The annual Arts & Crafts Conference at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, N.C., offers nonstop options. Here’s how to navigate. by Brian D. Coleman
Navigating the big A&C Conference.
Seminars and craft shows take place in Arts & Crafts-movement hotspots around the country. The one not to miss is the largest: a threeday conference and simultaneous antiques and juried contemporary crafts and furnishings shows, held in the Blue Ridge Mountains. This is the 31st year for the Conference, always held in February. At the shows, well over a hundred antiques vendors and contemporary craftspeople fill multiple rooms and line the corridors of one wing; you’ll see furniture, pottery, textiles, metalwork and jewelry, lighting, fine art . . . it goes on and on. Everything is of fine quality.
But what makes this conference so special is its focus on education—deep learning. Hands-on workshops cover such things as embroidery and printmaking. Lectures are offered, and small affinity groups meet (pottery collectors, say, or people researching native plants in Arts & Crafts-era gardens). Opportunities run almost around the clock. House tours and walking tours are arranged.
All this to say, you should plan ahead. I met with Conference founder and indefatigable organizer Bruce Johnson, who gave me 10 tips for new attendees:
1. Get your I.D. After checking in, make your way to the Conference’s registration area to get a tote-bagful of information. Your badge is your ticket to all Conference events, so be sure to wear it. 2. Find your bearings. The last page of the 88-page Conference Catalog is a map of the 513-room Omni Grove Park Inn, which now has two big wings and many levels. You’ll need the map. 3. Learn about the Inn. On Friday, take one of the hourly, history-minded walking tours of the
hotel, which starts at the north fireplace in the Great Hall. You’ll see original Roycroft furnishings and light fixtures, and learn about such famous guests as Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. 4. Take the hidden elevator. Encounter 1913 when you ride the old elevator inside the stone fireplace to the third-floor Palm Court of the original Inn.
5. Circle your favorites. Study the daily Small Group Discussions listed in the Catalog, selecting first and second picks for each session, and arrive ten minutes early to get a seat at the table. 6. Give in to the experience. Yes, you’ll want to visit the world-class spa, but know that you’re here for immersion. Morning and evening seminars start precisely on time; turn off your phone.
7. Come prepared with room dimensions, color samples, etc. if you’re here to find rugs, lighting, or furniture. 8. Bring cash and a checkbook. Not every exhibitor accepts credit cards.
9. Actually, come early. Consider arriving on Thursday to take a handson, pre-Conference workshop in the afternoon or on Friday morning. 10. Then stay late to explore Asheville, a top-ten destination city. Walk the downtown area and one of the bungalow neighborhoods; visit Biltmore, the Vanderbilt mansion; drive the Blue Ridge Parkway. More at arts-craftsconference.com
top At the exquisite 1913 Grove Park Inn, originally furnished by the Roycrofters, huge stone fireplaces anchor both ends of the Great Hall. above and below The old Inn’s original street-side façade has not changed.
Conference founder and frequent lecturer Bruce Johnson extends a warm welcome. far right The Antiques Show is overwhelming —in a very good way. opposite Specially curated exhibits enhance the lectures and small-group discussions.