LOCKPORT – The 100 American Craftsmen show, the longest running of the Kenan Center’s annual events, will be back Friday through next Sunday in the Kenan Arena, 195 Beattie Ave.
This is the 43rd edition of the artistic craft show, which, according to Kenan spokeswoman Elaine Harrigan, has a reputation to uphold.
“We know we have people coming to our show because they’re going to find things of very high quality,” Harrigan said. “It’s not just somebody who can take a piece of clay and make a bowl. There’s tons of shows where you can find stuff like that.”
It’s up to the jury of four experts, which selected the exhibitors in February, to make sure things are up to snuff. The jurors are usually top craftsmen who aren’t planning to enter this year’s show or instructors from the academic world. The University at Buffalo, SUNY Buffalo State and Rochester Institute of Technology are frequent contributors of jurors.
“A teacher can tell if someone’s at a beginner level, intermediate level or advanced level just by looking at the samples,” Harrigan explained.
“I think it’s a great show,” said Julia Skop of Amherst, who was named a master craftsman in a vote by the other master craftsmen at last year’s event.
“It’s a local show, not part of any national craft organization. It’s very professional, the jurying is generally very solid, and the artists are treated very well,” Skop said.
Last year, she won her master craftsman designation with gold jewelry. “This year, I’m working mostly in bronze,” Skop said. “I enjoy learning new things. I don’t like doing the same thing over and over.”
In previous years, Skop offered hand-blown glass beads and resin-covered insects mounted on glow-in-the-dark backings.
“She’s an incredibly evolving artist. That’s what they’re looking for when the other masters make the award,” Harrigan said.
Like winning the green jacket at the Masters golf tournament, winning master craftsman or best of show at the Kenan means automatic re-entry to future shows. This year, 12 artists who have won one of those awards in the past are in the lineup.
The judges for the best of show award are Steve Saracino, a current juror, who is a professor of metalsmithing in the Buffalo State design department, and Jim Puglisi, director of the former UB Craft Center.
The 100-name of the show always has been approximate; this year, there will actually be 102 artisans displaying their work. Harrigan said the organizers know they can’t let the standards slip.
“There are people who come to the show who are sensitive to every little change in quality,” Harrigan said. “We feel like our feet are to the fire.”
Recent shows have pleased the tough customers, she said. “The past three or four years, that’s what we’ve heard: ‘This is the best one yet.’ Our reputation is on the line,” Harrigan said.
But the prices aren’t all high-end, even if the crafters are. “They do best when they have a good range,” she said. “Our audience is incredibly diverse.”
That audience will be paying more to get in this year. Admission is $8, a $2 increase from recent years.
“We’ve surveyed people the past couple of years,” Harrigan said. “People were good with it. Some people were going to shows in Toronto and saying they would charge $10 or $15 for a show like this.”
And after all, said Harrigan, this event is a fundraiser for the Kenan Center, a not-for-profit arts organization.
“The costs of putting on an event like this are astronomical,” she said. “The board looked at this very, very carefully.”
Hours are 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. next Sunday.
Besides the craftsmen, there will be live music with the Ralph Fava Trio on Friday night; Jackie Davis & Co., John & Mary and Doug Yeomans and Mountain Run on Saturday; and the Pocket Change Trio and the Mark Mazur Trio next Sunday.
Gourmet food vendors will be on hand, as always. Singer Farm Naturals, Mountaintop Kettle Corn and Sweet Melody’s will be the snack vendors, while Shamus Restaurant will operate a sit-down cafe, and Black Willow Winery will serve wines by the glass and by the bottle.
The Friends of the Kenan Herb Club will be around, too, with their annual herbal plant sale from 10 to 3 Saturday, under a tent in the Kenan garden and in the adjacent Taylor Theater meeting room in the main Kenan Center building, 433 Locust St.
The Kenan House will be open for its current art exhibit, featuring the work of Buffalo watercolorist Margaret M. Martin, from 11 to 5 Saturday and noon to 4 next Sunday.
The Buffalo News is among the major corporate sponsors of the show. Others are WGRZ-TV, the J. Fitzgerald Group, the Phillips Lytle law firm, First Niagara Bank Foundation and Renewal by Andersen replacement windows.