Even before my recent trips to some of Europe’s most splendid cities, I have often thought about Tourist Art and whether it have a place in Blackpool. I view Tourist Art as any form of creativity, which is made in any medium, purely for a tourist market.

You know when you go to London, for example, you will find a street seller offering you the chance to by his watercolours of Big Ben, or by that sunny beach you can sit for an artist so they can create an unflattering caricature portrait of your good self, or in the hustle and bustle of that market square you can watch the street performers giving you a treat of a quirky production all for a small donation.

I know this isn’t something new, and it has been seen in Blackpool before, although infrequently. But is Tourist Art a good thing? I can see both the pros and the cons, and as a practising artist myself I thought I would take the lead from the cons to never produce Tourist Art.

First let’s look at the pros:

  • It can give a creative person a way to earn a living
  • It can create more of a cultural and creative offering in a town/city
  • It creates more income and employment for the local economy
  • It can give a creative person an outlet to showcase there work

Some great positives there, and as Blackpool looks at other avenues to boost not only its local economy but its art engagement I do welcome certain elements of Tourist Art.

Now for the downside. One thing I have often found with Tourist Art is that it comes across as selling out and lacking integrity. No matter how much it is keeping that painter from signing on Job Seeker’s Allowance, I do feel that with every quaint painting of that local landmark created, a little piece of that artist’s soul dies with it.

Andy Warhol created mass produced work to satire mass consumerism, here they do it to earn a crust or, God forbid, they actually think their art holds merit.

What I would like to see, rather than artists catering for tourists, is that they produce what’s in their hearts, which will hopefully be art that’s high in both quality and uniqueness. Until then I guess I’ll stick 20p in the silver foil man’s hat and gaze as he performs demented robotic movements.

Images courtesy of Brendan Bunting.

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