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Arts and Crafts heritage celebrated in Asheville events series

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2/14/2012 - Arts and Crafts heritage celebrated in Asheville events series
by Carol Motsinger - Asheville Citizen Times

 ASHEVILLE -- For Jack Thomson, Asheville's neighborhoods are museums with sidewalks instead of walls.

 And as executive director of the Asheville and Buncombe County Preservation Society, one of Thomson's missions is to educate the public about the importance of preserving historic homes, as well as to give people the tools to do it well.

That is also the theme behind tonight's panel discussion, "Problems and Solutions in Restoring Older Homes" at the Masonic Temple downtown.

Organized by the preservation society, the discussion marks the second night of Arts & Crafts Heritage Week, a series of events leading up to the 25th annual Arts & Crafts Conference at the Grove Park Inn.

This is the first time the conference organizers have offered public and mostly free events leading up to the weekend arts and crafts extravaganza.

Conference founder and director Bruce Johnson said he wanted to celebrate the event's milestone year by recognizing the heritage of Asheville beyond the three-day conference and partner with organizations like the preservation society.

"It really has given us the opportunity to expand the awareness of what arts and crafts mean to Asheville," Johnson said.

Important to Asheville

Arts and Crafts was an international design movement that thrived in the mid-19th and early 20th centuries.

It was a reaction against what proponents deemed the dehumanizing effect of the Industrial Revolutions.

Instead of poorly made furniture burdened with impractical decorative design, architects and designers like Frank Lloyd Wrigt and Gustav Stickley produced simple, well-designed and constructed alternatives.

The movement was important in the development of the cultural and aesthetic identity of Asheville, said Jo Stephenson, one of the about 30 preservation society volunteers who plan to assist during Arts & Crafts Conference events starting Friday.

The conference's host, The Grove Park Inn, was built and furnished in the Arts and Crafts style in 1913.

In Asheville, the most common and recognizable example of the American Arts and Crafts movement is the bungalow-style home.

The rise of the modest bungalow's popularity -- seen in such neighborhoods at Albemarle Park, Montford, Kenilworth, Biltmore Village and West Asheville -- coincided with the railroad's arrival in 1880 that ushered in a period of great growth.

The bungalow was the middle-class symbol of practical restraint, in both design and cost, and in today's troubled economic times, it's re-emerging as a preferred style in both new construction and refurbished home projects.

"I believe that preservation is becoming more and more relevant in this era of new frugality," Thomson said. "We need to facilitate the education for the public to know how to do it right."

Aiming for a 'sustainable future'

For Stephenson, preservation also fits into Asheville's overall consciousness.

"Asheville is a unique place," she said. "People are really concerned with how they live ... and preservation is a big part of that." She also sees preservation as a cornerstone of Asheville's "sustainable future."

Johnson has also seen more interest in the conference from Western North Carolina. "In the early years, I would make the joke that more people from California came than from the Carolinas," Johnson said.

This year, Johnson expects more than 1,200 people will be attending from outside the region, and about 2,000 people coming from the Asheville area to attend the conference's afternoon antique and art shows.

The inn's exhibition ballroom, hallways and meeting rooms will host 125 antiques dealers, craft firms, artists, book sellers, nonprofit organizations and magazine publishers each afternoon.

The conference also include workshops, demonstrations, tours, discussions and educational displays.

"When people ask why the conference has lasted this long, I always said it's because of three reasons," Johnson said. "The conference's educational aspect, that the Grove Park Inn is just a destination and (the overall appeal of) Asheville."

ARTS & CRAFTS WEEK EVENTS

Daily: Pack Memor ial Library Exhibit, "Arts & Crafts of Western North Carolina."
Today: "Problems and Solutions in Restoring Older Homes" by the Asheville Preservation Society, 6-7 p.m., Masonic Temple, 80 Broadway St., Asheville.
Wednesday: "Green and Greener: The New Arts & Crafts Bungalow" by the Asheville chapter of the American Institute of Architects, noon-1:15 p.m., Princess Anne Hotel, 301 E. Chestnut St., Asheville. Reservations required, call 404-376-7452.
Thursday: "The Pottery Tradition of Western North Carolina" by author Rodney Leftwich, benefit dinner, 6-9 p.m. at Biltmore Industries, 111 Grovewood Road, Asheville. Reservations required; visit www.Arts-CraftsConference.com.
Friday-Sunday: The 25th National Grove Park Inn Arts & Crafts Conference, 1-6 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday, 290 Macon Ave., Asheville.
Saturday-Sunday: Preservation Society House Tours, 1-4 p.m. Saturday and 12:30-3:30 p.m. Sunday. Call for reservations, 254-2343.
Saturday: Asheville Art Museum reception, "Artistic Expression of Galle and Tiffany," 5-7 p.m. at the museum, Pack Square, downtown. For reservations, call 253-3227.
To learn more, including admission fees, visit www.Arts-CraftsConference.com or call 628-1915.

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