Supervisors give thumbs up to artisans trail

The Greene County Board of Supervisors has given its unanimous support to county participation in the Artisans Center of Virginia’s Artisan Trail Network.

Participation in the Network will cost the county its support, not its dollars, the Center’s executive director, Sherrie Smith, told supervisors at their regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday, October 9.

The Artisans Trail Network is a program, created by the Virginia Artisans Center, that forms alliances between artisans, venues, galleries and retailers across the state, while connecting points of interest, restaurants, and accommodations in communities in order to enhance the tourism industry.

An example of such “trails” is the Monticello Artisan Trail, which Albemarle and Nelson counties came together to form, and which includes vineyards, breweries, a distillery, restaurants and lodging.

The trail that runs through Greene may also include cultural attractions in Madison and Orange counties.

The Network provides tourists with advance exposure to craft artisan studios, agri-artisan gardens and farms, wineries and breweries, galleries and craft related venues, local businesses and eclectic shops and historical and cultural points of interest as they plan their trips through the state.

According the Center’s Web site, which receives 22,000 hits a month, via an interactive trip planner tourists can plan their own personalized itineraries by searching media, type of business, keywords and other search options.  Once they have selected the places and artisans they want to visit, tourists are able to print out driving maps that will take them to their destinations.

The Network is also meant to leverage the Center’s “broad-based grassroots membership” into a coordinated marketing and outreach campaign.

Smith explained that funding for the county’s membership will be provided by the local tourism board. In the first year of the county’s membership that funding will be directed toward implementing links to the Center’s Web site. In future years, she continued, funds from the tourism board would be used to maintain the system.

Greene County Director of Economic Development Tony Williams said this agreement will enhance the county’s tourism marketing efforts, as it will receive much more exposure than it does trying to attract visitors with a stand-alone tourism website.

Representatives of the county’s newly-formed art guild also support the arrangement.

Founded in 1987, the Center develops and implements systems and strategies to improve economic outcomes for Virginia artisans and their communities while assisting them in promoting their local artisan culture.

Incorporated in 1997, it is now designated as the “official state artisans’ center.”

“Artisan” is defined on the Center’s Web site as a person who “creates objects traditionally encompassing three dimensional craft, often to be used functionally, always with a high degree of artistry and quality craftsmanship.”

The definition further states that an artisan, whose goal is to achieve heirloom quality, may use hand tools or machines, but may take no shortcuts that compromise the quality of the work.  In addition, the artisan does not attempt to compete with large-scale manufacturers and the amount of time taken to make a work of quality craft is secondary to the result.

Also according to its Web site, the Center “operated a successful 5,000-square foot sales and exhibitions gallery from 2000 to 2009,” all the while creating a statewide craft registry, and establishing a statewide jury program.

The craft registry identifies artisans in the state and the venues that serve them and the patrons, businesses and arts organizations that support them.

The Jury program ensures standards of quality by recognizing craft of the highest level indicative of Virginia’s heritage, creativity, professionalism and workmanship. The Center’s juried designations found on pieces displayed in galleries, studios, sales venues or exhibitions denotes work created by leading Virginia artisans who represent the best in their field of craft media.

The Jury occurs three times a year and open to all Virginia artisans who wish to apply. This program further identifies Master Virginia Artisans who work to perpetuate the business of craft through education, mentorships, apprenticeships and advocacy.

In March 2009 the Center began to create collaborations between state and local governments, planning districts, the small business community, arts organizations, economic development organizations, tourism and artisans.

In addition to the Artisans Trail Network, the Center maintains a studio school that focuses on honing the vocational and trade skills of Virginia artisans while providing them with the business/ entrepreneurial training needed to operate, market and sell their products and services.

It also partners with private commercial enterprises that either currently or desire to sell quality, handmade Virginia craft. This program provides new venue opportunities for Virginia artisans while offering retailers and community Main Street Programs an opportunity to leverage the Center’s distinguished brand.

Center exhibitions are held in various gallery, museum and business locations across the state, allow the public to view a range of work that tells a story about the progression of the artisan and his or her craft.  “Featured Member” and “Virginia Creates” exhibitions represent the best of the Center’s juried Artisans.

And, the Center’s Conference reaches out to the more than 4,000 craft artisans who reside and practice in the state of Virginia. Workshops are offered on  a wide range of topics…from improving sales and innovative marketing tools and the latest trends in communication to productive new display techniques.

Greene County supervisors will provide a letter of support, solidifying the county’s participation in the Center.

Visit the Center’s Web site at http://www.artisanscenterofvirginia.org/.

Posted in: News

Leave a Reply