An Opportunity To Connect

If this is November, then it must be time to start thinking about the Arts & Crafts Conference.

Actually, we start thinking about next year’s Grove Park Inn Arts & Crafts Conference about the time the previous conference ends, as many of you start offering suggestions for speakers, discussion groups, book club, workshops, displays and exhibitors even before heading home.

For those of you unfamiliar with the annual Arts & Crafts Conference held each February at the historic Grove Park Inn, imagine bringing several hundred Arts & Crafts collectors – from novices to 24-year veterans – together for three days in a 512-room hotel and resort built in 1913 on Sunset Mountain overlooking Asheville, North Carolina, and furnished with the world’s largest collection of antique and contemporary Arts & Crafts.

Imagine, too, filling those three days with seminars, workshops, demonstrations, walking tours, house tours, small group discussions, educational displays and 125 exhibitors with everything Arts & Crafts – from antiques to new works to books – for sale.

Many of the suggestions we get from you result in immediate action, as best illustrated when, several years ago, Bill and Patsy Porter pulled me aside during the antiques show to suggest that we begin having a number of small group discussions throughout the conference. The idea was amazingly simple: pick a topic, find an enthusiastic volunteer to get the discussion started, and assign it to an empty meeting room.

The Small Group Discussions were an immediate hit, prompting us to expand them beyond the limited number of meeting rooms at the Grove Park Inn, holding them in hallways, lounges, the Great Hall, even the downstairs bar. We now average about 25 discussion groups per conference, which means we have held more than 500 Small Group Discussions in the 23-year history of the conference.

And the topics, as you might well imagine, have been as varied and as interesting as our attendees, including discussions on specific firms we collect, sharing decorating ideas, solving restoration problems in our Arts & Crafts homes, exchanging information on architects and builders, having philosophical discussions, integrating technology into Arts & Crafts, and so forth.

These Small Group Discussions are a valuable part of the conference, for they enable us to connect with collectors with similar interests. And, as we all know, the majority of us are not surrounded by other Arts & Crafts collectors. Despite the advances technology has brought us, including the ability to instantly communicate through websites, emails and text messages, there is no substitution for talking with someone face-to-face.

And the Small Group Discussions enable you to walk away with names, contact information and real connections with real people who, despite living five hundred miles away, are just like you.

So, if you have an idea for a Small Group Discussion, email it to me. I will be on the road again this week, filming a series of home improvement shows, so give me a few days to respond, okay?

And if you haven’t yet seen it, be sure to check out the updated slide show at the Arts and Crafts Conference website. You just might see somebody you know in one of the pictures of the Small Group Discussions….

Until next Monday,

Bruce Johnson