Creating A Unique Art Program to Invigorate Your Business District
By Tracy Gavant
Co-Founder, Main Street Pops
October 3, 2023
“… Investing in arts and cultural institutions … can be the economic equivalent of bringing a manufacturing plant to a neighborhood and — from a cultural and quality-of-life standpoint — more than surpass it.” + Luis Ubiñas, President of the Ford Foundation
Art Programs have long been recognized as valuable business district placemaking programs. In large cities like NYC and Los Angeles, public art installations are commonplace, but there are many advantages of art programming for smaller townships as well:
1. Fostering Community Engagement
Provides a platform for residents and visitors to connect with local businesses, artists, and each other. The shared art experience encourages conversations and builds a sense of community belonging.
2. Revitalizing Local Businesses
For businesses along the art walk route, participation is a win-win. The foot traffic that is generated introduces new customers, boosting sales and visibility. The art walk transforms businesses into more than just storefronts; they become integral to the artistic narrative of the community.
3. Showcasing Local Talent
Emerging and established artists have the opportunity to exhibit their work to a broader audience.
4. Sparking Economic Growth
Increased foot traffic benefits not only participating businesses but also the surrounding area. Visitors increase dwell time dining, shopping, and contributing to economic vitality.
5. Cultivating Cultural Identity
The program makes art accessible to all, reflecting a diverse and vibrant community and encouraging inclusivity.
6. Fostering Art Education
Interactive activities inspire learning about various forms of art, enriching the experience and fostering deeper art appreciation.
7. Enhancing Quality of Life
In a fast-paced world, the art walk offers communities an opportunity to slow down, appreciate beauty, and connect with their surroundings. The concept of art walks is not new, but the twist lies in how these programs have evolved, transcending from mere gallery tours to immersive experiences that combine art, culture, and community engagement.
One such groundbreaking program is #ThroughTheWindows #AHobokenArtWalk. The charming City of Hoboken is known for its rich history, creative community, and incredible NYC views. This art walk not only celebrates Hoboken’s artistic spirit but also breathes new life into its streets by transforming the city into a vibrant art gallery and spurring activity in the Business District. This innovative program, spearheaded by Main Street Pops and the Hoboken Business Alliance, has become a beacon of creativity, uniting artists, businesses, and the community. “Hoboken has long been known as a city that celebrates its artists, and there is no better way to do that than to make their work more accessible to as large an audience as possible,” Roxanne Earley, Executive Director of the Hoboken Business Alliance, said. “Through the Windows effectively turns every participating business into a gallery space and will once again encourage residents and visitors alike to experience all that our city has to offer.”
The program was successfully launched in 2022 with 75 participating shops and 45 regional artists. Throughout the month of June, the public experienced the exhibit by scanning a QR code on stickers in front of each window to view a digital map listing all participating shops and artists.
Building on the success of its inaugural year, Through The Windows returned in 2023 with an expanded offering of engagement and activity. In addition to 25% more participating shops and double the participating artists, three additional interactive events were introduced to encourage active participation and further engagement within the business community:
- Art BINGO contest with retail gift cards for winners
- Guided art tours, starting and ending at different restaurants
- Emerging Artist program targeting Hoboken’s youth, attracting over 125 young artists
The program kicked off with a city-wide launch party where the public strolled from shop-to-shop, meeting artists and store owners, connecting with neighbors, and viewing the newly hung art.
This project involved support from various members of the community, including leadership and funding from Hoboken Business Alliance, curation and production by Main Street Pops, and help from local galleries, schools, and art organizations.
Every part of the program specifically targeted a different segment of the hyperlocal community to maximize the results for the Business District.
Tips for organizing your own art walk:
- Set a time frame for the program. We recommend a minimum of two weeks.
- For the first year, stick to a concentrated area and include a manageable number of participating businesses, expanding yearly as demand grows.
- Any business with window display space can participate. These can range from clothing boutiques and law firms to cafes and doctors’ offices. If window space is lacking, consider having artists display outside of businesses on sidewalks.
- Have literature outlining the program to distribute to business owners in-person and be available to discuss. They are busy running their businesses, so sharing details for them to refer to will be key to their successful participation.
- Artists can be found through local art organizations, creative groups on social media, and art galleries. Announcing a “Call for Artists” on local media, your website, and social media pages is helpful.
- Create an application where artists submit images and dimensions of pieces for consideration.
- Have a professional hang the art and make sure you or the participants are insured in case of damage.
- Generate excitement with banners, event listings, editorial features, and social media posts.
- Provide creative ads for each participating shop and artist to share with their customers and followers.
- Ask local influencers to promote – the Mayor, Council members, Chamber of Commerce, schools, etc.
This project requires attention to detail, great communication, and organizational skills to be successful. Make sure you have a project manager who can coordinate and work with the many different participants while being sensitive to their needs and goals. When in doubt, call Main Street Pops to help design a custom art walk for your town!
As #ThroughTheWindows #AHobokenArtWalk continues to evolve, its benefits ripple through the community, leaving a lasting impact on the city’s cultural landscape and business district. This innovative initiative serves as a shining example of how art can bring a community together, stimulate economic growth, and enrich the lives of its residents.
Hoboken’s art walk is a testament to the philosophy that creativity and community can be powerful drivers of positive change.
Tracy Gravant is a creative Brand Strategist and Dot Connector. A former magazine publisher, she has held executive sales and marketing management positions at Elle Decor, Interiors, ArtNews and Robb Report magazines and her CARMA Consulting business has helped spur significant growth for many clients, whether by expanding an established brand or launching a new business start-up. She has introduced successful signature programs such as Elle Decor’s Dining By Design National Tour and The Elle Decor International Design Awards. Tracy is also a Travel & Lifestyle writer, contributing to many popular media outlets. Her passions are wellness travel and blowing up small brands!
Main Street Pop‘s mission is to bring the feeling of Main Street back, support small local business, and build community. To do this, we’ve reimagined the Main Street experience with dynamic live and virtual hyper-local programming designed to start conversations and create engagement through the arts. Amazon, the iPhone, and the internet are not going away. So, what will compel us all to get off the couch?