Artists Sunday: Marion photographer creates new global shopping event

Emilee Geist

Take a jump to the left Black Friday and Small Business Saturday, then a step to the right Cyber Monday. It’s time to make room for Artists Sunday this weekend.

The brainchild of photographer Christopher Sherman, a world traveler now living with family in Marion, it’s a day he developed to encourage shopping from the online galleries of artists around the world. According to Artistssunday.com, more than 3,200 artists, local arts agencies, cities, counties, state agencies, chambers of commerce and organizations have signed on.

Sherman’s eureka moment hit him last year, when he saw a bump in his online sales during Thanksgiving weekend. People were shopping. No one else had claimed that Sunday between Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, he noted, so why not have a day in between, dedicated to supporting artists and filling stockings with unique, handcrafted gifts?

He hopes it will spark a new tradition that will grow every year.

“The idea is that if everybody’s talking about this — we’re all shouting that same message — hopefully that will resonate with consumers,” he said, “and help artists’ sales, and certainly artists’ recognition, extending beyond the holiday season and into next year.”

Nuts and bolts

He began planning right away, and it all quickly snowballed.

He started by speaking with a few friends, then friends of friends, artists and gallery owners in January and February, building momentum with positive feedback from them and from chambers of commerce.

“Then of course, March hit, and everything kind of moved sideways,” he said. He had just returned from a February visit to Paris, taking his family up on their offer to make Marion his home base between jaunts.

“We’re all huddling down and social distancing, not knowing what’s safe and not safe,” he said. “I got to work. I got to work building the website, building the back-end infrastructure, putting pieces in place from a software point of view, to be able to manage something like this.”

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By May, he was ready to start sharing his plans and recruiting artists. Participation is free for the artists, nonprofits, cities and chambers of commerce.

With states, counties and more than 360 communities participating now, they represent tens of thousands of artists across the country, he said, adding that 2,600 individual artists from all 50 states have signed on, as well. And even though he hasn’t focused on recruiting internationally, the movement has attracted artists from all continents except Antarctica.

Once they sign on, artists and entities receive a tool kit to help market themselves via messaging, logos, graphics and social videos. They also receive tips for best practices for promoting themselves online, conducting e-commerce, dealing with irate customers; how to host a physical event; how to participate in a craft fairs; and helpful articles and templates.

The website features a searchable directory for artists and consumers.

Sherman has been funding all of these efforts out of his own pocket.

“I’ve been an entrepreneur for the last 25 years, so I’ve had my share of financial successes and failures,” he said. “The goal is to bring in a major sponsor or sponsors next year. Think of Small Business Saturday brought to you by American Express. Envision Artists Sunday brought to you by Visa or brought to you by UPS. That’s the 2021 goal.

“This year, it’s really about building the movement, building the network, building relationships with the artists and our partners, and becoming part of the lexicon. We want people to think Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Artists Sunday, Cyber Monday. We want to be used in the regular conversation just like all those other days.”

Gifting art

Buying art for others needn’t be daunting or difficult.

“As I’ve learned as a photographer, the best art is something that strikes an emotion,” he said. “Art is something that has an emotional relationship either with the giver or the receiver. So if you’re thinking about giving art as a gift, it’s got to resonate with one or the other. If it doesn’t have an emotional connection to either party, then start over.

“I can take what I think is the best photo in the world and put it up on my website, and nobody will buy it. But if I take a picture of something that resonates with the viewer or resonates with somebody else that they think will work as a gift, then, wow, that photo will sell, and it will sell very well.

“As an artist, I don’t necessarily know what that is. I certainly can’t predict it. I can think, ‘Well, I’m in Iowa, if I take pictures of barns and corn, people might buy that, the general public might find that interesting.’ I might be right to a large degree.

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“There’s a wonderful barn north of Marion here, that unfortunately was damaged by the derecho. Just a beautiful, beautiful barn that I’ve taken pictures of. The owner found out about it and she bought multiple copies of different images of that barn, both for herself and to give as gifts for various family members,” he said.

“As an artist, you certainly want to do something that’s emotionally empowering for you as an artist,” he said, “but at the same time, if you’re looking to sell your work, you to really kind of need to get in the mind-set of, ‘Does this resonate with someone else, and if so, why?’ That’s not the easiest thing to do. I guess that’s why being an artist can be somewhat hit or miss.

“That emotion can be anything from colors, shapes, different types of art — wood or glass. What we like to think of here is that art is not something you hang on the wall, and art is not something that sits in the corner and appreciates in value, but art can be used every day. It can be worn, it can be used in the kitchen, it can be used as a decoration,” he said.

“Art can be useful as well as decorative, and not just an investment.”

At A Glance

• What: Artists Sunday online shopping event

• When: Sunday (11/29)

• Where: Artistssunday.com/

• Features: Wares for sale by artists around the world; artist directory, sales, specials, events, promotions

• Founder: Photographer Christopher Sherman of Marion; Art.cvsherman.com/

Comments: (319) 368-8508; [email protected]

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