The 2019 National Arts & Crafts Conference Recap
by Kate Nixon
The 32nd National Arts and Crafts Conference is in the books!
By all measures, the 2019 National Arts & Crafts Conference at the historic Omni Grove Park Inn was a success, with educational seminars, thought-provoking discussions, plenty of interactive tours, and an array of amazing Arts and Crafts treasures, both vintage and contemporary, available for purchase in the exhibitor shows. This conference is also an annual reunion, as many friends in the Arts and Crafts community to come together at the Grove Park Inn to enjoy each other’s company against the backdrop of a historic Arts & Crafts haven.
Thursday was our unofficial kick-off of the conference with our popular Pre-Conference Workshops starting that afternoon, in addition to a celebration hosted by the Stickley Musuem at Craftsman Farms that evening. The four workshops — Printmaking, Coppersmithing, Embroidery, and Metalsmithing & Jewelry Making – were very well attended, with two out of the four workshops selling out well in advance of our event. That evening a good time was had by all as the Stickley Museum at Craftsman Farms hosted a kickoff party with a BBQ dinner, bluegrass music, door prizes, and lots of brew!
Friday saw the official start to the 32nd National Arts & Crafts Conference and Shows along with the conference’s annual offerings of walking tours, small group discussions, a book club discussion, demonstrations, and a fabulous dessert social hour in the Grove Park Inn’s President’s Lounge. The conference seminars, always a conference highlight, started Friday evening with longtime conference attendee Rosalie Berberian reminiscing about her experiences as an Arts and Crafts jewelry collector. Furniture maker, writer and researcher Stewart Crick followed with his well-researched presentation on Gustav Stickey from 1912 to 1916 and his Washington D.C. store.
Another point to note: we had nearly a third of the ballroom stand up when Bruce Johnson, the Conference Director, asked from the podium how many of the audience were first and second year attendees! One first year attendee had this to say: “My husband and I were 1st time attendees at the conference this year. Being our 1st year we were enthralled with everything – the venue, the speakers, the presentations … everything! It sent us home with a sense of urgency to complete our new Arts and Crafts style home.”
During the three-day weekend, conference attendees enjoyed tours of the Grove Park Inn and Biltmore Industries, rousing Small Group Discussion sessions, the exhibitor shows, a special evening with the Asheville Art Museum event, and additional seminars that included Bill Porter’s research on Mary Chase Stratton and her influence on Pewabic Pottery, and Ruskin scholar Professor Jim Spates illustrating the relevance of John Ruskin. The genius of architect Irving Gill was revealed by architectural historian Allen Hazard, and a history of Arts & Crafts mosaic fireplaces was presented by leaded glass and mosaic expert and exhibitor Theodore Ellison.
Over the course of three days, the general public came in droves, totaling more than 2,100 attendees from the general public that shopped the shows. The antiques and contemporary craftsfirms shows, filled with more than 100 exhibitors from all over the country, saw strong sales continuing throughout the weekend with a steady stream of visitors, collectors, and enthusiasts. The general public had plenty to enjoy with an open silent auction that raised more than $9,000 for the Arts and Crafts Research Fund, as well as Arts & Crafts demonstrations, a Saturday evening movie about the Gamble House, and the popular historic homes tour that is the annual fundraiser for the Preservation Society of Asheville and Buncombe, which featured six homes in nearby Norwood Park. Add the beautiful grounds of the Grove Park Inn on a sunny day – what more could you ask for?
On a more serious note, organizing such a successful event comes with certain challenges – and recently we’ve heard word of a recent attempt to make money off our success. As you may have seen or heard, an unscrupulous firm has been soliciting people associated with our conference, offering to sell them a list of all of the conference attendees and their contact information. Rest assured, neither the Omni Grove Park Inn nor our organization has ever or would ever sell, trade, or make available to anyone our list of contacts and their private information. You should regard this and any other possible solicitations as unauthorized and potentially illegal.
If you’ve have suggestions you would like to see at the 2020 Conference, including seminar speakers, small group discussion topics, or other ideas, please let us know. As always, you can find updates on our conference website, www.arts-craftsconference.com. Currently, you might see some older information on certain pages, however, that’s only to show potential attendees an example of what they can expect to see next February 21-23, 2020.