markets, The Original Taste and more! 

The problem with this promoter is that the art show is every Thursday and Sunday, yes every week! Plus they have a few 3 days festivals each year. Way too many shows if you ask me! I live in the Phoenix area and no longer do local shows because this area is too saturated with shows and it's hurting the artists. I also see the quality in the shows going down, way too much beaded jewelry! I don't believe the merchants are worried about them taking away their customers, this market is mostly local artists for work under $100. The problem with it, is the parking. The area gets very busy with the nearby restaurants and clubs, not to mention they also host a Thursday night art walk. I personally like the lady that runs this, but it's just too much!

Yes, I'm sensitive to the issue of too many shows as well, Brian -- as well as declining quality in some.

I do primarily ranked juried shows in Chicago, Texas, Colorado and Arizona -- and am concerned that quality remains high within them. However, this is an artisan market so the standards are different than the kind of shows you or I do, and I think the individuals attending this event are seeing and purchasing exactly what they expect and want. I'm not sure revoking an already granted permit for this event for 2016 is the solution. It's not fair for one thing, and further, if this is the solution the city council has come up with (eliminating popular events to decrease crowded parking), it severely narrows the range of events that can be done on the Waterfront bridges, including Farmer's Markets. Yet, that is one of their express purposes.

If in fact parking has become an issue, that must be a testament to the success of the Artisan Markets with the public. I think the demographic attending sees this event as a great opportunity to socialize with their friends and share the fun experience of shopping for artisan (handmade) goods. They get to meet the artisan in a relaxed, easy-going environment, and then there is something fun to do afterward. Perfect for millennials.

I firmly believe that if the merchants and galleries that are contesting the right of the Artisan Markets to exist can offer something COMPELLING for the public to come see -- then they WILL make their way to the area.

To be clear, I'm not saying there are not issues that should be discussed and resolved for this event, and others like it. I just think the idea of eliminating an already existing permit is draconian and to be honest, seems a tad politically motivated.

Hi all! Here's an update on attempts to revoke the 2015 permit: a compromise was reached with the city council that allows the Artisan Markets to continue on Thursday nights through November 12, 2015. Then, for the remainder of 2015, they are allowed to operate on Sundays. 2016 permit is still revoked. Efforts there are still ongoing. Thanks to all who have so far signed the petition -- awareness that the public cares about this event is making -- and will continue to make -- a difference!

New article from the Phoenix New Times subsequent to the "compromise", with much more background on the entire situation.

I can see both sides of this conflict. When I lived in New Orleans, there was a local Art Market every weekend of the month. However, they were in different neighborhoods around the city and metro area. Perhaps AZ Artisan Markets should focus on moving the location in rotation each weekend. One in Scottsdale, one in Tempe, one in Mesa, one in the downtown area. Look at Phoenix as a larger market area and not get so laser focused on Scottsdale. Demographics indicate that wintering Baby Boomers are in the waning phase of large purchases. Let's get younger folks fired up about art all around the metro Phoenix area. 

Thanks for those updates, Diana. Still doesn't look good for the show organizer and for those of you in the area who want to limit travel (and take advantage of snowbirds). What do you think of Margaret's comment? That sounds like a great idea -- a sort of traveling show -- different neighborhoods around the area. Phoenix is a pretty big place which could support this.

Cool idea, Margaret.

Yes, I suspect now that this well-established show has been dismantled by Scottsdale politics (that's a fact, not an opinion), Audrey will be looking at innovative solutions like the one Margaret suggested. She has been reached out to by many who would be happy to provide the location for an event like hers so I suspect once she gets her bearings back (this was a very, very, very nasty fight with a lot of hideousness, like gallery owners calling her a fat cow among other things), she will be back up and at 'em with a new plan. As far as millennials, that is the irony of the whole thing -- that is exactly who was visiting Audrey's event -- and who at least a percentage of the gallery owners in downtown Scottsdale who were so against this event vehemently said they are NOT INTERESTED IN ATTRACTING. I guess this is because they don't yet have the big bucks to buy big art. I think that is short sighted to say the least. My belief is this... attract millennials with fun, social events that will get them interested in the concept of art and the different ways it can be acquired. They will eventually migrate into downtown Scottsdale (if downtown Scottsdale would only make their Art Walk something anyone would want to attend) and begin down the path of becoming the collectors that will support these brick and mortar businesses well into the future.


Diana-- I've participated in the event and in my experience, I did not find millennials in the house. Even with that being said, I'd penciled the event into my extensive travel schedule this winter as a grass roots Sunday afternoon with some cool folks and selling opportunity wrapped into one lovely package.

Insofar as the negativity surrounding the disagreement, it's unfortunate the level of debate degraded to name calling, not unlike national politics it seems. When I get entrenched and positional, I know I sometimes loose focus on the bigger picture and get more into being right than being in a solution frame of mind.  Seems like that definitely happened here, but it's time to move on. Wounds stick around as long as we allow them to do so. We can all agree on Art being an important part of contemporary life (since we are in this business!) and maybe it's time to move into agreement and focus on values we share.  I'm hopeful Audrey will see this as an expansive opportunity, a positive thing; I'm definitely cheering her on and hoping the event will continue in a new form in new places!

I did not participate in the event (my protest was/is philosophical not personal) but I do know several millennials (or in the general vicinity) who were visiting and enjoying it. I think we all eventually convert our experiences into growth opportunities and I'm sure Audrey will as well. It is definitely time to move on as this has been put to bed for a few weeks now.


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