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January 21, 2018

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Exhibitors at Art Festival of Henderson adapt to recession

Event grows after number of artists dropped when economy dragged


Tovin Lapan

Donovan Fitzgerald, 24, works on his sidewalk chalk composition at the Art Festival of Henderson on Saturday, May 12, 2012. About 50 contestants are participating in the event this year.

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Jerry and Cindy Foote of Kanab, Utah, sell their old-fashioned sodas at the Art Festival of Henderson. Jerry said they have to be wary of how far they travel for events because of gas prices and other costs that eat into their bottom line.


The Art Festival of Henderson offers entertainment, kids activities, and over 70 exhibitors of all types of art who compete in a juried show.

WHEN: Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m

WHERE: Henderson Events Plaza, 200 S. Water St.

INFORMATION: or 267-2171

Call it trickle-down economics.

No, not the Reagan-era policy to stimulate growth, but the cascading effect that a down economy has on all industries and services. When there are fewer jobs, homes are worth less and families have less disposable income, everything suffers.

The phenomenon — along with pottery, photography, paintings, weavings and jewelry — is on display at the annual Art Festival of Henderson, going on this weekend on Water Street. The event is growing again after contracting during the first years of the recession, and the artists who are in attendance have adapted to tighter margins.

Many of the 78 exhibitors said they were encouraged by healthy crowds and warm, sunny weather.

The number of artists selling their work at the fair is up by about a dozen from last year, according to Annette Mullins, Henderson’s cultural supervisor. Before the recession, the number of exhibitors exceeded 100, she said.

“Fewer artists are coming, and we did see a big drop off that I attribute to the recession,” Mullins said. “We still have people traveling here for the fair from New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Colorado and Oregon.”

“Last year we did 100 shows. We traveled the whole East Coast,” said Stephen Duskin of Sedona, Ariz. Duskin was manning a booth featuring jewelry by his wife, Catherine Duskin-Vernarelli. “We are going to open a shop in Sedona this year and stop traveling so much. We feel it will be more cost effective with how much travel expenses, lodging, food and everything else costs us. It’s hard to break even.”

Duskin said the business has taken a hit during the recession, and sales are down 40 percent this year over last.

“I hope it picks up,” he said of business in general. “We’ll probably never do the East Coast trip again, but we’ll still go to close ones like here.”

Other artists have altered their strategies to target customers.

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Antonio Mendoza, 38, of Orange County, Calif., demonstrates on a loom how he weaves his handmade tapestries, blankets and other products. Mendoza said he focuses on collectors more now than before the recession because they are the ones who are "not afraid to spend" on art these days.

Antonio Mendoza, 38, came to the festival from Orange County to sell his handmade blankets, tapestries and bags. He only does about six shows a year, but says he is working harder than ever.

“It’s a challenge for me, and I feel like I’m fighting against the economy,” he said. “Really, I work harder at educating people, explaining my process and what goes into it so they see the value. I’ve started making more intricate and expensive pieces for collectors, because they are the ones still buying. I get less people who aren’t collectors who are willing to buy.”

The festival also offered typical fair food like funnel cake, hand-squeezed lemonade and barbecue dishes. There is a sidewalk chalk-art contest with 50 contestants and musical acts and other entertainment.

“The kids’ area has doubled in size from last year and we have more vendors,” Mullins said.

Kids could get their faces painted, decorate blank pottery, watch entertainment and participate in art projects.

Most of the returning artists felt the early turnout was an improvement over last year and seemed optimistic for a good weekend.

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Jeffrey Newmark of Laughlin sells one of his Garden Critters, animal sculptures made from wire, stones and other materials, to a customer at the Art Festival of Henderson on Saturday, May 12, 2012.

Jeffrey Newmark, a Laughlin artist who makes animal sculptures from wire, stones and other materials, said he was doing brisk business Saturday morning.

“You do have to think about where you will travel and if it’s worth it,” said Newmark, who attends about 40 shows per year. “Gas is a factor, and I try to look at the demographics of the place and decide if my art will do well there. Sometimes I’ve had horrible shows and barely sold anything, but it’s been crazy good here so far.”

Families, couples and groups of friends meandered through the exhibit booths, food stalls and entertainment areas, many of them shopping for Mother’s Day presents. The festival, in its 13 year, is a Mother’s Day weekend staple.

Regular festival attendees Tessa Evans and George Martinez relaxed on a shady swath of grass with their two children.

“I feel like there are better exhibitors here this year,” Evans said. “It’s a nice, peaceful, family friendly event. More family friendly than First Fridays in downtown.”

Keegan Martinez, their 5-year-old son, ate a snowcone and played with a foam toy snake that almost every child under the age of seven at the festival had seemingly persuaded their parents to purchase.

“This is like an escape from Las Vegas for us,” said George Martinez, who lives near UNLV. “It’s nice and relaxed.”

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