For the last seven years, one of the most successful venues for artists to sell their work has been December Dreams, (photos by Clint Kuschak) which is happening this weekend at the CLE Coliseum. At this event there are over sixty vendors representing about a hundred different artists. Only twelve of the vendors also sell their wares at Artisans Northwest, an artist run event, which occurred two weeks ago.
Artisans Northwest has been a very successful artist run event lasting over two decades, which is rare. Generally, such large artist run events don’t last more than a couple years. They’re difficult to manage, somewhat expensive and rely on a lot of good will. The Lakehead Rotary Club of Thunder Bay supports December Dreams, so the artists don’t have to step on each other’s toes, organize the finances for advertising, or run an artist jury system, which has it’s pros and cons.
Local artist Linda Dell did the bulk of the work to manage her novel concept called Art Zoom, a few years back. With limited funds and assistance, she put on a very successful event in Port Arthur to mix artists and businesses together. I took over the next year when she decided she couldn’t handle the workload involved. I quickly discovered how taxing it was to organize such a big event. Art Zoom ended simply because there were too few people to assist and little financial support. One day Art Zoom might be resurrected, but it would be great to join forces with a larger organization as December Dreams has done.
So, special thanks and commendations can be given to the Rotary organizers who manage December Dreams and the many volunteers for their support over the last seven years. The volunteers number over twenty each year. They help set up the booths and tables, supervise the door, assist the artists, keep the place clean and serve the public.
December Dreams was an idea that Clint Kuschak and his wife Barbara, both local artists, came up with eight years ago. It was then that Clint saw the need for another venue when two other artist run events shut down. In Thunder Bay artists have work available in various shops throughout the city, so bigger events are a great way to get them all under one roof. As a member of the rotary club Clint pitched the idea to other members that a big two-day sales event supporting local artists could also be a fundraising event for the Club.
Usually, Rotarians are associated with helping to eradicate polio from the planet, and with supporting hospitals, shelter houses, food banks, kettle campaigns with the Salvation Army and other social causes. It’s all humanitarian stuff. So, what’s the deal with helping artists?
“Rotary work is done by helping artists, who have low incomes. We help them get more money to continue doing the work they love,” says Clint. “I’m very pleased that my Rotarians got behind this not only as a way of raising funds for the Rotary Club, but of community building through the arts. This is a great opportunity to purchase regionally hand-produced items of all kinds from their creators who come from as far away as Kenora West, Terrace Bay East, and points further North.”
At December Dreams you can expect to see only hand-made items, such as pottery, paintings, knits, festive foods, Christmas decorations, Santa socks, books, jewelry, beading, woodworking, leather works, stone carvings, chainmail creations, handmade knives and handles, photography, handmade fishing lures, and much more.
Many vendors are participating for the first time this year and you can meet the creators at their booths, which is very unlike a shopping mall or box store. As a result you can haggle and commission artists on the spot. It’s a rare opportunity to see so many artists in one place. The minimal door fee of two dollars, for anyone twelve years of age and older, will go to local charities. Items range in prince from two dollars to two hundred.
December Dreams runs on Saturday from 9am to 5pm and Sunday from 11am to 4pm. Get details about December Dreams and the Lakehead Rotary Club at: www.lakeheadrotary.com.