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For the past six months, Guilford resident and new Guilford Art Center (GAC) Shop Manager Elena Albergo has been working hard to bring the 40th annual Artistry to GAC, where holiday shoppers will find a gorgeous gallery of fine crafts at all price points, created by 200 artisans from around the country. All proceeds benefit the non-profit GAC. (Photo by Pam Johnson/Guilford Courier )
Elena Albergo has the unique holiday gift you’ve been looking for at Guilford Art Center’s Artistry. (Photo by Pam Johnson/Guilford Courier )
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Talk about work you love—Elena Albergo has the joyful job of finding the best inventory possible to fill a unique shoreline shopping destination, Artistry at Guilford Art Center (GAC).
Now through Sunday, Jan. 7, Artistry’s array of holiday gifts beckons from GAC’s gallery. It also spills into space at The Shop, GAC’s year-round venue offering contemporary American crafts and jewelry handmade by artists from across the country. All proceeds benefit non-profit GAC, both its school and gallery programs.
With Artistry, GAC offers a holiday display of a huge range of finely-crafted gift items in many mediums. It’s almost hard to believe Elena pulled it all together after joining GAC just six months ago as manager of The Shop. She hit the ground running to bring in an eclectic mix of items at a range of prices. From wearables to toys, home decor to items for holiday display, practical pieces and future keepsakes, Artistry has gifts in all categories.
“You can come in and find a gift for anybody,” says Elena. “Each one comes from the hands of an artist and has its own story.”
GAC has been in town for 50 years and Artistry is now in its 40th year. This year’s Artistry features 200 North American artisans, including 20 new artists Elena, and other people she knows, have culled from visits to shows in the Northeast and around the country.
“I’ve been going to big craft shows in New York and shows at different venues in the Northeast; and when other people are going to shows, I use them as resource,” said Elena.
One item being offered is selling fast. The slender, primitive-looking wooden object with flared ends can stand alone as a decorative piece, but it also has been purposefully crafted to amplify a smartphone’s speaker. Just slide the phone into the slot on the side, and turn up the tunes.
“They’re made of mango wood,” says Elena, of the beautifully turned pieces topped by different carved designs and finishes. “A person who works here had gone to a craft fair in North Carolina, and she found this artist and gave me his information. I contacted him and he said, ‘I’m all for it!’ It’s such a great opportunity for us to be able to represent all these artisans all over the country who have such ability and don’t have the venue to promote themselves and their work. We have this wonderful, large space; and we fill it up.”
Elena’s also excited to have added some new leather crafters to Artistry. One who is already proving popular is an artist who creates traditionally tanned women’s bags and men’s items (and not just wallets—his leather travel trays and cellphone cord holders are also big sellers).
“He’s a leather artist from Oregon. We found him at one of the shows in New York,” says Elena, who made it one of her goals to offer more options for men among Artistry’s mix. “He’s an emerging artist who hadn’t been a part of something like this before. In just our first week, we sold several of his pieces.”
Elena arrived at GAC with six years’ experience in retail as a shop manager for Peter Indorf Jewelers; and she brought her experienced retail eye with her, especially as GAC’s jewelry buyer. Among the many jewelry pieces offered in The Shop as part of Artistry are some brand-new jewelry designers Elena has selected, as well as her choice for Artistry’s first offering of fine jewelry.
“This is the first time we’ve had any type of solid 14-karat gold fine jewelry,” says Elena of the delicate pieces in gold and rose gold now on display in The Shop. “We went to a show in Brooklyn (NY) and found this artist. She does very sweet work.”
A Guilford resident of 21 years, Elena isn’t an artisan, herself, but has a special appreciation she attributes to an “artsy background,” (her dad was artist, her grandfather a jeweler). She says her role at GAC offers, “...the ideal creative retail experience.”
GAC Marketing Specialist Lisa Ste. Marie has been enjoying every minute collaborating with Elena to help promote Artistry, from planting a huge banner at GAC’s entrance at 411 Church Street to distributing oversized postcards featuring photos of some of the new artists’ pieces.
“We have a lot of returning, popular artists; but we’re really trying to let people know that Elena has been working hard to bring in new artists and new types of items that people need to come and explore.” says Ste. Marie. “It’s a hidden gem.”
Adds Elena, “...we’ve had some people who have told us they’ve seen the postcard and come in because of some of the new things they’ve seen on it. That’s always so much fun to hear.”
Shoppers will also find new items including bamboo bags, creative candlesticks, lots of leather (one proven winner—a mix of different images embossed on colorful leather coasters; create your own sets), fiber pieces (one new artist’s woven wool pillows are selling well), bags of leather, fabric; woven and hand-made wraps and shawls as well as soaps, candles (new organic candles, most selling from between $15 to $17, are very popular), wooden serving boards, unique birdhouses, home decor, ornaments, pottery, and much, much more.
In addition to its eye-catching inventory, Artistry offers some special events to assist shoppers. Two upcoming events, both free and open to the public, are a Jewelry and Champagne Reception on Thursday, Nov. 30, 5 to 8 p.m. with the opportunity to enjoy bubbly and peruse a wide range of American artisan jewelry for all tastes and budgets; and Men’s Shopping Night on Thursday, Dec. 21, 5 to 8 p.m. for last-minute shopping with guy-geared beverages and snacks; and staff to help select the perfect gifts.
As the shoreline swings into the holiday shopping season, Elena says Artistry is ready, willing, and able to provide gifts for everyone on the list, and wonderland for shoppers to enjoy.
“There’s really nothing else like it,” Elena points out. “There are so many amazing artists out there. We just have to try to find them, and then have them agree to come here and spend a couple of months with us, and share their work. There really is nowhere else where you can find everything like this under one roof.”
Artistry is open at Guilford Art Center, 411 Church Street, seven days a week, now through Sunday, Jan. 7, 2018. Opening hours are Monday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., with additional hours on Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. For more information, visit http://guilfordartcenter.org or call 203-453-5947.
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