ON THE TRAIL OF HANDCRAFTED BEAUTY:
Five Crafts Centers, Arts Festivals and Other Special Events Provide the Perfect Theme For a Connecticut Getaway
HARTFORD — April 27, 2005 – The America of the 21st century was literally carved out of wilderness less than 300 years ago. The men and women who pushed further and further westward relied on their hands and ingenuity – and an extraordinary abundance of natural materials – to fashion most of what they required to build homes and villages, to farm and to live.
The legacy of this distinctive national experience is enduring appreciation, respect and interest in handcrafted art. Nowhere is this more obvious than in Connecticut, where five major craft centers, dozens of smaller ones, and a yearly calendar of arts festivals, special events, classes and workshops celebrate the vision and talent of some of the country’s finest artists. Many of the crafts centers are particularly popular with out of state visitors for their weekend programs offering a hands-on, total immersion into a particular craft, including highly specialized techniques in pottery, glass blowing, weaving and other art forms. Many of the workshops are taught by nationally known visiting artists.
Combined with a comfortable stay in a historic country inn, some great meals and a tour through the incomparable natural beauty of New England, Connecticut’s vibrant crafts scene becomes the perfect theme for a quick getaway or a longer vacation.
Connecticut’s five major, non-profit crafts centers are: the Brookfield Craft Center in Brookfield; the Creative Arts Workshop in New Haven; the Farmington Valley Arts Center in Avon; the Guilford Handcraft Center in Guilford, and The Wesleyan Potters in Middletown. Working together since the mid-1990’s, the collaboration has played an important role in helping visitors and residents alike discover the rich, multi-faceted world of fine crafts.
The nationally known Brookfield Craft Center (www.brookfieldcraftcenter.org; 203-775-4526), founded in 1954, is situated in four colonial buildings, including a 1780 restored grist mill overlooking the Still River. In addition to offering a gallery showcasing the works of local and national craftspeople, there are workshops and a gift and book shop. The center enrolls some 1,500 students from across the country each year in professional craft studies.
One of Brookfield’s most popular events is the annual BowlFest, to be held this year on June 5. This fundraiser combines a picnic of outstanding artisanal foods, fine wines and live music with a silent auction of handmade crafts. The focal point of the event are the clay and wooden bowls made by students, faculty and artists, each a collectible. Brookfield also offers a summer-long program of arts and crafts workshops covering more than 100 subjects on all ability and skill levels. These range from bookbinding and guitar making to pottery, glassblowing and gas welding.
As an example of weekend programs offered by Connecticut’s craft centers, Brookfield, during the weekend of June 10-12 alone, will offer workshops on lampshades, Navajo weaving, perfumery, latex mold making, Polaroid manipulation, photography and more. Later in the summer, visitors will have the opportunity to explore willow furniture making, sculptural paper lamps, diachronic glass, mosaics, patchwork scarves, floor loom weaving, spindle turning, enameling and dozens of other skills.
The Creative Arts Workshop (www.creativeartsworkshop.org; 203-562-4927) is located in New Haven’s Audubon Arts District, a thriving area of galleries, schools, stores and restaurants. Housed in its own three-story building, Creative Arts offers changing exhibitions of fine art and crafts, classes, workshops and lectures. Founded in 1961, the Workshop offers instruction in painting, pottery, printmaking, sculpture, weaving, photography and more and serves some 3,000 students each year.
The Farmington Valley Arts Center (www.fvac.net; 860-678-1867) also is located in historic buildings in Avon, offering a gallery of fine art and crafts as well as 20 artist studios, a Visitor’s Gallery for works of on-site artists, classes and workshops. Founded in 1974, the Center’s Fisher Gallery was renovated in 2000 and now provides the venue for exhibitions, gallery talks, workshops, poetry readings and other events.
The Guilford Handcraft Center (www.handcraftcenter.org; 203-453-5947) is another of Connecticut’s nationally renowned art schools. Founded in 1962 on the site of a converted sawmill, the Center evolved from the Guilford Handcraft Exposition, first held almost 50 years ago. In its secluded, wooded setting, the Center has two galleries, a shop presenting the works of 300 artists and the School of Fine Art and Handcraft, with studios for metalsmithing, painting, jewelry, and pottery. Of the seven major exhibitions presented each year, the Guilford Handcraft Exposition is the most famous. This year it will be held July 14-16 and represent artists from across the country. The Guilford Handicraft Center is also presenting the 5th Biennial Exhibition of North American Clay, June 12-July 23, a showcase for some of the best artists working in ceramics today.
Located in a converted colonial factory building near the Connecticut River in Middletown, The Wesleyan Potters (www.wesleyanpotters.com; 860-347-5925) has been in operation since 1948 as a cooperative guild offering classes in basketry, weaving, children’s art, jewelry and pottery. Classes are held year-round and the cooperative presents an annual show and sale in the winter as well as a Spring Festival and Sale, this year scheduled for May 7.
In addition to the exhibitions and special events coming up at these five craft centers, there is much else happening artistically in Connecticut in the coming weeks and months, including:
- 18th Annual Craft Fair, May 7 in Madison (203-245-5715) with over 100 artists
- 28th Annual Arts & Crafts Festival, May 7 in Windsor (860-688-5393)
- 20th Annual Outdoor Crafts Festival of the Bruce Museum, May 21-22 in Greenwich (203-869-0376), with exhibitors from 25 states
- Arts & Crafts in the Rose Garden, June 25 in Hartford (860-653-6671), a juried art show held in one of Connecticut’s most beautiful city parks
- 17th Annual Country Folk Art & Craft Show, July 8-10 in Farmington, with artists from around the country who specialize in fine, traditional and contemporary folk art, wearable art, Americana and more (248-634-4151)
- 34th Annual Arts & Crafts Fair, July 9 in Westbrook (860-669-0298)
- 42nd Annual Art & Craft Show, July 30-31 in Old Saybrook, with over 200 artists (860-398-3266)
- Get a jump start on Holiday shopping this year and find that one-of-a-kind present for that special someone. Each of the craft centers offers an annual Holiday exhibition and sale. Please contact each of the centers directly for more information on Holiday shopping and exhibitions.
To truly take advantage of all the incredible craft centers and special events, A Trail of Connecticut Craft Centers has been created providing visitors an opportunity to explore all of the state’s unique craft offerings. Wherever you begin your journey, each of the above centers is located within a one-hour drive from each other, forming a ‘craft trail’ which can be covered easily over a weekend.
For further information about the 52 Getaways to Connecticut, restaurants, resorts, country inns, B&Bs and other places to stay in Connecticut, please call 800-CTBOUND (800-282-6863) or visit www.ctbound.org. Connecticut offers visitors a multi-faceted wealth of attractions, historical, cultural and recreational activities, diverse and beautiful natural landscapes, parks, beaches and wilderness sure to fulfill any getaway need.
MAP: A Trail of Connecticut Craft Centers
National Public Relations
M. Silver Associates, Inc.
CT Public Relations
(203) 624-4151 x 30