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sheville's Village Art & Craft fair turns 40

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8/1/2012 - Asheville's Village Art & Craft fair turns 40
by Tony Kiss - Asheville Citizen Times

ASHEVILLE -- Over its 40-year history, the Village Art and Craft Fair has seen two marriages at its location at the Cathedral of All Souls in Biltmore Village -- and one funeral.

As fate would have it, the deceased was a regular visitor to the fair and managed to get in one last visit, said fair founder John Cram.

For 40 years, the Village Art and Craft Fair has been a part of summertime life in Asheville. The fair returns Saturday-Sunday.

"People liked it from the get-go," said Cram, one of Asheville's art pioneers, who also operates the New Morning Gallery in Biltmore Village and, on Biltmore Avenue downtown, the Blue Spiral 1 Gallery and Fine Arts movie house. "They liked it when it was small, and when it got bigger."

The fair has always been a showcase of fine arts and crafts. It does not not feature pre-fab items, or anything that the artists didn't create themselves. It stays clear of the carnival foods found at many festivals, or any other distractions from the art.

"Everything has to be handmade," Cram said.

The show pulls "thousand and thousands" of visitors over its two-day run, but Cram won't speculate on exact attendance. "We don't have a gate," he said, "and I don't play games (on guessing attendance)."

But in recent years, turnout has been much higher than it was at the beginning, when "we had 30 artists and crafters and a few people showing up" to shop.

"There was nothing to compare it to," he said. "There were no other outdoors shows around Asheville."

This weekend's fair will feature about 110 artists showing a variety of works. Some are longtime participants, others new to the event. Ceramics and jewelry remain the most submitted items to the show, but Cram carefully balances the entries to create a wide variety of art.

One element of the fair that has changed -- and yet stayed the same -- is the poster and T-shirt design, which has almost always included a cat.

This year's poster and shirt were created by graphic artist David Quinn.

The cat theme has been used on every fair poster and T-shirt for 31 years, with only one break. "Everyone said 'Bring the cat back,"' Cram recalled. "That's what we needed to do."

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