by Kate Nixon
It was a picturesque view on the afternoon of August 1st at The Stickley Museum at Craftsman Farms. Executive Director Vonda Givens had just ended the latest of the many Zoom courses the non-profit organization has offered since mid-March – and finding herself with a pleasant view, she decided to take a picture of it. “I took a picture of the Log House because the sunlight was so beautiful,” says Givens during a Zoom session the following Saturday. On social media, it would be called a #MuseumMomentOfZen. Days later, the grounds would be a far cry from the idyllic peace and beauty of that Saturday afternoon.
Touching the Caribbean Sea, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and grazing the coast of Florida, the Tropical Storm Isaias was literally a force to be reckoned with the moment it touched ashore as a hurricane in North Carolina. Last week, Isaias brought its forces onto the northeast and to the grounds of Craftsman Farms.
According to an email from Givens, Isaias reached the Morris Plains area in the morning with heavy and torrential rain and in the early afternoon, the high winds caused a large tree to fall onto the old education room, also known as the Annex to the Log House. Thankfully, Givens and museum collections director Jonathan Clancy were working in the new Education Center, which was not affected by the damage nor was the Log House. However the power lines fell along with the tree, so the power was cut off to the Log House and the Education room. Due to the loss of power and the felled tree demolishing the roof, the fire suppression sprinkler heads were triggered – and water and rain poured into the affected annex. In addition to efforts made by both Givens and Clancy to bail the waters, enforcements were called in and the local fire department as well as several members of the township arrived to help expel the water and shut off the fire suppression system. In the end, only puddled water was left on the floor. No furniture was damaged, everything was removed from the old education room as well as shop merchandise from the shop, and the brand new Education Center stayed intact with only a loss of power.
“Though this incident is a painful blow to our organization, we will do our job as stewards of the property and work through recovery day by day.” – Executive Director Vonda Givens
In a phone call to Givens on August 10th, she reported that the power has been restored back to the offices and the Log House area as of Sunday. Additionally, the felled tree has been removed. An insurance claim has been opened and the recovery process is well underway. “With the help of insurance, this Annex will be rebuilt, but the task ahead presents steep new challenges to the museum in a year already riddled with uncertainty,” said Givens. “Throughout the pandemic, though the museum’s doors are closed for tours, we have been focused on staying “open” virtually. The museum’s online educational opportunities have offered a meaningful way for us to remain vital and fulfill the museum’s mission, while generating much needed operational income.”
The museum’s offering of online classes has helped in giving and connecting to the Arts and Crafts community and in providing needed income to keep operating, however, given the setback, support is now more essential than ever. “Since early April, we have offered 19 online class sessions, on a wide variety of Arts and Crafts topics, five member-only programs—with two more to come–including virtual tours and a visit to Bruce Johnson’s workshop, weekly e-newsletters and vastly expanded social media content. While it will be our goal to continue finding creative ways to engage with our nationwide audience, we need support from our community to ensure that we can continue with this work.”
While the overall damaged was vastly minimized from efforts of people who came to help, including the Mt. Tabor Fire Department, Joe Jannarone and several township employees, the incident came as a painful setback to an organization working on a new addition to their museum. The team at Craftsman Farms continue to stay positive and faithfully work on the recovery process. “Though this incident is a painful blow to our organization, we will do our job as stewards of the property and work through recovery day by day,” says Givens. “We have been consumed with the damaged building and ensuring that the log cabin stays protected. It’s tough though. It’s a whole different ballgame now.”
How can members of the community help? Luckily there are several ways to help, especially during membership month. August brings the opportunity to double the impact as new membership signup fees at any level will be matched by the Craftsman Farms Board of Trustees, dollar for dollar. Members get free access to exclusive Zoom classes, stay updated on all museum news, get alerts about flash sales at the shop, free admission to the museum – once it’s open to the public – and more. Currently, The Stickley Museum is offering a new online class titled “Making Her Mark: Women of the American Arts and Crafts Movement,” dedicated to exploring the stories behind the artisans and craftswomen of the era and their essential contributions to the movement.
Those who are interested can also become a monthly donor to the program or alternatively, anyone can donate to the museum’s annual fund (Click here to donate to the annual fund), which goes towards operational costs and the fees of maintaining the collection. Opportunities for sponsorships are also available for individuals and companies. Those supporters on social media can even share The Stickley Museum’s updates, events, and posts on Facebook and Instagram.
Perhaps a force stronger than the damages done to the building and last week’s chaos is the sense of community the museum’s supporters have formed, something everyone in our world is striving to form in these new and surreal times – and it’s something Vonda Givens won’t ever forget. “I learned since becoming executive director that this is about so much more than the land, this is about the people. We’re drawn together by the love and interest in this place, but it’s all about the people and the community. This is our time to be the stewards of the land.”
Link to the “Making Her Mark” class: http://stickleymuseum.org/programs/online-classes/women-in-arts-acrafts.html
Link to Membership: http://stickleymuseum.org/support/membership.html
Link to Donations: http://stickleymuseum.org/support/dashboard/18.html
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