The 33rd National Arts & Crafts Conference at the Omni Grove Park Inn, Asheville, NC February 21 - 23, 2020
"The most important weekend of the year for Arts & Crafts collectors." - The New York Times
Starting an Arts and Crafts Society
One of the little known reasons behind the success of the American Arts and Crafts movement was the formation of Arts and Crafts societies in cities such as Boston, New York, and Chicago. Today we don't hear as much about societies or clubs, in part because the internet, email, and websites have enabled people to communicate with each other instantaniously, without waiting for the next meeting.
But as we all know, emails and text messages are no substitute for personal contact. People rarely become lifelong friends solely through texts and tweets. But give two people the opportunity to share an experience, whether it be admiring a piece of pottery, turning a chair over to find a shopmark, debating the influence of Gustav Stickley versus Elbert Hubbard, or admiring a wisteria-draped cedar pergola off the side of a bungalow, and they are apt to become Arts and Crafts friends.
For that reason and several others, we want to encourage you to form a society, club, chapter, or whatever you decide to call it that enables people in your area to meet each other to share experiences and information. In this space and at ArtsAndCraftsCollector and its Facebook page, we are going to establish a resource center for societies and clubs across the country. We will provide suggestions for getting started, solutions for challenges that arise, possible programs, and contacts with other clubs around the country.
We will continue to update this site, as we plan to add incentives that will help you and your friends attract new members to your Arts and Crafts group. For now, however, I hope you will read the following, and will let us know of your plans and ways we can help.
Together we grow stronger.
“How Should We Get Started?”
Call or email a friend, have them do the same, then repeat. Start an email list of persons interested in forming an Arts and Crafts organization (more on the actual name to follow). Once you have established a core group of perhaps five to ten people, find a time and a place where you can meet in person -- and take the next step
“What Should We Call It?”
Historically, the first organized groups who shared an interest in the architecture, arts, and crafts of the early twentieth century called themselves “societies.” Later, similar groups felt the word “club” was more appropriate. As examples, the following groups have adopted these names:
Twin Cities Bungalow Club
St. Louis Arts & Crafts Society
Colorado Arts & Crafts Society
Kansas City Bungalow Club
Arts & Crafts Society of Central New York
Bungalow Society of Central PA
William Morris Society
I would add yet another possibility to consider:
Arts and Crafts Collectors of [name of city or region]
The final decision should be made by the members themselves, reflective of their interest. I would, however, urge everyone to be inclusive of several different areas of interest, including architecture, contemporary craftspersons, and antiques. The wider the range of interests, the larger and stronger your organization will become.
“How Often Should We Meet?”
Not so often that it becomes a burden, but not so seldom that people lose interest.
During the formation stage, the founding members may get together informally quite often, but once the organization has been established, setting a regular date and sticking to it is critical. More than once a month may make it difficult to come up with fresh programs, which are critical to encouraging members to attend. Every two months seems too far apart for members to maintain a high level of interest.
I would suggest starting with once a month, then letting the members decide as the group grows. Critical, however, is picking a set day, such as “the third Tuesday of every month,” so that no one ever wonders when you are meeting.
“Where Should We Meet?”
In the beginning, when your numbers are small, you may decide to meet at various members’ homes. Everyone loves seeing how other collectors have restored, decorated, and displayed their collections within their homes.
Once the group is established and your numbers have grown larger, it is best not to meet in someone’s home. No one wants to have something get broken, to have muddy footprints tracked on their carpets, or a white ring left on a fragile shellac finish.
Assign a small committee to investigate possible places where your group could meet, either for free or a nominal charge. That might include a meeting room in a religious building, a classroom in a school, a community center, a museum, a lodge, or a theatre. If your group decides they want to include food and/or drinks, that could expand to include private rooms in a bar or restaurant.
“Should We Charge Dues?”
Nominal dues may be necessary if your group finds it must pay a cleaning fee for your meeting place. That would also be the case if you want to have the group provide refreshments. Which leads to another critical question:
“Should We Have Officers?”
Well, if you have dues, you have to have a treasurer.
If you have programs, you need a program committee.
And if you want to have an organized gathering, you’ll need a president to call each meeting to order and to run it efficiently. And you’ll want a vice-president to be able to step in at those meetings when the president is unable to attend.
A secretary is always good to have to keep a record of motions, votes, decisions, and actions.
At the beginning, the positions you need may be filled by volunteers. Later, your group may decide to hold elections.
Two important committees should also be formed: Programs and Memberships. Fewer than three people on a committee makes it a burden; more than five makes it inefficient.
In addition to keeping a good record of who has joined, the Membership Committee should from the very beginning establish and maintain an email mailing list. Sending members and prospective members regular emails reminding them of upcoming meetings, announcing programs or special events, and renewals is critical.
Speaking of which, have all membership renewals fall during the same month rather than scattered throughout the year. You could devise a formula, perhaps pro-rating the first number of months leading up to the designated month in which all renewals are due.
It would also be a good idea to have an on-line and/or paper form for new members to complete, which would give them a chance to express their specific interest: what they collect, if they are restoring a bungalow, what they want to learn more about, if they would be interested in presenting a program, etc.
This group of three to five people plays a critical role, but they can be helped by the questionnaires collected by the Membership Committee wherein members express their interests and their reasons for joining.
The majority of your programs will be held in your regular meeting place, but don’t overlook other possibilities and opportunities, such as a group tour of a new (or permanent) museum exhibition, a neighborhood architectural walking tour, or a visit to the studio or workshop of a craftsperson.
As far as guest presentations (avoid the term “lectures”) are concerned, establish some clear guidelines, starting with the length of time. Regardless of the speaker or the topic, after 45 minutes the audience will quickly grow tired, especially after a long day. Do your audience and your speaker a favor and have an established and publicized time limit. I have known too many people who quit coming to meetings simply because the speakers did not know when to stop talking.
Whether or not your speakers can use PowerPoint or similar AV programs will depend on the equipment available at your meeting place or from your members.
As far as possible presenters are concerned, consider architects, interior designers, contractors, remodelers, landscape firms, arborists, stonemasons, roofers, window and door specialists, antiques dealers, historians, antiques collectors, authors, museum curators, historic sites representatives, foundation experts, furniture restorers, preservationists, directors of other groups, and, when all else fails, a members’ “Show and Tell” about something in their collection.
Well, that's it for right now, but check back for more information.
And let us know as you press forward!
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