Focus On Native: Holiday Craft Shows Get Their Moment Amidst Supply Chain Issues
What is Christmas shopping like amid global supply chain disruptions? Early indicators in northern Michigan point to a growing interest in Christmas craft shows, mini-markets that focus on local artists and artisans. Each year, these markets – hosted by schools, churches, museums, arts organizations, nonprofits and a host of other institutions – fill the regional calendar of events in November and December. This year these events are in the spotlight.
Last weekend, the Dennos Museum hosted its annual Holiday Artist Market – usually one of the first major craft shows of the Christmas season. Like other shows, the Dennos show brings together a mix of artists – including painters, ceramists, jewelers, metal workers, glass craftsmen, candle makers, printmakers, and more – to showcase (and sell) their wares. According to Nicole Zeiler, who runs both the Dennos Museum’s gift shop and the Holiday Artist Market, this year appears to have been the largest in the event’s history.
“While I’m just starting to sort through the sales and data from the weekend, I can say that we had almost 2,000 visitors,” Zeiler told The Ticker. “[That’s] a big stake in the market and we had record artist and store sales. “
What is driving the additional interest? The supply chain is a factor, with the availability of toys, books, electronics and ugly Christmas sweaters suffering from bottlenecks in production and logistics. Another, says Zeiler, is that the pandemic has simply changed what some consumers value.
“Customers are now not only interested in where and by whom their items are made, but they also care about supporting artists in their area and spending their money in the community,” explains Zeiler. “I think the last year and a half has made a lot of people look for gifts that are a little more expressive, personal, and special – and that is exactly what artists offer.”
This supportive atmosphere bodes well for the many Christmas shows to come (locals can see a few today (Saturday) – such as a European-style Christmas market at EB2 Vintage in TC from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. (complete with crackling fires, hot spiced wine), roasted chestnuts and locally made chocolate treats) and a “Christmas Bazaar” in the Old Mission Peninsula United Methodist Church from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.).
Many of the region’s upcoming craft exhibitions are long-standing holiday traditions. The Traverse City West Senior High Art & Craft Show is celebrating its 12th year on Saturday, November 20th.
Other organizations are joining the trend for the first time ever. Take Arts for All Northern Michigan, a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit that strives to bring arts and culture experiences to people of all abilities in the five-county area. This organization will be hosting a brand new fundraiser for the holidays called the Have a Heart Art Mart.
Have a Heart Art Mart, held December 3-5 at the Gallery at Arts for All in Woodmere, will feature more than 25 local artisans who have agreed to donate at least 50 percent of their profits to the organization . The non-profit foundation Real Estate One will also take over 50 percent of the entire event proceeds.
According to Sue Cronover, Executive Director of Arts for All, the organization was drawn to the craft exhibition model because it provided an opportunity to “pay more attention to and participate in the local artists and all of the great work they do tough year. ”However, as the organization began recruiting artists for the event, Cronover noticed a welcome trend: artists who had been largely cut off from galleries, markets, pop-up shops and other events in 2020 were back in business.
“We talked to the artists and they said, ‘Gosh, I want to be’ [a part of the Have a Heart Art Mart] but I’m already booked for this or that show, ‘”says Cronover. “There are just so many places or organizations in so many cities that have that sort of thing. It’s very popular this fall, and that’s really great for our artist community. “
According to Alissa Seelmann-Rutkofske, program assistant at the Crooked Tree Arts Center (CTAC), interest in local arts-based programs has increased significantly this year. From gallery sales to class registrations, the organization and its affiliate artists have thrived in 2021.
“We saw that sales and the number of visitors were much higher than expected,” says Seelmann-Rutkofske. “I think partly because of the pandemic, people are really looking forward to getting out there and doing things and celebrating things that might have been taken for granted before the pandemic. Many of our community have seen this pandemic have quite affected the artist community and they are eager to help.
This shift in engagement, says Seelmann-Rutkofske, inspired CTAC to mix things up with the 2021 incarnation of its Christmas craft fair called Merry Marketplace. This year’s event will feature a brand new format, the program spread over three weekends – 2-4. December 9-11 and 16.-18. December – and everything structured around artist demonstrations and workshops. There will also be a retail component: a different group of artists will perform every weekend and these artists will put their work up for sale. But Seelmann-Rutkofske sees the new format primarily as an opportunity to promote more active engagement between the local community and art.
“I think our customers are really looking for experiences,” explains Seelmann-Rutkofske. “After the pandemic, where everyone was stuck inside and didn’t experience much, we all know how important it is to be active and learn new things. So for these marketplaces we really put a bigger focus on them. “