art fair

With convenient ways to buy and sell art online, small town art fairs are seeing a decline in public and vendor attendance, including Marine on St. Croix.


The continuation of the Art Fair in Marine on St. Croix was brought to the table at the Dec. 12 City Council meeting after the Relief Association voted to continue the fundraiser for another year. A list of challenges making it difficult to keep the event thriving were discussed along with possible outcomes after the 47th event 2020.

“The Art Fair has been a community event in Marine on St. Croix for 40 some years, but the last five years have seen a decrease in public attendance and vendors including the amount of money we’re making and we believe there are several reasons for this,” said council member Bill Miller.

Some of those reasons are causing a decline in vendor run events nationwide. Because of online platforms that allow people to buy and sell products quickly and conveniently, attendance to events like art fairs are down.

“We’ve talked with a lot of the small towns that have always held art fairs and they’re all experiencing the same thing,” said clerk/treasurer, Lynette Peterson. “The younger people have Facebook pages, they do Etsy, and if they are going to an art fair, they’re going to The Uptown. They’re not coming to Marine. So, that’s our issue… It’s about finding people that do this and are willing to come to these small towns, and they just aren’t there anymore because of the other options.”

Councilmember Charlie Anderson also confirmed the issue of online alternatives for artists indicating that the money made in art shows may not be enough for local vendors to attend.

“It’s important to note that this is not something that is just exclusive to Marine,” he said. “A lot of artists are choosing to find alternative ways of business. Really, to take a summer off and travel around the Midwest just to do art shows is not really a great way to make money.”

The Marine on St. Croix art fair made just over $8000 dollars in 2019 according to the city council with proceeds benefitting the Marine on St. Croix Fire and Rescue Department. If vendor and public participation were to continue in decline, that number could decrease in 2020. In comparing potential ideas for the Marine Art Fair, Miller reported speaking with the Greater Stillwater Chamber that organizes the Rivertown Fall Art Festival.

“If you look at what they’ve got for their art fair, it’s an art fair in some respect, but it’s more of a business showcase,” he said. “When you walk around, you see a lot of charitable organizations and a lot of the other businesses were there to showcase themselves and generate business. It’s more of a chamber event in a way…They’ve actually mutated it to keep drawing people downtown, but it’s more for the businesses...I think that was a major shift for them.” 

No definite action was taken regarding the Art Fair at the city council meeting, but the discussion is set to continue about new ideas for the event, and alternative ways to generate revenue for the community. “”We have plenty of artists in this town,” Anderson said. “Perhaps we can refocus this on more of a local flavor. We’ll see, but I think we’re on the right track.”

Other Business:

The board received official proposals from two companies for the proposed cell tower Dec. 4. Anderson reported that they would be compiling the information from both proposals and creating a “comprehensive packet” that will be presented by the Communication Infrastructure Committee, along with a recommendation, at the January council meeting. The proposal could then be assigned to the Planning Commission for further study.

The board discussed the new Govoffice website proposal. The design that the board is looking at still comes in “at about $1200 dollars under” what the board allocated for budget. No definite timeline was given as to when the new site would go live.

Ideas for updating the City logo were discussed by the board. Miller reported speaking with Chris Opsahl of Studio2 Design in St. Paul who would charge a flat fee of  $1200 dollars for the logo with roughly a month to complete, according to Miller. The board discussed previous design ideas including a “cleaned up City Hall,” and, “something visually that represents the river, and perhaps the history of the logging forest.” Miller also stated the intention to put the logo online to get feedback from the community.

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