BERLIN — As part of the Town of Berlin’s continued efforts to increase the spotlight on local artists, the Chamber of Commerce and the art community have begun developing new town events and working on ways to play a bigger part in current ones.
Berlin hosted a “traditional” arts event last Saturday, showcasing talents like blacksmithing and weaving and brought more than 1,000 visitors to the chamber building over the course of the day, according to Executive Director Aaren Collins.
Even with the success of the event, Collins admitted that the chamber’s promotion of local art is “a work in progress.” While the chamber has partnered with the art community for years, it now has a new building, a new director and a renewed strategy for introducing visitors to Berlin artists.
According to Collins, this includes enhancing established events like the monthly 2nd Friday Art Strolls as well as the introduction of new events like arts, crafts and antique showings.
“It’s something that the chamber is getting into and getting used to,” she said.
Jim Adcock, a local artist who rents studio space from the chamber, said that he is happy with the work that the town is doing on behalf of artists, but acknowledged some areas where more interest would be ideal.
“I’d like to see more participation in Paint Berlin, which is a good event. And of course the Art Strolls are very good,” Adcock said.
Working mostly in acrylics, Adcock has been producing art in the Berlin and Ocean City area for three decades. Berlin’s historic design lends itself well to landscapes, he explained, and he’s able to do a healthy business with visitors and natives alike who want to be able to hang a little piece of the town on their walls.
“Prints are a steady source of income … People come from out of town and take a souvenir with them,” he said.
But just getting guests and even locals into the new chamber building can be a challenge, admitted Adcock.
“We have flags out there, we have signs. But yeah, it’s difficult,” he said.
A lot of the problems can be attributed to the fact that the chamber is a bit off the beaten path for Berlin. While it is on Main Street, the majority of restaurants and shops are located further up town. This separation extends to most town events, where the road is closed off before reaching the chamber.
“That’s a struggle that Main Street’s been working on,” said Adcock.
Collins hopes to mitigate the problem by finding ways to encourage visitors to walk a little bit further downtown during or after events to check out the chamber building and artist studios. The plan is to do so through word of mouth, social media, advertising and old-fashion signage.
The artists themselves will likely aid the chamber in the effort, since many of them self-promote their wares.
“I do a lot of social media advertising,” said Adcock.
Local businesses will play a factor as well, according to both Collins and Adcock. Berlin restaurants and several other shops have a tradition of displaying local art, which Adcock said is a great way to build a fan base, especially for new artists.
“Just try to get your art shown, even if it’s in a restaurant,” he advised. “Any opportunity to show your work is good. Just get it out there.”
The goal in the near future, noted Collins, is to continue with all of the partnerships that are currently working while adding new events and searching for new ways to grab people’s attention.
The chamber is also looking to expand the number of artists on-site. Currently, two of the six studio spaces in the building are open, with a third opening at the end of the year. According to Adcock, the studios offer enough space for traditional art work, room to display pieces and good access, especially for those who have yearly leases.
“If you have a space in here, you can come in 24-7,” he said. “You can come in the back, you have a key. You can work in here.”
Sales made by artists are also commission free, unless no artists are on-site to make the sale, in which case the chamber does levy a small fee for handling the transaction. However, Collins said that even if the artist who produced the work isn’t available, other artists who share the space will usually make the sale for them, which will allow them to avoid paying a commission.
That practice is actually encouraged, said Collins, since the chamber wants to avoid cutting into an artist’s profits.
“We try to be lenient with that … They all work together to sell each other’s work and promote,” she said.
Any local artists interested in studio space at the chamber building should call 410-641-4775 or visit www.berlinchamber.org. Rent is $250 per month plus utilities for a one-year lease, or a $600, one-time payment for a two-month contract.