The Visual Arts Center of Richmond's Craft + Design show has undergone a major transformation in the last few years. Karen Cauthen Miller, special event and volunteer coordinator (and restaurant reviewer for Richmond magazine), took the helm six years ago, and she realized it was time for change.
"Back in the '60s and '70s, this was the show. But Richmond's a very social town — now there's so much competition for attention, we had to make it really special," Miller says.
She moved the show from the cavernous Greater Richmond Convention Center to the rotunda of the Science Museum of Virginia. "We're the only show of any caliber to deliberately make the decision to go smaller instead of bigger to survive," she says. Using a smaller scale, Miller has been able to make the annual event a carefully curated collection of craftsmen and artists.
This year, local artists like hatmakers Ignatius Creegan and Rod Givens of Ignatius Hats (featured in our November/December issue), sculptor and furniture designer Tom Chenoweth of Astra Design, and ceramic artist David Camden, among others, came to showcase and sell their wares throughout the weekend of Nov. 20. Breathtaking jewelry was on display from Traditional Craft Materials award-winner Seung-Hea Lee of Rhode Island, and Ohio artist Jenny Mendes took the top prize of the show, the Elisabeth Scott Bocock Best in Show Award, for her compelling ceramic creations.
"We have over 100 volunteers to help run the show. On Saturday night, when the artists are very tired, there's a potluck at the Visual Arts Center. Not fancy, everyone — board members, volunteers and staff — brings something. That's a full-circle moment for the artists participating. They get what we're doing, our mission. We're here for the Richmond community. To me, it's everything the Visual Arts Center represents."