Handcrafting Virginia’s Cultural Economy
The Artisans Center of Virginia (ACV) develops and implements systems and strategies to improve economic outcomes for Virginia artisans and their communities while assisting them in promoting their local artisan culture.
Heritage — maintaining the culture of quality handmade craft
Economy — providing exhibition and sales opportunities
Education — encouraging the development of the next generation artisan
Jobs — developing professional advancement opportunities for the practicing artisan
Research — gathering and documenting the impact of craft on Virginia’s culture and economy
Community — strengthening local communities by increasing visibility of artisan studios, venues and galleries
Networking — promoting peer to peer collaborations among Virginia artisans
Virginia Artisan Culture
The culture of the Virginia Artisan inspires appreciative audiences with its unique products while expressing a distinctive way of life. It invokes a natural order, firmly woven into the everyday fabric of an artisan’s life, embracing familiarities between the acts of creating and living. Once immersed in the culture, whether producing “hand-made” or enjoying the use and aesthetic of artisan produced items, an intimate lifelong relationship of value and appreciation emerges strong and true. Artisan culture links the past, present & future, reconciling “meaning” with “making”, as it embodies traditional practices and explores creative innovations and new trends that touch all facets of society.
What is A Craft Artisan?
An Artisan creates objects traditionally encompassing three dimensional craft, often to be used functionally, always with a high degree of artistry and quality craftsmanship. For the Artisan, form follows function, and the work of the Artisan speaks to the simple honesty of that paradigm. The Artisan pours himself into his craft, making his quality objects with pride, honesty, and integrity. Whether using hand tools or machines, the Artisan takes no shortcuts that might compromise the quality of the work. The Artisan does not attempt to compete with the large scale manufacturer, and the amount of time taken to make a work of quality craft is secondary to the result. The goal of the Artisan is to achieve heirloom quality.
What is An Agri-Artisan
Agricultural-based, an Agri-Artisan relies on the natural resources of the land while reconciling a preservation of America’s past as they operate businesses such as family farms, vineyards, wineries, breweries, orchards, organic farming, roadside stands, etc. Many embrace traditional farm practices, capturing a way of life unique to the rural and agricultural communities where they reside and retaining the culture and character passed on to them by previous generations. Such enterprises produce food, fiber, unique crops or livestock, add value to traditional agricultural products, or offer recreational, education, nature or other farm based activities, such as markets & roadside stands.
Current Program Initiatives of the Artisans Center of Virginia
ACV maintains the Statewide Craft Registry, identifying artisans in the Commonwealth of Virginia and the venues that serve them and the patrons, businesses and arts organizations that support them. Participation with ACV brings with it the recognized symbol for Virginia Artisan made craft. Known for its high standards of quality workmanship representing experience, integrity and professionalism and the loyalty of its patrons, the ACV brand brings added value to all participants. It is the established and unifying brand by which the entire state of Virginia’s Artisan Craft Industry can be identified and is the single entity representing the approximately 4,000 separate cottage businesses that make up its $218 million dollar economic impact (C.O.D.A 2000) to the Commonwealth.
The Jury program recognizes craft of the highest level of quality indicative of Virginia’s heritage, creativity, professionalism and workmanship. ACV juried designations found on pieces displayed in galleries, studios, sales venues or exhibitions denotes work created by leading Virginia artisans who represent the best in their field of craft media. The Jury occurs three times a year and open to all Virginia artisans who wish to apply. This program further identifies Master Virginia Artisans who work to perpetuate the business of craft through education, mentorships, apprenticeships and advocacy.
ACV‘s Studio School - Workforce Development initiative focuses on honing the vocational and trade skills of Virginia artisans while providing them with the business/ entrepreneurial training needed to operate, market and sell their products and services. Working within the community college system, the Studio School program additionally seeks to incorporate practical applications, instructing a broader functionality or transferability of skills by cross-training individuals in skill based trades utilizing similar equipment and procedures. Focused on developing the “next generation” of artisans, ACV offers opportunities for Juried Artisans to offer quality instruction in various craft media to with-in the education system and to the public at large. Whether in an ACV juried artisan’s home studio or on educational grounds, programming offers a unique and experiential opportunity that is often not available in the public school system to encourage young people to engage in “Career Pathways” to craft and other related art fields.
ACV’s Artisan Trail Network offers a unique opportunity to form strategic alliances with artisans, venues, galleries and retailers across the state, while connecting points of interest, restaurants, and accommodation locations in the related communities in order to enhance regional tourism activity. The ACV Artisan Trail Network is an innovative program to leverage ACV’s broad-based grassroots membership into a coordinated marketing and outreach campaign to strengthen local communities while strengthening Virginia’s craft industry.
