Half a Century of Handmade with Tennessee Craft and TN Arts

By Jessica Jain, Membership Manager, Tennessee Craft –

Vintage TN Craft
Vintage TN Craft

Tennessee Craft congratulates the Tennessee Arts Commission on 50 years of serving the statewide arts community and thanks the Commission for helping Tennessee Craft serve the statewide fine craft community for almost as long. In 1972, Tennessee Craft (then TACA) received $1,000 from the Commission in support of the first Spring Craft Fair in Centennial Park. Nearly every year since then, the Commission has helped support Tennessee Craft’s mission to continue and create Tennessee’s fine craft tradition by connecting emerging makers, experienced makers, and the public with resources and opportunities to make their mark on Tennessee’s handmade legacy.

Over 50 years ago, the founding members of Tennessee Craft saw the benefit of craft artists banding together for a common purpose. Whether making traditional or contemporary pieces, craft artists all need the skills to make, the inspiration for designs, lots of practice, and a market to buy their work. While the Tennessee Craft Fairs are the pillars of Tennessee Craft’s mission-driven work, their success helps fund the behind-the-scenes work to support the growth of craft artists across the state. For example, the Master Artist-Apprentice Program (MAAP) connects artists committed to furthering their abilities as specialized craft practitioners with masters in their craft medium. Selected apprentices receive a stipend, funded by the Tennessee Arts Commission, to work with their chosen master for six months. Last year, Rachel Stovall was selected to apprentice with Dale and Brin Baucum, master clay artists in Memphis. This year, Rachel has been juried into the Emerging Makers Tent at the 46th Annual Spring Tennessee Craft Fair. After increasing her clay sculpture and pottery skills through her MAAP apprenticeship, Rachel is now venturing into fine craft shows outside of her local community in Memphis. Through programs such as MAAP, Tennessee Craft puts emerging artists on the path to success.

The 46th Annual Spring Tennessee Craft Fair in Centennial Park will showcase over 200 artists on May 5, 6 & 7, 2017. Attending Tennessee Craft Fairs is a Nashville tradition in which visitors shop one-of-a-kind, fine handcrafted artwork directly from juried, award-winning artists. The public has the opportunity to meet the artists, learn what inspires them, and see how they transform raw materials such as clay, wood, metal, and glass into a fine craft.

As part of its 50th anniversary year celebration in 2014, Tennessee Craft launched a new initiative, Tennessee Craft Week, with First Lady Crissy Haslam serving as honorary chair. Tennessee Craft Week brings visibility to the value of the craft community with an annual collection of craft events across the state that connect and celebrate craft artists, the work they create, and the businesses that support them. Tennessee Craft Week, sponsored in part by the Tennessee Arts Commission, is held in conjunction with American Craft Week, October 6-15, 2017.

Tennessee Arts Commission’s grant support is a sustaining force, a foundation, on which Tennessee Craft and other nonprofit arts organizations build. With support from the Commission, Tennessee Craft can continue to provide resources and opportunities to craft artists which not only advances and elevates the statewide craft community but also enriches the lives of Tennessee residents of all ages through direct access to handmade craft and the creative process.