I asked readers who visited the Fall Open Studios Tours to write and tell me how the tour went for them, and if they had suggestions. I also asked the same of artists who participated in the weekend tours. Heart of Tucson Art and Art Trails did their own surveys and reported results to me as well. I did not receive any feedback from SAACA’s weekend #3 and #4 tours, nor from David Aguirre’s downtown events.
There were not that many responses, but a fairly clear picture emerged.
1. There was a very strong positive response to dividing Tucson into city sectors and having tours in each sector over four weekends. This is in contrast to the old model of one weekend for a city-wide tour. In fact the positive response rate for multiple weekends in city sectors was roughly 95% in favor of continuing the multi-weekend, city sector tour. Both tour visitors and artists agreed on this point.
One respondent wrote: “I like the four sectors. The driving doesn’t feel overwhelming. And it’s possible to spend time at each studio.”
Another said, “My two friends and I love the 4 weekends. We live in the far northeast. We could see only 5-6 studios before. We’re doing all four weekends.”
2. Regarding how people heard about the tour, the responses were varied with no one media venue dominating. This means people heard about the tour from friends, from social media, individual artists’ email news, from ads in Zocalo and the Arizona Daily Star, street signs and banners, and from the three websites. Probably the Star ad was mentioned slightly more often, but did not dominate. There was no mention of tv, radio or other advertising venues.
Note here that SAACA sent out a post-tour survey form to participating artists. One of the questions was on “Marketing” and had a list of advertising or announcement venues, presumably used by SAACA, from which to choose. Unfortunately, SAACA did not include either Art Trails or Heart of Tucson Art in this list as potential sources of information about the tours . Consequently SAACA’s results are skewed. Only asking about SAACA gives only SAACA results. In reality, many visitors came as a result of marketing by Heart of Tucson Art and Art Trails. Surveys, like lab experiments, have to be set up right and must ask the right questions, or else you get false and misleading results. Also SAACA has not reported the results of this survey. Tucson Pima Arts Council (now Arts Foundation of Tucson and Southern Arizona) used to do the same thing after studio tours. TPAC sent out surveys and never report the results to artists (as if we had no interest in what works and what doesn’t to get people to our studio tours). I asked TPAC about this once and was told that the staff would report results to artists. The report never came.
3. Art Trails artists reported more visitors this fall, but fewer sales. Heart of Tucson Art artists reported about the same number of visitors. Sales levels were about the same or less than the spring 2016 Heart of Tucson Art tour.
4. Several tour visitors complained about the map produced by SAACA and Zocalo for the tour. One person pointed out that the map had no tour dates or times. One participating artist reported: “I did hear more than once that the advertising maps & lists of artists were difficult to follow. They wanted descriptions of media with artists’ names and #’s, and artists listed in alphabetical order.”
Also the SAACA map (11” x 17”) was detached from the HeartofTucsonArt/Art Trails ad which was on 8.5”x11” paper and that showed the names and works of the artists. Preferable was the Heart of Tucson Art map produced for the spring 2016 tour. It was on only one page (8.5”x11”) with photos on one side, and the map and artist directory on the other side. It was easier to use.
Finally, one message I received from two tour visitors was heartening:
“Thanks to the multi-weekend/regional Open Studio we were able to visit more artists that interested us. As a result, we purchased 2 pieces from different artists and have identified others we will be watching. We're able, through the website, to study the artists' works beforehand and target the studios that are most in line with our tastes. We hope this concept was successful for all, artists and organizers. As art lovers, it definitely was successful for us.”
C.J. Shane is the publisher and editor of Sonoran Arts Network. She is an artist and writer. Visit her website at www.cjshane.com to learn more about her.