Last year the four Ann Arbor art fairs joined together to conduct a major survey of the fair-goers of this four-day event consisting of 1,200 artists and covering over 30 blocks. Of course as festival artists we know that the Ann Arbor Art Fair is actually four separate art shows going on simultaneously in mid-July: the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair, Ann Arbors South University Art Fair, the State Street Art Fair, and the Summer Art Fair not to mention the unofficial satellite shows and vendors. But does the public see it as four separate shows? And just how does the public perceive the event? What do they actually do at the event? How much money do they spend on art? These questions, as well as others, spearheaded the survey.
I decided to interview via email the directors of the four shows. All directors graciously responded, though Maggie Ladd of Ann Arbors South University Art Fair was unable to participate due to being other commitments. Debra Max Clayton, Executive Director of The Guild of Artists and Artisans and the Summer Art Fair sent me the official report to review. The other two directors are Shary Brown of the Ann Arbor Street Fair and Kathy Krick of the State Street Art Fair.
Impetus for Survey
Each show has its own character and serves a different constituency, but they all have one thing in commonthe desire to maintain the health and vitality of the event. When asked what the impetus for the survey was, all of the directors responded as did Shary Brown of the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair: We were interested in audience expectations and whether those expectations were met. We also wanted to determine steps to take for the long-term sustainability of our fairs and wise steps to take towards improvement. Max Clayton added that the answers to these questions would help the fairs increase attendance and capture important sponsorship support.
The report listed the following four objectives of the survey:
Obtain demographic data on event attendees.
Assess the economic impact of attendees.
Discover how attendees plan their visit to the event.
Gather data of specific interest to partner organizations.
The survey, created and conducted by Power Marketing of Ann Arbor, was sponsored by the four Ann Arbor art fairs in partnership with five other organizations or government entities including the Convention and Visitors Bureau and Transportation Authority. These other entities are long-standing partners of the art fairs and have a vested interest in the results according to Shary Brown. In fact, they were able to help make the survey happen by contributing financially to the cost of the $30,000 survey.
Max Clayton feels that Ann Arbor respects and values this event. The various organizations that contributed want to see the four fairs and their exhibitors prosper and thrive. They want the event to continue. Kathy Krick of the State Street Art Fair, run by the State Street Merchants Association said, These organizations are directly impacted by the annual event, their participation insured they were able to ask specific questions they were seeking and they also were able to help shape the survey.
Power Marketing estimated that 500,000 people attended the art fair over the four days. They strategically placed a survey team in each show that conducted surveys over all hours and days of the fair. Eight hundred thirty-four surveys were completed and the participants spent an average of eight to ten minutes each answering the survey questions. Survey participants were given a free art fair T-shirt, which was very well received and appreciated by the respondents.
What Was Learned
The survey showed that 68% of those surveyed said that they call the event The Ann Arbor Art Fair. Whether they actually think it is only one show or four separate fairs was not covered in the survey. It does indicate to all concerned the importance in protecting the creditability and reputation of the official event as a whole. Max Clayton said, If fairgoers see it as one event, then anything that happens outside the official site is perceived as the responsibility of the official event. This can cause serious public relations problems; if a fairgoer has a bad experience with an exhibitor in one of the off-site events the entire event gets the blame. Should a serious problem occur, the future of the event becomes endangered. The survey will help convince those who control permits, regulations and laws to join us in the effort to protect and
|enhance the official event.
Kathy Krick felt that the response also showed that we had some major education to do with our audience as to our actual naming of the event.
For Shary Brown, the most important data collected was on audience expenditures. The data not only included information on art but also on dining, hotels, and other purchases. The economic impact information we gained along with the demographic information will help us to attract funding and focus our marketing efforts.
Benefit of Survey to the Shows
When asked how the Ann Arbor art fairs in general and individually will benefit from the information in this survey two primary points were made by the directors. First, they now have solid statistical information that can be presented to potential sponsors. This information will allow the shows and the Ann Arbor community to develop marketing strategies together and separately, again, to attract sponsorship. Second, the information will help the shows to develop new programs of interest to the current audience as well as to attract new audiences thus increasing customer satisfaction.
The depressed state of Michigan has already drastically reduced its funding to the arts. As these government funds dry up, the business sector will hopefully pick up the slack more and more. Demonstrating the economic impact of the art fair on the businesses of the community (hotels, restaurants, local stores) should encourage them to do so. But these businesses are hurting too. Is there an answer?
Benefit of Survey to Artists
Max Clayton noted that by sharing the information with our member artists they will be able to make their own marketing decisions. For example, the survey showed that fairgoers return to the event year after year. This should encourage artists to stay in touch with their Ann Arbor fair patrons.
Shary Brown and Kathy Krick felt that by being able to jointly and separately market the art fair better and attract new audiences that are interested in buying art that artists will benefit by increased sales. The key here is audiences that are interested in buying art. As festival artists we all know that a bigger audience does not always translate to more sales. It is important to have the right audiencean audience interested in buying our art and crafts.
Making it Work
Because this is a group effort, not only with the four individual shows but also the five other organizations and government entities, it is important that they all work in concert to effectively use this information. It requires careful evaluation of the survey information and a willingness of all parties to discuss the results in a respectful way, and more difficult, to implement change in a coordinated manner.
Follow-up to the survey is in the planning stages. Powers Marketing has been asked to prepare a proposal for follow-up surveys and focus groups which will elicit more detailed information and keep the project moving forward.
In 2007 the four fairs conducted a survey of all of their participating artists. This information plus that of the fair-goer survey should yield the
survey of all of their participating artists. This information plus that of the fair-goer survey should yield the information to make effective changes in the event.
From my personal point of view and from my own unofficial feedback from participating artists, changes are needed. We hope that these changes will be made primarily with the artist in mind.
Snapshot of Survey Results
74% of attendees said their primary purpose for attending the art fair was the artists andthe art. The second primary purpose was shopping. (Ann Arbor merchants traditionally have huge sidewalk sales during the art fair.)
57.6% of attendees said that they had attended the art fair for at least 5 years.
17.6% were visiting for the first time.
77% said they would return in 2009
Mean $ spent on art: $292
35% planned to spend less on art work in 2008
75% bought from more than one artist.
How visitors approach the event:
74% of visitors survey said that they just browse through the fairs until they are finished.
9% limit themselves by time
8% pick out specific areas to visit
7% use a map or brochure to plan their visit
66.5% female, 33.5% male
41% age 50 or older, 34% ages 30-49, 25% ages 18-29
52.7% were married
Mean household income of $90,000
43% college graduates
83% Caucasian, 6% African American, 3% Asian, 2% Hispanic
52% were from Michigan, but outside of Ann Arbor. Residents of Ann Arbor totaled 31%, 17% from outside of Michigan (primarily Ohio)
Marketing opportunities identified by Powers Marketing:
More male visitors
Greater variety of ethnicities
Younger (under 50) attendees
Visitors from outside Michigan
What improvements would the public like to see in the event?
36% would like the event to be open on Sunday (now is a Wednesday - Saturday show) / remain open later on Saturday (currently 9 p.m.)
More affordable art