“If You Build It, They Will Come”
It’s become a corny phrase, but I can think of no better way to describe what just happened this past weekend at the historic 1913 Grove Park Inn.
Two months ago, with dark Covid clouds building on the horizon, we struggled with the decision whether or not to hold a live, in-person 35th National Arts and Crafts Conference and Shows. Your telephone calls and emails were about equally split. While many abruptly announced they would not feel comfortable attending the conference, even more affirmed their trust in our ability to host a safe event, giving them this long-awaited opportunity to once again reunite with their Arts and Crafts friends from across the county.
After numerous conversations with the staff at the Omni Grove Park Inn and with each other, Kate and I mapped out our strategy. In the Heritage Ballroom where we hold our seminars, we created more aisles, reduced the number of chairs, placed a plexiglass shield on the speaker’s podium, and made it possible for our attendees to spread out and feel more relaxed as they soaked in the information and new research brought to the room by our seven speakers.
In the shows, we also spread out the antiques dealers and contemporary craftsfirms, giving them more space for both their merchandise and their shoppers. We spaced the chairs and tables in our hands-on workshops, demonstrations, and small group discussions, providing our enthusiastic attendees with the opportunity to safely share their opinions and experiences with our fellow collectors.
And even though our county mask mandate had just expired, we made one more decision: masks had to be worn to all conference events.
Rather than resistance, we were met with thanks, with congratulations and appreciation for making it clear to everyone before and during the shows, seminars, and events that we would all be wearing masks to protect our Arts and Crafts friends.
Breathing a muted sigh of relief, when the doors opened our masked attendees streamed in, visibly excited to again be relishing the craftsmanship and design of the furniture, art pottery, metalware, and artwork we love to surround ourselves with.
Once expecting as much as a fifty percent decline in attendance, we experienced near-record, pre-covid numbers, even running out of show programs during the second day of the three-day show. Red sold stickers began popping up in every booth like blooming tulips, as collectors snapped up new pieces to take home with them.
Prompting one happy collector to announce, “If you mask it, they will come.”
And they did.
Until next time,