Carmel jewelry designer starts website for unemployed art fair artists

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As a traveling art fair artist, Mark Grosser has felt the pain many have experienced since the coronavirus pandemic struck.

“All the art fairs started canceling in March and there is a huge group of people out there unemployed, and it might be a long time before they find employment as art fair artists,” said Grosser, who owns M. Grosser Jewelry Design, 580 E. Carmel Dr., Suite 130, Carmel. “We came up with the idea of putting an art fair in people’s homes.”

Mark Grosser, with his wife, Paula Ritchey, launched ArtFairNational.com to help artists sell their work. (Submitted photo)

Grosser, who has lived in Carmel for 25 years, got help from programmers Doug Lentz, a Fishers resident, and Carmel resident Jay Jackson to launch a selling platform featuring art fair artists.

“I came to them with the idea and it took us seven months to make the idea happen,” Grosser said. “I had decided in April that we needed to make something not just for myself but for all of our artist friends. Our goal with ArtFairNational.com is to bring art fair artists and patrons together for an online art festival. No masks required, just shop from the comfort of your home.”

The site launched Oct. 26 and 80 artists have joined so far. Grosser said 12 test artists signed up two weeks prior to launch to offer feedback.

In a normal year, Grosser works in art shows in Florida from November through April, then has several shows in the Midwest and on the East Coast. He then participates in events in Colorado from July to September.

Grosser said only a few places have allowed art events, and then only with strict social distancing policies and crowd restrictions

The artists pay a small monthly fee of $25 to be included on the platform.

“We don’t take any percentages. When you go Etsy, Shopify and some of those bigger sites, they all want a percentage of your money,” Grosser said. “There is a need for a fine art platform that doesn’t let in production studios and imports. We do have a certification when they sign up so we can check up and make sure they are truly handmade American artists. That’s the drive in our platform that it’s handmade art by Americans that are small businesses and don’t have 10 to 15 employees making art for them.”

Grosser said setting up a portfolio for the platform is simple.

“You pull your own URL off of it, just like it was your website,” Grosser said. “We found that 50 percent of the traveling art fair artists didn’t even have websites before.”

The website has different art categories or can searched by an artist’s name.

“As we grow and get bigger, we will find need to organize and categorize this stuff to make it easier for users,” Grosser said.

Initially, getting word out about the site has been accomplished through artists’ social media platforms. Grosser said a marketing company from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., started a marketing campaign after Thanksgiving that will run through the end of December to help bring customers to the site.

“I hope it grows and will eventually become an income for me, but I don’t see that happening for a while,” said Grosser, who noted that his wife, Paula Ritchey, a Carmel High School graduate, is part of the ArtFairNational.com company.

For more, visit artfairnational.com.


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