The 22nd annual Academy Art Museum Craft Show arrives a week or so early this year to accommodate the construction of a new main entrance to the museum from the courtyard facing Harrison Street. The late October date for previous craft shows was timed for holiday shopping. But no matter. The long Columbus Day weekend is not too soon—is it ever too soon?—to shop for Christmas or Hanukkah or that anytime holiday of buying a gift for yourself.
New this year, you’ll have an extra day, Friday, to check off your shopping list with one-of-a-kind creations, ranging from wearable fabric art to baskets woven into masterpieces, from jewelry artistry to wood carvings and from hand-crafted furniture to colorful glass-blown sculptures.
Besides all that, the juried craft show, this year “Celebrating the Makers”—70 craftspeople and artisans—also benefits the museum, the art jewel of Delmarva. “It’s one of our two major fundraisers of the year,” says AAM director Ben Simons—the other being the spring gala. “Without them, we couldn’t do what we do here,” he says. Proceeds from the gala and the craft show, which draws thousands of shoppers with an eye for unique fine-art objects, “support a significant percentage of our operating budget,” Simons says. (If you care about the museum or culture more widely, note the sponsors, among them Maryland Environmental Service.)
As a way of “Celebrating the Makers,” Simons’ museum staff, led by development manager Jennifer Chrzanowski, has assembled podcasts on the craft-show website by some of the artists talking about everything from what brings them to Easton year after year to what inspires their creativity.
Alexandria (Va.) jewelry artist Estelle Vernon says she “decided to take her business up a notch, to go for it” after surviving a breast cancer diagnosis. Since then, “one of my longtime collectors,” Vernon says, “coined a phrase for my work as ‘sensuality meets elegance.’ ”
Hailing from Bellefontaine, Ohio, Jessica Joy, whose artistic bag is designer handbags, says she does at least 20 shows a year, but adds that “I look forward to returning to Easton” as much or more than any other craft-show venue. “The town itself wraps its arms around the show,” she says, “and the support is absolutely amazing.”
The 2019 Visionary Artist—the museum names a visionary each year—is Aaron Taylor Kuffner of Brooklyn. His sonic kinetic sculpture greets you inside Academy Art’s picket fence at Harrison and South streets. Docents will clue you into the sound experience of sitting between two iron gongs tapped by cloth-covered mallets to produce bass-note tones and vibrations. Kuffner calls his artwork “Bodyphones,” as opposed to headphone listening devices. Don’t fret if you miss the chance to listen this weekend. “Bodyphones” remains in place on museum grounds through May 31, 2020.
For an investment of $125, you can snag a crafty sneak preview Thursday evening. You’ll get first crack at buying items on display and, of course, for sale while nibbling hors d’oeuvres and sipping cocktails. You’ll also get a pass for the full weekend and a chance to cast your people’s choice vote. (Besides jury awards for best in this or that category and best in show, there are people’s choice awards for which ballots can be cast as late as 2 p.m. Friday by anyone in attendance.)
Among other craft-show features is the “Makers Forum,” 2-4 p.m. Friday and Saturday, when artists talk about their work. Ongoing art demonstrations are also happening Friday and Saturday. Docent-led tours of the show are available both days if you want to be better informed about what you’re seeing and possibly purchasing.
Local artists returning this year to the craft show include Matt Gorin, a bartender at Hunter’s Tavern in the Tidewater Inn who moonlights as a wood carver and furniture maker, and Heidi Wetzel, who first took a basket-weaving class in Easton in 1997 and now takes her woven-fabric and fine-art basketry to juried shows in five states.
As a bonus for parents of small children in tow, the museum offers a Little Crafters program in which kids create their own arts-and-crafts stuff with grown-up guidance while you browse three stories in two buildings brimming with designer objects you won’t find in any mall or, very unlikely, on Amazon. And if you’re starving in the meantime, Piazza Italian Market of Talbot Town offers lunch fare while a Rise Up Coffee kiosk keeps you caffeinated, or decaffeinated, as you please.
And did we mention beating the havoc of holiday shopping?
Steve Parks is a retired journalist, arts writer and editor now living in Easton.
“Celebrating the Makers”
2019 Academy Art Museum Craft Show
5:30-8 p.m. Thursday, preview event, $125
10 a.m.-6 p.m. Friday and Saturday, $10
10 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday, family day, free
Academy Art Museum, 106 South St., Easton, and Waterfowl Building, 40 S. Harrison St. (across South Street from the museum); 410-822-2787, academyartmuseum.org/craftshow