Guilford Art Center Hopes Residents Step Out for Pop-Up Shows
Even as state restrictions are lifted, Guilford Art Center (GAC) Executive Director Maureen Belden explains that it is simply too complex to put on large events like the perennially popular Craft Expo. Instead, Belden said GAC is hoping to essentially spread out the expo across the entire summer, with half a dozen weekend “pop-up” shows beginning this Saturday, May 8, with a few artists offering ceramics, jewelry, wood, and fiber at each show.
“To be able to dip our toe in and get back to it in a slow way—I think people are going to be really excited to support these artists,” Belden said.
Shows will run Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on May 8, June 5 and 19, July 10 and 24, and Aug. 7 and 14, according to Belden.
With artists agreeing to donate a portion of their proceeds to GAC, the pop-ups are a way to continue the relationships and collaborations that have characterized the Guilford art scene for years, Belden said. A lot of the invited artists (the full list is still being finalized and Belden warned was still subject to change) have established clients in the area and maintain a regular presence in Guilford.
One of the most important things is that people will have a chance to actually physically engage with artists and browse hand-crafted pieces in person after months of online shopping or interactions.
“I love the Internet [and] a lot of artists have websites,” she said. “However, the experience of something like the Craft Expo is unique, and something that is still a really important way for artists to share their work, which is one on one, in-person, interacting with the public...That is something that we’ve all missed over the past year.”
Across the state, the approach of these independent artisans and the organizations who run fairs or markets has been decidedly mixed, according to Belden, with some larger expos going forward and others, like GAC, holding off on larger events.
One of the reasons to move slowly is due to the age range of the artists that GAC works with, which skews somewhat higher and therefore may be less eager to jump into a large crowd, with the virus still a threat.
“Doing it slowly makes the most sense,” Belden said. “Summer 2021 is going to be still a hybrid. That’s okay, because hybrid is better than nothing.”
GAC has run a slate of its normal classes and events since the fall, operating at lower capacity after closing last spring and summer to in-person. Belden said the pop-ups are also a way to re-introduce residents to the campus, which will likely approach expanding classes and onsite offerings in the same measured way, as they navigate guidelines and restrictions.
With the independent art and craft scene likely to change forever as social media and the Internet have changed how people operate, Belden expressed confidence that people still have a desire to share and browse face-to-face. The Guilford Craft Expo is scheduled to return in 2022, with as much certainly as anyone can have in the pandemic era.
“We really regret that we can’t hold a full scale craft show,” Belden said. “What we’re trying to do is...support a number of the artists who would normally participate in the Craft Expo.
“And to remind everybody that we support and sponsor really fine quality craft artists,” she added.
For more information, visit the Guilford Art Center website guilfordartcenter.org.