Monday, August 26, 2013

Steering the ACW Vision

Have you ever wondered how American Craft Week got started and how it runs?

CRAFT - Craft Retailers & Artists for Tomorrow - is an association of galleries, shops and artists dedicated to presenting work that is handmade in the U.S.A.  A CRAFT board member, Morris Kramer, wanted the group to sponsor a "Craft Awareness Day".  He mentioned it often, and just as Diane Sulg, former gallery owner in Charlotte, was coming on the board, she read a letter he had written about why it was good.

At that time, Diane and her husband owned 2 galleries and a small bistro. Their restaurant participated in the annual 10-day Charlotte Restaurant Week.  She was amazed at what that event did for their business and the way so many restaurants in town cooperated.  She put the two ideas together, and in the summer of 2008 at the summer Buyers' Market Show in Philadelphia, she presented the idea of an American Craft Week to the CRAFT board.
During Diane's presentation, another board member, Robert Rickard, was on his smartphone securing the URLs, .net and .org.  Another board member, Ann Pifer, volunteered to help.  American Craft Week was born. The CRAFT board gave $5,000 to jumpstart the effort, and within a few months, American Craft Week had sponsors. (The original $5,000 was repaid to CRAFT).
Ann Pifer was friends with Carol Sauvion from Craft in America, so Carol joined Ann and Diane on the first steering committee. Rani Richardson from Random Acts of Art in Naples Florida came on because she knew the CRAFT organization's logistics.
Diane, Ann, Carol and Rani networked at shows, used the CRAFT e-mail list, and recruited participants.  One of the first was Grovewood Gallery in Asheville NC, then managed by Sherry Masters.  She called together all the folks in her area already doing events or involved in craft.
At the beginning of the second year, Diane asked Sherry to join the steering committee because she had done such a wonderful job organizing WNC. Diane knew Sherry would be able to help folks in other parts of the country replicate that success.  Greg Worden from Vermont Artisan Designs in  Brattleboro joined the committee that second year as well.

The idea grew. Now in its fourth year, American Craft Week is used by Kentucky, Vermont & Pennsylvania to promote tourism. Festivals and wholesale shows across the country are on board. Councils, guilds and schools are excellent ambassadors. The 2013 goal is to have every one of the 50 United States represented with participants and activities.

The 2013 American Craft Week is still spearheaded by an all-volunteer steering committee. Each member brings years of expertise working with makers and their crafts.

Four members of the 2013 committee (L to R) - Camille Ronay (Georgia Made Georgia Grown LLC), Meghan Blake-Horst (middle) (Absolutely Art, Madison WI), Diane Sulg (NC), and Kim Megginson (ZIG ZAG Gallery, Centerville OH) - met for the first time earlier in the year. They'd been meeting on Tuesday morning conference calls for months, but had never actually seen each other in person.

Rani Richardson, PJ Heyman (Village Artisans Gallery, Boiling Springs PA), Greg Worden, Sherry Masters, and Heather Lawless (CT) contribute expertise above & beyond on the committee, also.

2013 participants of American Craft Week are planning open state and town-wide studio tours, Pop Up Shops, festivals featuring American Craft, craft demos, workshops, children's art activities, kiln tours, maker talks, trunk shows, gallery walks, fundraisers for CERF+ and other worthwhile causes, and magical journeys into visitors' own imaginations.

It's going to be a grand celebration all over the United States. If you are a craft maker, what can you do to show off your work? If you are a craft lover, plan to participate in some events. What about taking a trip to enjoy American Craft Week, October 4-13, 2013?

Talk About It - Tell Us What Your Plans Are!

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