Building Bridges

After last February’s Arts & Crafts Conference at the Grove Park Inn, I reached out to each of my seminar speakers, asking them for suggestions for the next roster of speakers I will be preparing in the coming months. While I expected recommendations such as “start early” or “avoid multiple images on the screen at one time,” one of our first-time speakers, who was also a first-time attendee, posed her own question.

“Why are there so few young people here?”

And while it is a question I have often asked, it caused me to think even more about the future of the Arts & Crafts movement.

For starters, this is not a cheap hobby. There was a time when it appeared that the escalating price of antiques would drive away all but the wealthiest collectors, but an influx of contemporary craftsmen and craftswomen coupled with an acceptance of lesser known, even generic, Arts & Crafts antiques, has kept prices for ‘entry level’ pieces at least within reason.

I will be the first to recognize that for those who live more than a short drive from Asheville coming to the Grove Park Inn Arts & Crafts Conference is an expense that has to be weighed against the family budget. To help offset the cost of gasoline and food, any student can buy a ticket good for all three days of the show for just five dollars, and any child under the age of 14 enters for free.

And while staying at the Grove Park Inn Resort and Spa does not fit within many younger budgets, this has never been a requirement for attending either the shows or the seminars. Even so, instead of offering a Senor Citizen’s Discount (which we get several requests for), perhaps we should be creating an Under-35 Family Discount Package.

In addition to considering the cost of attending this or any major Arts & Crafts event, including the American Art Pottery Convention next week in Cleveland, we have to demonstrate our relevance to a younger generation.

As Laura Fry, who spoke on the development of the Arts & Crafts movement in the Rocky Mountain region, went on to point out, “I’m 30 years old and I find the visual culture of the late 19th and early 20th centuries to be fascinating, exiting, and extraordinarily relevant today. As our world has become increasingly mass-produced and digitized, there’s been a popular backlash. The slow food movement, steampunk fashion, the DIY movement, and new sustainable building practices all have strong parallels to Arts & Crafts philosophies.”

I have often said that what distinguishes the Arts & Crafts movement from the Art Nouveau, Art Deco and Modernism styles is that our movement is built on a solid, philosophical foundation that has a relevant application to how we choose to live our lives.

Opening someone’s eyes to everything the world of Arts & Crafts has to offer, however, does not start at the Grove Park Inn conference or the AAPA convention. People have to recognize its value before making the commitment of time and money to attend a multi-day event hundreds of miles from home.

Instead, it starts in their own backyard.

It starts with you.

Pick out someone who you sense might become interested in the Arts & Crafts movement. Send them tickets to a neighborhood bungalow walk or house tour, an Arts & Crafts show, a local seminar or a museum exhibition that features Arts & Crafts.

Got a duplicate copy of an Arts & Crafts resource or coffee table book?

Give it away.

Back issues of Arts & Crafts Homes, American Bungalow or Style 1900?

Give them away.

Better yet, give someone a gift subscription.

Got someone you email?

Send them a link to this site and others like it. Show them they can even shop for vintage and contemporary Arts & Crafts online.

Don’t wait for the opportunity to address a group of young people about what Arts & Crafts has meant to you, for that may never happen. A bridge is built one brick at a time. Pick out one person or one couple and introduce them to the world of Arts & Crafts. Build a bridge for them over to the other side.

And don’t be surprised if next year you bump into them at the Grove Park Inn.

Before next Monday,

Pick someone out…..