In order to broaden the market entry points for member artisans, ACV strategically partners with private commercial enterprises that either currently or desire to sell quality, handmade Virginia craft. This program provides new venue opportunities for Virginia artisans while offering retailers and community Main Street Programs an opportunity to leverage ACV’s distinguished brand.
ACV Exhibitions, held in various gallery, museum and business locations across the state, allow the public to view a range of work that tells a story about the progression of the artisan and his or her craft and embrace the creative environment where thought is nurtured, ideas expressed, and form unleashed. Innovative, cultural and technically paramount, “Featured Member” and “Virginia Creates” exhibitions represent the best of ACV Juried Artisans while National exhibitions bring the finest artisan work from all across the country to the Commonwealth.
ACV is a highly selective, unique organization reaching well-educated, focused, artisans who take their businesses seriously, utilizing a diverse range of craft materials, business technologies and marketing materials and who look for opportunities to network. The ACV Conference reaches out to the over 4,000 craft artisans who reside and practice in the state of Virginia. Offering workshops on a wide range of topics…from improving sales & innovative marketing tools and the latest trends in communication to productive new display techniques… helping artisans take their creative endeavors to the next level.
The History of the Artisans Center of Virginia
In 1987, then Governor Gerald Baliles included the statement “enhancement of the craft industry” in a set of directives to state agencies. To meet this directive various public and private entities worked to bring Virginia’s craftspeople together to draft a list of needs and desires for the craft industry. Always at the top of that list was the need for a unified presence for Virginia craft.
In 1997 the Artisans Center of Virginia was incorporated and on June 11, 2000, it was designated to the public as the “official state artisans center.” Service to the entire state and its artisan community has been at the forefront of planning and programming. ACV realized that in order to best serve Virginia’s artisans it needed to attract the public and provide sustainable economic opportunities to developing craft businesses while working to train tomorrow’s craftsmen and keep the culture of handmade quality Virginia craft alive and thriving.
From 2000 – 2009, ACV operated a successful 5,000 square foot sales and exhibitions gallery. During that time outreach objectives included the creation of a statewide Craft Registry, identifying artisans and the venues that serve them and the establishment of the first statewide jury program, utilizing stringent standards to distinguish levels of quality and professionalism among Virginia artisans. This program further identified Master Virginia Artisans who work to perpetuate the business of craft through education and advocacy.
In past years, ACV created a large demonstration and sales gallery at the Virginia State Fair attracting in excess of 250,000 people over an eleven day period, including approximately 30,000 school students who are able to see artisans at work and discuss craft one-on-one with professionals. Additionally, ACV hosted an annual Studio Tour for 15 years in the area surrounding Charlottesville reaching out to over 15,000 visitors each year.
In March of 2009 ACV expanded its statewide scope with a clear objective of creating the collaborations required between state and local governments, planning districts, the small business community, arts organizations, economic development, tourism and artisans to bring the ACV’s strategic initiatives to fruition.
The Artisan Craft Industry
Virginia’s Innovative Pathway to Economic Development
The artisan industry in Virginia is one of the state’s greatest untapped economic assets. Skilled craftsmen, with expertise in design, manufacturing techniques, and tradesmanship, form the backbone of the creative economy in many communities across the Commonwealth. While their handmade work is itself marketable as a unique Virginia product, their location in many small rural communities provides a tremendous and largely untapped opportunity for regional tourism marketing and economic growth. In Southwestern Virginia, the Round the Mountain Artisan Trails initiatives are gaining significant traction, as they seek to increase regional visitation driven largely by heritage tourism marketing focused on the region’s artisan and musical traditions.
Quality craftsmanship, local talent, and artisan entrepreneurship exist in abundance across the Commonwealth. Lacking, however, has been a coordinated effort to leverage that talent into a recognized and established industry that is branded, promoted, and celebrated as a valuable Virginia commodity. Now more than ever, diversifying statewide economic development initiatives to include the enhancement of existing industries in addition to the attraction of outside development projects is crucial to maintaining the vitality and character of Virginia communities.
The Artisans Center of Virginia (ACV), a state-designated nonprofit dedicated to enhancing the economic opportunities of small business artisans and the communities in which they reside, is implementing a defined plan of strategic initiatives to quantify the artisan industry’s economic impact, strengthen rural economies through regional network marketing, enhance statewide tourism marketing initiatives, develop small businesses, create jobs, and open and expand markets for Virginia exports.
ACV is officially registered with the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services:
P.O. Box 1163, Richmond, VA 23209.
"Ross Custom Leather maker of quality handcrafted leather goods."
"My pots meld early British studio pottery traditions with the influences of historical American functional salt ware."