Esther Lafferty looks back at feedback to Oxford Artweeks and how much the events boosted our local economy

In May, the county’s artists and designer-makers opened their studios to the public. With a thousand artists involved, there was no single reason that inspired them to be part of Oxfordshire Artweeks: some wished to engage with an interested public, show their wares, demonstrate their craft and inspire a new generation. Others presented whole exhibitions in the hope that visitors would not only like what they see, but would want to buy it. After all, being an artist, however talented, is not for most an easy way to make a living.

While contemporary art galleries deliberately push boundaries and promote work that is engaged with critical thinking, and often require considerable help from the Arts Council and other bodies to enable them to do this on the world stage, in these times of diminished subsidies for arts organisations, whether presenting visual or performing arts, Artweeks is proud to be self-sufficient and to help facilitate local artists to be the same. And is this, an ability to make a living from the sale of their work, like any other artisan, perhaps a true measure of how good an artist and their art actually is?

In the festival aftermath, the office is awash with feedback as we analyse statistics and value Artweeks’ economic merit, not only to the artists involved but to Oxfordshire as a whole.

Adding together the commercial successes of around 400 exhibitions, we estimate that nearly £1m was spent overall on a wide range of art from £2 cards and £20 bowls to sculptures with price tags in excess of £10,000.

Add to this the thousands spent preparing for Artweeks, framers’ tills ringing, printing presses rolling, the pub lunches enjoyed by day-trippers, and the economic contribution of Artweeks to the Oxfordshire economy is clear to see.

And as Artweeks is the UK’s leading open studios event, we also welcome hundreds of visitors from over the county boundaries, from keen enthusiasts from every shire to interior designers scouting for talent and travellers from further afield who stay awhile. And while I won’t pretend that the majority of visitors from abroad came specifically for Artweeks, one group from Korea, for example, have certainly made the trip specifically at least twice.

Studies worldwide have shown that when you buy from an independent, locally-owned person or organisation, for example, significantly more of your money is used to make purchases from other local businesses which strengthens the community in which you live.

So thank you to you, our valued Oxfordshire visitors, for your support. By buying from local artists not only did you, in this increasingly homogenised global marketplace, find something truly unique for your home or a gift that no one else will have duplicated (and all with a low-carbon footprint), by supporting local creative talent and innovation, you have also helped strengthen our region’s economic base.