By Linda Marston-Reid, Executive Director, Arts Mid-Hudson
Arts Mid-Hudson is an arts service organization with a mission to provide vision and leadership to support thriving and diverse arts in the Mid-Hudson Valley. With the mission in mind, during 2014 we invited artists who create handmade items to sell in Arts Mid-Hudson’s gallery space during November and December. We were especially looking at ways to forge connections between regional artists and local markets in which to sell their work. Since the last two months of the year are traditionally the time when many purchase gifts for friends and family, our focus was to create a “shop local” opportunity, which can generate 3.5 times the income for the local economy when compared to dollars spent at big-box stores.
For the pilot year, we sought artists and makers of various items—whether they were handmade, one-of-a-kind home-décor pieces or locally designed and produced works. We were pleasantly surprised to receive portfolios from 40 artists with a large variety of excellent-quality creations made here in the Hudson Valley, from handmade greeting cards to ceramics, textiles, paintings and jewelry. This year, there are 80 artists exhibiting work, who will be on hand in shifts throughout the event to discuss their creative process.
For the artists, each piece is a personal creation. A featured basket maker grows the willow on her farm and creates handmade baskets that are beautiful as well as useful. Jewelry makers can tell you where they sourced each bead and the types of metal they used in each bracelet or necklace. Photographers and visual artists use their pictures, paintings and drawings for unique items such as coasters and cutting boards. One artisan who makes cutting boards uses wood from fallen trees on her property, embellishing it with colorful glazing. Repurposing antiquated metal cutting machinery, one artist creates lovely jewelry boxes with velvet-lined interiors.
Five years later, we can see the results of our efforts in the community of the artists we serve. Several of them have used their sales experiences to expand their markets within the Hudson Valley region, and the money they make from the shop supports them and, in turn, the community of the Hudson River Valley region, where they live and work and shop. Patrons of the pop-up have been supportive, many being return customers, and Arts Mid-Hudson continues to work with Dutchess County Tourism to promote the work of our artisans.
Our local community now eagerly awaits the opening of the shop each fall. But with our success in filling a niche for locally sourced items, Arts Mid-Hudson has also expanded the pop-up shop to operate in the spring for one month in celebration of Mother’s Day, graduations and early-summer weddings. For more information on Dutchess Handmade and Arts Mid-Hudson, go to www.artsmidhudson.org. █