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Art Contest Promoted By Ferry Market in New Hope Ignites Online Firestorm

Anger over an art contest sponsored by Ferry Market in New Hope widened Wednesday, as the much-awaited upscale food center incensed local artists by not offering to pay competition winners for their work.

Ferry Market responded by noon, deleting the latest post promoting the contest on their Facebook page, along with dozens of negative remarks by outraged readers. At 2 p.m., access to the site appeared to have been intentionally limited.

Ferry Market, the former Four Seasons Mall at 32 S. Main St. bought in 2015 by Bucks County Playhouse and Playhouse Inn owners Kevin and Sherri Daugherty, began promoting the “mural design and execution contest” in early September, when they encountered similar artist community pushback on Facebook.

“Calling all artists, creative minds, and visionaries,” reads the Ferry Market publicity material. “Ferry Market, the culinary experience you’ve been waiting for, needs the artistic touch of two lucky local artists. Murals in the Market is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to become a permanent part of this new, unique, artisanal market.”

Sketch of future Ferry Market.

“Fellow artists…. please do not compete to ‘win’ the prize of doing nearly 300 square feet of UNPAID original art,” responded Solebury artist Dar James on Facebook. “Working artists deserve to be paid just like everyone else who is making the Ferry Market come to life. Shame on them. Competition = Free Art.”

James’ posts on multiple Facebook pages helped set off a firestorm of anger by those who likened the contest to the whitewashing of the picket fence in “Tom Sawyer.” A second wave of rage was ignited by what some saw as the whitewashing of critical Facebook posts on several pages.

James said that when she first visited the contest website, it touched a nerve.

“It felt like another one of those cases where artists are supposed to be grateful for doing free work,” she recalled. “What’s really sad is that Ferry Market missed an opportunity to make us part of building something, just like the contractors and designers. We’re professionals — this is our work.”

“Is Ferry Market a for-profit business, charging rent for their space?” asked Susan White of New Hope in a post. “If so, they should pay for interior/exterior decor, not ask for volunteers. Ask artists to apply for the job & then pay them as you would any contractor.”

“Was there a contest for the construction crew?” she added.

Others blasted contest organizers for offering “exposure” in the Bucks County Herald in the form of an “informational spotlight” as a prize, instead of money.

“For exposure???!!!!” asked David Haneman. “People die from exposure. Please stop this madness. This will not get me into your facility. This makes me want to boycott it.”

“You paid the construction crew, but not the artists?” asked Cyndy Galda Southard in a deleted post.

Jared Goodman, owner of graphic/web firm Design Sprout, was diplomatic in his criticism.

“I’m sure someone thought a contest to find artists was a great idea,” he posted. “However, these are the types of ideas that undervalue an artist’s LIFETIME of experience. Free work under the guise of “an opportunity of a lifetime”, says to me you do not value professional artists to begin with. I understand your intentions were intended to influence creativity, but to me, as a creative professional, it says the opposite,” continued Goodman.

“New Hope is a community built on art, please support the town you occupy, with money, not a disposable ad and tiny plaque,” he added.

“There’s this persona that goes with being an artist that lives and creates in New Hope,” observed James. “This is not supporting art. The reputation of New Hope as being an artists’ haven is being disrespected by asking artists to make art for the community for nothing.”

Ferry Market did not respond to requests for comment.






About the author

Charlie Sahner

“Once you can accept the universe as matter expanding into nothing that is something, wearing stripes with plaid comes easy." - Einstein


  • When artists are asked to work for free, it devalues art for the entire community. Professional artists do skilled work, and just because someone is passionate about their work does not mean that they should be asked to provide free labor for a for-profit business. When artists are asked to do free work for exposure, it hurts the entire arts community in New Hope by setting an expectation that artwork is free and making it more difficult for professional artists to charge fair prices for their work. If New Hope is to continue to have an arts community in the future, contests for unpaid work are not the way to achieve that.

  • I’m with the artists on this one!
    There should at least be a cash prize for the contest winner.

    Area artists are always asked to donate their works for fundraisers. Paying the winner a cash prize would have been a nice gesture.

  • Wow…this did strike a nerve. I’m not an artist but have known many artists through the years just starting out that would have jumped at this opportunity for the exposure… money or no money. I didn’t recall this being a mandatory contest so if not getting paid is not an option for you then perhaps this is geared to someone who would like to be part of the landscape in town and enjoy the cache of doing a passion project. I do understand artists love their work to be viewed and getting paid for their abilities is key but I think the intent of this contest was not the evil some might think but an opportunity for some…if you are offended by not getting paid then do not participate but don’t taint the event with useless bickering…let the ones who view this differently and want to be a part of this offering. I’m not affiliated with any of this except for being a resident of the town and so enjoy when people participate and enjoy the experience of this great town…I think we all just need to chill a bit.

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