Fifteen years ago Belleville had 45 fewer pieces of public art. Fifteen years ago Belleville did not have a national reputation among art lovers and artists. Fifteen years ago Belleville apparently had $30.3 million less than it does now.
Art on the Square for the past 15 years has been splashed across the Public Square and downtown Belleville, creating a fun event with lasting impact. The sculptures scattered across the city are a daily reminder, but there are hidden gems because of the art fair’s outreach.
Artists conducted 130 visits to local schools, sparking future creativity. More than 3,500 teen artists have gotten a showcase and recognition with their own art show alongside the professional art show.
For each of the past nine years, Art on the Square has been ranked first or second in the nation among art shows. It is almost like the Cardinals making the postseason: we are dulled to that as a significant accomplishment unlike, say, a Cubs fan.
About 1,000 artists try to get in the show and about 100 are chosen. The artists love how well the show is run, but they especially love the sales topping $1 million each year.
However those sales are not part of the number recently shared by Art on the Square Executive Director Patty Gregory. She used an economic model to calculate that the show’s impact from the 28,000 visitors to the first show in 2002 through the 80,000 visitors this year have spent $30.3 million on gas, food, lodging and purchases other than art.
The show’s success is thanks to legions of volunteers and a core group that works all year to make that long weekend succeed. They deserve a round of applause.
As far as Gregory and the vision she’s built into a wonderful reality, well maybe Belleville’s next public sculpture should be a large, colorful hat.