Art Gets Its Seasonal Shopping Day: Artists Sunday

Between Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, artists aim for a slice of the big holiday sales pie

Art Gets Its Seasonal Shopping Day: Artists Sunday

Black Friday. Small Business Saturday. Cyber Monday.

Notice anything missing? Right, in the post-Thanksgiving buying binge that's become a holiday all its own, Sunday has yet to be claimed by any consumer constituency. (Well, that's not entirely true. Museum stores and small breweries have both tried attaching themselves to the unaffiliated day the past few years, but so far neither has completely taken hold.) So now who's stepping into the gap in the early Yuletide sales season? Artists.

On Nov. 29, the inaugural Artists Sunday will take place, calling attention to all those individuals creating arts and crafts across the country and encouraging, well, everyone to shell out some cash for their work before squandering it all online the next day.

As with the other days in the super-sales weekend, what folks buy or where they buy it is wide open. However, for anyone who'd like a little assistance in finding an artist, whether it's one making work of a particular kind – say, abstract painting or metal sculpture or jewelry – or just one who lives near them, the Artists Sunday website has a directory of 3,000 individual artists, and all can be searched for by name, location, or type of work.

Those artists didn't have to pay anything for a spot in the directory, by the way. Artists Sunday is as free to the participants as it is to the consumers. Anyone wanting to join the party only had to register on the event website, and they'd receive not just a directory listing but also a marketing toolkit with digital materials that would help them with outreach to the press and self-promotion on social media, blogs, and email, including Artists Sunday logos, posters, and banners to help cement the concept in the public mind.

Of course, getting holiday shoppers to associate the Sunday after turkey day with artists is the huge challenge – just ask small breweries and museum stores – but if there's one surefire adhesive this time of year, it's bargains. Discounts and sales were the sparks that ignited Black Friday to begin with, and judging by the website for this aspiring consumer tradition, artists get it. Scores and scores of special offers crowd the "Activities" page: $5 off, 10% off, 20% off, 50% off! Artisans, craftspeople, and artists know there's already a market primed for their work in the gift-giving season. This is their chance to expand it nationally.

That idea was actually the genesis for Artists Sunday. Austin photographer Christopher Sherman saw demand for his prints increase after Thanksgiving, and the lightbulb went off that if it was true for him, it could be true for artists all over, and they could harness that into a national shopping day for the arts by seizing the one opening in that first week of the Christmas crush. This was in late 2019, and Sherman was already moving forward on the idea before the coronavirus hit. But all that's happened since has only made Artists Sunday more valuable to the arts community. As a result of the pandemic, the creative sector has taken an economic hit of $14 billion, and 63% of creative workers have lost their jobs. More than 100 art fairs – a major source of sales for individual visual artists and artisans – have been canceled. So having a day devoted to connecting creators and consumers can only help to recover some of the income that 95% of artists have lost this year.

As of press time, the number of community partners that have signed on for Artists Sunday has topped 400. Not surprisingly Austin is home to several, just as it's home to more than 60 individual artists who are taking part. This is, after all, home to another free annual event that encourages the public to connect with artists and purchase their work. The Austin Studio Tour may be over for 2020, but surely you didn't buy everything you wanted from a local artist. Well, the art is out there, and it's just waiting for you on ... Sunday! Sunday! Sunday!

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Artists Sunday, Christopher Sherman, coronavirus pandemic

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