The Arts and Crafts Conference, usually held at the Grove Park Inn, will be virtual this year.
Instead of just three days attending in person at the Omni Grove Park Inn the Arts and Crafts Conference has had to plan a new way to hold the conference and show to the public. This year it will be completely virtual. For many collectors of this simple, beautiful, and functional American design, the National Arts and Crafts Conference is considered a Mecca in the southeast. It was the style that changed America forever. From its beginnings in the early 1900s, the Arts and Crafts movement embraced the idea of hand-craftsmanship using native materials, including oak, clay, and copper, in contrast to the mass-produced items of the Industrial Revolution.
For thirty-three years Bruce E. Johnson has been bringing the finest Arts & Crafts items from renowned dealers to Asheville for one weekend to be seen, studied and possibly bought at the Omni Grove Park Inn. Year after year he coordinated an incredibly invigorating Conference and Show, but with Covid 19 lurking everywhere in the world, there would be too many risks, involved to allow so many people to congregate in such close quarters at the Omni Grove Park Inn. Thus Johnson, the director of the National Arts and Crafts Conference, Kate Nixon, the Registration Manager, and his team began some “out of the box” thinking, planning, and preparing for 2021. They decided the whole month of February the National Conference and Show would be devoted to Arts and Crafts, but online and virtual. The advantage would be that no matter where a person lived participants could take part in the many activities. No one needed to fly here to Asheville to be a part of the Conference and risk infection. By registering online and viewing from the safety of their home, they could participate again in the yearly Arts and Crafts Conference. Attendees could expect to experience a wide variety of powerful and educational presentations virtually. The Show could go on.
For the whole month of February, seminars and discussions, as well as demonstrations, tours, seminars and shows are all available online. Some via Zoom; others as videos that can be watched at any time. The choice of topics is endless. Bruce E. Johnson will have a pre-recorded seminar on “Ruskin, Morris & More: Digging for our English Roots” as well as “Midwest Practicality: Working in the Shadow of Frank Lloyd Wright.” These seminars can be viewed at a time most suitable to the viewer. You can see videos, such as “Art Tiles in the Prairie School: a Paradox of Styles” by Richard Mohr on Saturday, February 20th, or participate in live small group discussions, such as “ Spotting Furniture Fakes, Forgeries, and Repairs” with N. Gordon Gray on Wednesday, February 24th. There will be 20-minute demonstrations of various skills with a concise video for any registered participant to view at their leisure during the entire month of February. Perhaps “Making a Block Print” with Laura Wilder or learning about “The Basics of Embroidery” with Natalie Richards is of interest? There will be book club discussions, led by Pat Bartinique, English professor and author. Just go online to Events to discover the many topics being offered. All you have to do is register for a Conference Events Pass at $100 for one person and $150 for a two-person pass to participate in the many interesting discussions throughout the month, and some on into March. Just go to https://arts-craftsconference.com/
Conference Exhibitors Have an Online Market Place
In addition, two selling shows are a part of the Conference but are open to all without registration: The Arts and Crafts Antiques Show and the Contemporary Craftsfirms Show. According to Johnson, Director, last year they were able to celebrate having “one of our finest, most successful and largest conferences in our 33-year history.” But very soon after the 2020 conference, Covid 19 hit, sales for most of their exhibitors were abruptly stopped or diminished.
Ninety percent of the exhibitors who came to the Conference in the past can be found online this year at the arts-craftsconference.com website until March 15th. No registration is required to get to these web pages. It is completely free; anyone can “Shop the Show.” A juried assemblage of antique dealers from across the country were chosen to be a part of this online presentation. A wide selection of antique furniture, art pottery, metalware, books, and artwork from reputable dealers can be found online. Also, the works of some of the finest contemporary crafts firms in the country will be represented. Viewers can easily purchase some of these high-quality pieces being offered by these exhibitors. The web pages provide a full description of the items in the dealer’s inventory with detailed photographs and some closeups.
Preservation Society Historic Homes Tour
The Preservation Society of Asheville and Buncombe County typically hosts an afternoon house tour featuring homes of interest to collectors attending the National Arts and Crafts Conference. This year is anything but typical, so the Preservation Society is planning a virtual home tour as one of their critical fundraisers to help with their mission of historic preservation. Three one-of-a-kind houses can be seen virtually: Possum Trot Cottage with its hallmarks of an Adirondack Camp and Dogwood Cottage (built-in 1910) are in Asheville’s Albemarle Park, and the Sondley House is in another area of town. According to Architectural Design Standards & Guidelines, “Albemarle Park is unique among Asheville’s Local Historic Districts. Every single one of its significant structures is still intact and relatively unchanged today.” One can purchase a ticket at PSABC.org for $25.00 and tour these unique houses for 40 minutes, at any time that best suits the viewer.
The Preservation Society works to keep Asheville a unique and desirable city by retaining the character of the community. They are very active in the community. Each year PSABC presents awards (The Griffin Awards) to outstanding projects and individuals who further the goals of historic preservation in Asheville and Buncombe County. It should be mentioned that Jessie Landle, the Executive Director, the PSABC Board and its members are currently actively fighting the destruction of 11 to 13 charming historic homes on the 100 block of Charlotte Street in Asheville.
This of course is the gateway to the Grove Park Inn. The PSABC is asking for support with signatures on their petition (found at https://psabc.org/charlotte-street-demolition/). Online the PSABC states “By signing this petition, you can help us send a message to the developers and city hall that this is not a project residents want. We are asking that the historic homes are saved and any development is sensitive to the historic character of the block. #SaveOurBlock #StopRCG.”
The 34th Annual National Arts and Crafts Conference with the help of modern technology and the leadership of Bruce E. Johnson is once again able to highlight the elegant designs and craftsmanship of the Arts and Crafts period. To organize this kind of all-encompassing online experience, an incredible amount of work, computer knowledge, planning, and organizing had to be done months in advance by all involved. The many seminars, discussion groups, demonstrations and workshops will undoubtedly be stimulating and informative. Be sure to participate in this year’s month-long event for an enriching experience.