Nova Scotia

From erasers to prints, Maud Lewis merchandise snapped up at AGNS

The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia says renewed interest in folk art icon Maud Lewis has doubled visitation and led to a huge spike in merchandise sales this summer.

Art Gallery of Nova Scotia visitation doubled in July, huge spike in merchandise sales since April

The artist in residence: Maud Lewis poses with one of her paintings in front of her home. (Art Gallery of Nova Scotia)

The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia says renewed interest in folk art icon Maud Lewis has doubled visitation at the museum and led to a huge spike in merchandise sales this summer.

Since the release of the film Maudie in April, people have flocked to the gallery in downtown Halifax to see an exhibit of the artist's work. In July, close to 8,700 people paid a visit, up from about 4,000 last July.

Since April, the gallery has sold about $126,000 worth of merchandise, about five times what was sold in the same period last year.

Colin Stinson, the AGNS's manager of marketing and communications, said on top of the buzz created by the film, the gallery also held a summer marketing campaign related to Lewis's original house. 

"We just tried to, sort of, build on the leverage the film created to drive traffic through the door and it's worked," he told CBC's Maritime Noon

House central to interest

On top of the exhibition of 57 paintings, gallery visitors can also peer inside the tiny, colourful, one-room house Lewis and her husband Everett Lewis lived in, which is a work of art in itself. 

The province bought the house, restored it and moved it to the gallery from Digby County, where Lewis and her husband had lived.

Stinson said the exhibition's popularity hasn't caught the gallery completely off guard.

"It is a little bit more than we thought, but it's definitely something we were prepared for and have welcomed with open arms," he said.

Online shoppers

The gallery has been selling everything from Maud-related pens and erasers to higher end products such as prints, he said, and it has being shipping around the world.

"It is new for the gallery. We have had online sales in the past but nothing like we've seen this year," said Stinson.

Last year, the gallery shipped close to $10,000 of merchandise purchased online between May and July. This year, it has sold about $28,000 worth.

"For the first time ever, really, we're shipping our product all over the world," he said. "Even as far as Korea."

Initially skeptical 

Lewis sold her paintings at the side of the road by her home for around $10 until she died in 1970.

While she is one of Nova Scotia's most famous folk artists, Stinson said the gallery didn't immediately bank on the movie making its exhibition a success. 

"When a movie comes out you're kind of skeptical. You don't want to throw all of your eggs into one basket because you really don't know how it will be received by the public," said Stinson.

"But the film has done very well and it really does a really good job at telling Maud's story."

With files from Maritime Noon

now