29 August 2017
Chairman Gerald J. Fiorini
Oneida County Board of Legislators
800 Park Avenue
Utica, NY 13501
Dear Mr. Chairman:
I hope this message finds you well. Before I get to the Art on Utica update, I would like to thank you for the leadership you have shown regarding the Downtown Hospital project. A few weeks back, you said you wanted to see what Art on Utica was doing with the money we had already collected before you offered your support. This communication serves as a summary of those activities over the past couple of months.
The stats are impressive on their own. More than 900 people have seen artists creating live. Many of our “visitors” had never witnessed this activity before. Each artist has asked to come back. All our locations have requested that artists come back. That is partially due to the fact that 16 commissions for artists have been garnered. 2 of those commissions came in at over $1000. As promised, Art on Utica did not share in any of that revenue making sure it went directly to the artists.
As impressive as that is, what we have learned about tourist behavior in Utica may be more helpful as we progress towards the future. Utica’s tourist success is important for every community in the county since sales tax revenue generated here helps lower property tax everywhere else. Utica does have some work to do.
We need to work on our addiction issues. We need to make Saranac Thursdays more hotel revenue friendly. We need to counteract some of the bad press we have received via more events like Art on Utica.
The shining light in everything we have learned has to do with children. They do not read the same stories their parents do about our community. They are willing to run across parking lots, try to touch things to experience them, and maybe most important of all, ask numerous questions. The way children have reacted to live art shall stick with me the most. In fact, during the second week of October, we will be headed back to the Children’s Museum for another pottery performance/info session/ kids getting muddy and dirty opportunity.
A look back at just two weekends ago reveals a great deal. We started August 19th at the Farmer’s Market with a local woodcarver. It was the perfect place to make a mess. He added a great deal to the atmosphere. The best moment would come at the end of his day.
Out of all the visitors, the one that left the most impact arrived at just before 1 in the afternoon. A young man, maybe 12 or 13, presented himself and said, “I like to be creative, how can I do this too??”
Our woodcarver handed the young man some patterns and links to websites as well as contact info. We understand the young man is still working at his new craft. This is the kind of impact the presentation of live art can have.
That afternoon, we headed to the Children’s Museum for a pottery demonstration. Kids like to touch and touch they did. One of the more aggressive children, little Liam, made quite an impression on us all which I will describe in a little bit. Yes, he is worthy of his own spotlight.
The next day, we were back at the Children’s Museum for some painting. As it turned out, while I was patrolling the Train Station looking for bored people who needed a distraction, I ran into many visitors to our area. Some just needed direction, some wanted restaurant suggestions, and some had history questions. It felt like I was back at my “Directions Here” booth at the BayClub minus the timeshare element.
Putting it plainly, we should have a kiosk in the Train Station with a guide in it at all times. This again would increase local sales taxes and thereby decrease local sales taxes.
The most interesting group I met was a group of girl scouts. For any tour guide, one of the hardest groups to work with is adolescent girls since they bore easily and do not mind telling you exactly why you are not exciting enough as a presenter.
They were out in the parking lot and I asked, “Do you guys like lots of noise??” They answered in the affirmative so I took them and their adult leader to watch some trains go by. Thankfully, when conductors see kids jumping up and down while waving, they hit the whistle a lot.
After we were done with that, I took them over to see the “crashed train” from a couple of years ago. I thought about embellishing the story a tad, romance at short notice is a specialty of mine, but I played it straight. The girls had about an hour’s worth of questions.
Before they left, they asked about available food. I in return asked them how far out of their comfort zone they were willing to travel. They wanted to be experimental so I sent them to Bleecker Street to try the Asian market, the Pho Noodles, and the Halal shop. They had that wonderful look that suggests intense fear and excitement at the same time. Had I not interacted with them, they probably would have hit a fast food place on the way back to Ithaca. Again, we need to interact with our tourists more.
You might remember I mentioned little Liam. He was special because it took all of 6 minutes to realize that he and I were exactly the same. I do not know if he shares my diseases but he acted just as I did at his age. His initial introduction was to jump up on a railing and announce that he was General George Washington as a train was coming by.
Tell him to do something, he does the opposite. Tell him to stick close by, he runs off. Show him a door; he would rather climb over a railing. In the midst of all that, he had a lovely demonstration of showing that he suffered from the “disease of me”. I could only imagine what he must be like in class reflecting on what an unholy terror I was.
We could cut down on both our mental illness and addiction problems by giving our kids more stuff to do. Then, those with my genetic makeup would reveal themselves earlier. In turn, we could start managing the diseases at a much younger age and fewer of them would have to go through what I went through. I plan to follow up with little Liam.
For Art on Utica, we are planning 5 more performances. In order to do that, we must raise another $600 of which we have already raised $150. That again goes to insurance and security deposits. We will easily break the 1000 barrier for guests and I believe the “20 mark” for commissions is well within range.
Along the way, we have also sold many items since I can talk to tourists while they view the art. We have sold 12 packs of soda, dollar cookies, and even brake repairs. I believe that this technique can be used anywhere in the County to increase sales and therefore create more sales tax revenue which, it cannot be said enough, lowers property tax levies throughout Oneida County.
Now that you have seen the results, we hope you are willing to become sponsor 94. By the time you receive this letter, I hope we already have sponsor 94 but you get the idea. I am also redesigning the ad program last year to accommodate more expensive ads so the site does not look so cluttered since we now have proof of concept.
If we all work together on our converging goals, there is no question that we will succeed. It cannot be said enough: Great Food, Amazing Art. Oneida County – Yeah, that’s us.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Robert T. Oliveira
763 Mary Street