Crafts council expands shows here to 2

Pilgrimage: The American Crafts Council plans to have a summer show for wholesalers in Baltimore, along with its traditional winter meeting here.

February 24, 1999|By June Arney | June Arney,SUN STAFF

The American Craft Council Craft Show, which has marketed wares in Baltimore each winter for more than 20 years, has decided to make a second annual pilgrimage to the city, designating it as the permanent home for its summer wholesale show.

On July 28 and 29, about 500 exhibitors are expected to fill booths at the Baltimore Convention Center, with another 100 taking space at the Hyatt.

"Why Baltimore?" asked David P. Bacharach, a Cockeysville metalworker and longtime ACC exhibitor at the convention center for this year's winter show. "Baltimore has been very good to the crafts industry. We came here when the Inner Harbor had really just started. It's almost like the craft show and the city grew together."

Baltimore's long history with the Craft Council made it a logical choice for the summer show, he said.

"It was not only a known quantity, it was a good mix between the crafts people and the city," said Bacharach, who displays jewelry, sculpture and furniture at the shows. "From the point of view of the craft market, it made a lot of sense to identify the council with one city."

For Baltimore, the 4,000 exhibitors and buyers -- mostly store and gallery owners -- expected to attend the summer show will mean $1 million to $1.2 million in direct spending, according to projections by the Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association.

"It's great exposure for Baltimore," said Nancy C. Hinds, an association spokesman. "When shows decide to come back year after year, that just shows they have confidence in what Baltimore has to offer."

The winter show draws both wholesale buyers and thousands of ordinary people interested in crafts. The wholesale part is currently open, with the retail days scheduled Friday through Sunday. The summer show markets only to the wholesale trade.

The craft show would have liked to call Baltimore its summer home long ago, but the shortage of convention space precluded that. So it shuffled from city to city, holding the event in Rhinebeck, N.Y., Columbus, Ohio, and Chicago.

"We couldn't really secure summer wholesale dates in Baltimore," said JoAnn Brown, craft show director.

"We weren't as desirable in the summertime, which is a popular meeting time, because we need a lot of space in the convention center and don't necessarily take up a lot of hotel rooms," Brown said.

But completion of the $151 million convention center expansion in September 1996 has made it possible for the Craft Council to be assured space during the same summer month each year.

Space constraints will limit the size of the show and require that some exhibitors show their crafts at the Hyatt, but the event's organizers were willing to accept the compromise.

"We're willing to scale back," Brown said. "Baltimore is an extremely popular destination. We can say to the whole trade that Baltimore is our home. It's where we'll be two times a year."

Since the first Baltimore show in winter 1977, the annual craft event has drawn increased numbers of people and brought additional revenue to the city.

In 1977, the show attracted 350 exhibitors. About 24,000 attended the retail portion and 1,200 came to the wholesale part, generating $1.6 million in sales. That February, 6,342 attended the wholesale days and 31,150 attended during the retail part of the show. Wholesale sales were $21.1 million and retail sales were $5.3 million, Brown said.

Direct spending from the 1998 show was estimated at $6 million for the trade component and $2.8 million for the public part, according to the convention association.

Christiane Knorr, the owner of an Iowa gallery, was disappointed with the decision to move the summer wholesale show to Baltimore.

"We were delighted to see them go to Chicago, because we felt like the forgotten Midwest was getting attention," said Knorr, who was attending her first Baltimore show this week. "We will probably come once a year, but not twice."

Harvey A. Brody, a craftsman from Healdsburg, Calif., who does mixed media using reverse-painted Plexiglas, wood and metal, has high hopes for an annual summer show in Baltimore. The winter event brings him revenue of between $25,000 and $30,000.

"When people talk about doing a show, the one they look to is the Baltimore winter market," Brody said. "It has immediate name recognition. Often, people do their best work for this market."

To what extent the popularity of the Baltimore winter show will translate to summer remains to be seen, Brody said. "We're all hoping it will work as well and as quickly as the winter market," he said.

Pub Date: 2/24/99

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