Over the past 21 months, we’ve talked a lot about artist pivots here on the Business & Arts NL blog, applauding all of the innovative ways in which artists and arts groups have adapted their programming to accommodate creativity in the time of a global pandemic. And we’re so glad they did. While this past while has been tough, the arts have helped get us through it, offering moments of beauty, inspiration, comfort and connection during uncertain and stressful times. Case in point – the Craft Council of Newfoundland and Labrador.
For almost 50 years now, the Craft Council has been going strong, supporting and growing the craft community and industry in the province through a range of programs and services, including product development, marketing, and exhibition, just to name a few. The Craft Council also runs a popular clay studio, craft shop and gallery, further helping develop a love for craft, and giving members the opportunity to display and sell their work.
At the onset of the pandemic, like many other arts organizations, the Craft Council had to reconsider some of its programming. The organization came up with some thoughtful, alternate ways to continue to engage with its membership and the public, including online openings, digital talks and workshops, and uploading images to their website for an online gallery experience.
With many businesses and organizations being forced to temporarily halt their operations in March 2020, the Craft Council found itself in the same boat, having to shut down their gallery space just a few days after opening three new shows.
“So back then what we did was we came in, after the closure, and we recorded the whole shows and we put that online, and the shows stayed online up until the end of May,” says Bruno Vinhas, the Craft Council’s Gallery Director.
Shortly after, the organization started a new weekly online series called “Craft Conversations” (which you can access here via the Craft Council’s YouTube channel), where local and national makers discussed their practices, techniques, inspiration, the business of art, and more.
“It was a very creative series, and because the artists picked the topic that they wanted to talk about, it was very close to their heart,” Vinhas says.
The Craft Council has also had a hand in helping promote the work of up-and-coming creators via a partnership with the College of the North Atlantic’s Textile & Apparel Design program, which usually includes a show at the gallery. While the showcase moved to a virtual platform in 2020, this past summer, it consisted of an in-person gallery in addition to an online component.
“So that was another way that we kind of moved our programming to the online version…their show was picked up by the Crafts Federation, so that was mentioned on their website. The Gathered Gallery, which is coordinated by Emily Pittman, also picked up their show and made a mention on their site,” Vinhas says of the 2020 showcase, adding that the online version allowed the students’ work to reach more people.
“The students actually really liked that because some of them are not from here, they came here to do the course, and they were back in their provinces…so they were able to share that with their friends and family.”
These days, things at the gallery are back in full swing, with lots of exciting shows coming up this winter and continuing throughout the year, including the winter edition of the Annual Members’ Exhibition (running until December 20), “All The bathrooms I bathed In” from Larry Weyand (January 14 to February 11), “UnikKausiga – My Story, Elder Ellen Ford” from Elder Ellen Ford with artist Jennifer Young (February 25 to April 1), “Codex” from Tina Struther (April 15 to May 20) and many more. And in October of 2022, the Craft Council will host a special exhibition to ring in its 50th anniversary and celebrate the craft history of the province. (Click here to view upcoming shows.)
One thing’s for sure – when it comes to resilience and adapting quickly through changing and challenging times, the Craft Council is showing how it’s done, in fine style.