Investor puts money where the art is at First Fridays Artswalk


PITTSFIELD -- An investment adviser is enticing patrons to bring home a piece of art by chipping in some of his money -- up to $120,000 potentially.

During October, anyone who buys an original piece of artwork from a First Fridays Artswalk artist that's priced at $200 or more can get an "Artsbucks" voucher for a $100 rebate in the mail. Up to 1,200 rebates are available, and one is available per person. (Full details on the program can be found on the back of the Artsbuck.)

Berkshire Money Management, one of the Artswalk's lead partners, is sponsoring the promotion. The company already donated $4,000 to keep the Artswalk going through the end of the year and into 2013.

Allen Harris, the firm's president, hopes the Artsbucks promotion will attract bigger and better artists to the event, the next of which is Friday night.

"It's a demographic play," said Harris about his company's involvement in the local art scene. "My clients enjoy creativity, culture and the arts."

If all 1,200 vouchers are used, Harris's firm will pony up to $120,000, but he isn't concerned about the gamble.

"That would be the best of all possible outcomes," he said. Investing "$120,000 to directly touch someone is not a lot of money; $120 to directly touch a client, that's not bad."

The city's cultural development director calls it an innovative way to "stimulate the creative economy."

"It's the first of its kind," said Megan Whilden. "There are a lot of art walks like this across the country, but I've never seen anyone do anything like this before."

Whilden said 1,200 Artsbucks vouchers are ready for Friday. While she'd love to see all of them used, she has realistic expectations.

"If this inspires 10 purchases that wouldn't have otherwise been made, fantastic," she said. "If it inspires 20, tremendous."

Mary McGinnis, an Artswalk co-founder and local business owner, said people are "already picking out what they want to buy."

"There was a woman who came into the gallery last week and saw a painting she liked, but couldn't pay the $200. I told her about Artsbucks, and she said she's definitely coming back next week," McGinnis said.

According to Whilden, First Fridays Artswalk is responsible for approximately $40,000 in sales of artwork and other items since it started in May.

What: First Fridays Artswalk and Artsbucks rebate

When: Friday, Oct. 5, 5-8 p.m. (and throughout the month of October).

Where: Downtown Pittsfield. Visit for a map of participating businesses.

How: Purchase an original piece of artwork priced $200 or more to receive a $100 rebate by mail.


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