Visual Arts Center Moves Craft+Design Show to Main Street Station

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    The Visual Arts Center of Richmond will move its 53-year-old contemporary craft show, Craft + Design, to the newly renovated train shed at Main Street Station. This year’s show will take place November 17 through 19, 2017.

    As a result of the change in venue, VisArts plans to double the number of participating artists at this year’s show. An average of sixty artists have participated in the show annually since its move to the Science Museum in 2008. The new space will accommodate 120 artists. In 2016, 88 percent of artists exhibiting at the show hailed from outside the Richmond metro region; 75 percent were from out of state.

    The 100,000-square-foot train shed, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was built in 1901 and has been renovated as part of a $90 million effort to restore Main Street Station. Glass walls offer visitors panoramic views of Church Hill, Shockoe Bottom and downtown, and the gabled ceiling is lined with stained fir timber harvested from Washington State.

    The venue, which sits squarely in the middle of the Shockoe Design District, is highly visible from Richmond’s I-95 corridor and accessible via train. Amtrak passengers from Washington, D.C. and beyond will be able to debark and walk directly into Craft + Design.

    “Main Street Station not only gives us the opportunity to grow this event, but it also allows us to introduce artists and visitors from outside the region to Richmond at its absolute finest,” said Stefanie Fedor, executive director of the Visual Arts Center of Richmond.

    Craft + Design moved from the Richmond Convention Center to the Science Museum of Virginia in 2008. The convention center, which accommodated more than 200 exhibitor booths, felt overwhelming to many visitors and was a costly space for the 54-year-old community arts center to rent. The move to the Science Museum was part of a conscious decision on the part of event organizers to shrink the size of the show and focus on extremely high-end craft.

    “We have been wanting to find a way to allow more artists to participate. Making space for 100 to 120 artists will make Craft + Design comparable to the Smithsonian Craft Show in size,” said Fedor. “Visitors will get to experience more work from nationally recognized artists in one space, while the caliber of work will remain very high.”

    Craft + Design is a juried show, which means a committee of artists, gallerists and art collectors select the artists who will be invited to participate. Successful applicants generally work in one of five traditional mediums—ceramics, fiber, glass, metal or wood, although artists who work in mixed media and non-traditional materials are sometimes accepted on a case-by-case basis. 

    Craft, in its truest form, is functional as well as beautiful, so most Craft + Design artists—regardless of medium—are showcasing museum-quality work that has a utilitarian bend. Finely made pots, vases, jewelry, furniture and textiles are some of the items available for sale at the show.

    In recent years, Craft +Design organizers have pushed to highlight emerging artists, underrepresented artists and those artists who use traditional materials in new and innovative ways.  The event’s 2016’s marketing materials featured the work of twenty-nine year old jewelry artist Ashley Buchanan, who works in powder-coated enamel.

    Craft + Design is a competitive show to get into with just 37 percent of applicants were accepted last year. Applications to participate in the 2017 show are due by May 26. Artists should submit through zapplication.org and will be notified of the committee’s decision by late July.

    Organizers say they plan to use the new space to their advantage. A lecture program, free art workshops—led by VisArts instructors—and a beer garden are some of the new features guests should expect to see this year. VisArts also plans to lower the price of Patrons’ Preview tickets to make Friday night’s opening party more accessible to young people.

    “The extra space is going to help us connect Craft + Design back to our mission, which is to engage the community in the creative process,” said Fedor. “If people are inspired by something they see at Craft + Design, we want them to know that there’s a class at the Visual Arts Center of Richmond that will help them learn to make it.”

    There are five city-owned parking garages in close proximity to the train shed. Guests should expect to pay two dollars to park. Organizers say the price of general admission tickets, currently $10, will remain the same. VisArts members receive one or two free general admission tickets, depending on their membership level, as a member benefit.