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The Arkansas Craft Guild, a cooperative of Arkansas craft artisans, seeks to promote excellence in both traditional and contemporary handmade crafts. Since its incorporation in 1962, the guild has been widely recognized as one of the most significant forces in the revival and preservation of pioneer crafts practiced by Arkansans.
Originally incorporated under the name Ozark Foothills Handicraft Guild, the organization’s initial aim was to provide supplemental income for the people in the north-central Arkansas foothills. In 1960, the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service representative, Leo Rainey, along with officials in Stone County, began exploring ways to bring cottage industry into the area. Soliciting crafters to exhibit at local craft fairs, they found the members for the proposed guild. Focusing first on Stone County, they soon extended its area to include seven surrounding counties. The guild decided to include all of Arkansas in 1967. The name was changed to the Arkansas Craft Guild in 1990 to indicate a statewide organization.
Establishing the guild would not have been possible without the enthusiastic volunteer efforts of crafters and the community. Jim Warren was elected president, and the members drew up by-laws and articles of association. Incorporation papers were filed on November 17, 1962. By-laws provide for a seven-member board of directors who are elected by the members. The president and board appoint the committees.
A Small Business Administration loan of $15,600 in 1963 provided for building log cabins in Salem (Fulton County), Clinton (Van Buren County), Hardy (Sharp County), Heber Springs (Cleburne County), and Mountain View (Stone County); all were finished and operating in 1964. These were the guild’s first retail outlets. Jim Warren, woodcarver and carpenter, almost single-handedly built all five. Manned exclusively by member volunteers, the outlets offered merchandise placed there on consignment by members.
The guild prospered, and, by 1975, it was able to purchase land near Mountain View and build a craft shop/office complex, including the space necessary to hold its Annual Spring Craft Show. The first paid director, office secretary, and shopkeepers were hired at that time. Merchandise was purchased from members on a wholesale/retail basis.
The first Annual Spring Craft Show was held in Mountain View in April 1962, coinciding with the blooming of the dogwood trees. The next year, Mountain View held its first Arkansas Folk Festival in conjunction with the show. A second juried annual show, held the second weekend in October, was instituted in 1966 in Heber Springs during that city’s Ozark Frontier Trails Festival. Both shows were extremely successful; however, after thirty-two years, with the proliferation of craft shows throughout the country, the shows were no longer profitable and were discontinued, with the Heber Springs show ending in 1989 and the Mountain View show in 1993. The Annual Christmas Showcase was established in December 1978 at the Statehouse Convention Center in Little Rock (Pulaski County). It continues to be a very successful and profitable show and sale.
As of 2009, the guild operates one shop, the Arkansas Craft Gallery in Mountain View, and has a membership of 175. The guild maintains a monthly featured artist program, which includes educational demonstrations for the public. The guild also participates in the newly formed Ozark Craft School in cooperation with Ozarka College and the Ozark Folk Center State Park, whereby college credit and instruction by master crafters are available in an Associate of Arts degree program with emphasis on entrepreneurship for artisans.
For additional information:Arkansas Craft Guild. http://www.arkansascraftguild.org/ (accessed July 7, 2009).
Bryant, J. M. “Arkansas Craft Celebrates 35th Anniversary.” Ozarks Mountaineer 45 (August–September 1997): 52–53.
Erlene CarterMountain View, Arkansas
Last Updated 1/2/2010
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