Just what are local arts and crafts anyway?

For the casual tourist collecting souvenirs of places visited, this may mean mass-produced craft work with some traditional basis. There is certainly a market for faux souvenirs and a good example of this can be seen at the gift shop at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. All of the "authentic early American designs" are produced in China.

Floyd blogger Doug Thompson recently cited the example of a Michigan tourist who was looking for work that said "Floyd County" or the "Blue Ridge Mountains".

My take on it was that the woman was looking for a particular form of souvenir rather than an authentic piece of Floyd art. Floyd art is what is created by Floyd artists.

Catherine Pauley’s work is a fine example of Floyd art.  It is too inventive and expansive to be squeezed into the artificial construct designated as "local arts and crafts."

As soon as someone codifies and organizes art into tidy little categories suitable for bar coding, it is probably no longer art, but tourist bait. I am sure there is a market for tourist trade "art objects", but these may not be what educated tourists are seeking.

I think it is far better that Floyd artists define what is Floyd art, than letting tourists become the arbiters.

Tourists are free to purchase whatever they want and if they want inexpensive souvenirs, they may end up with items mass-produced by the wonderfully enterprising people in far countries.

If visitors are looking for quality work and original art by local artists, they will find many examples of this in our local shops and galleries.

They should not expect the subject matter to be confined to country roads and old mills. Many Floyd artisans have traveled widely and have refreshingly original concepts to express. Floyd art ranges from the sophisticated to the primitive. The only common factor is that it is made in Floyd.

Subject matter is not a determining factor of whether something is local art. Not in Floyd anyway…

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0 Responses to Just what are local arts and crafts anyway?

  1. David, I think we agree that the last thing Floyd needs is to become a endless series of souvenir stands but the lady from Michigan was looking for a work of art or craft that symbolizes Floyd or the area, not a trinket. In West Virginia, she had bought a portrait of a coal miner by a prominent Charleston artist.

    I’ve known Catherine all my life and agree that her work is incredible. But as good as it is, it might not satisfy the desire of someone who wants a piece of art that depicts the area. My studio contains a lot of photography from around the world, but what sells are local scenes and portraits of local musicians. Likewise, those who visit my studio in Northern Virginia are looking for photos of the Washington area.

    As an artist, I face this question with any photo I choose to display or offer for sale. Should we tailor our art to the buyer? That depends on the purpose of our art. If we wish to make a living with art, then yes. Bill Bell is the most successful photographer in Floyd at the moment, as well as one of the most creative. He says he spent years learning what people wanted before tailoring his photography to meet customer demand.

    If we produce art for our own pleasure and to satisfy our own creative needs, then an economic-based approach is not necessary. However, if one of Floyd’s goals is economic revival, then a balance must be found art for art’s sake and economic realities.

  2. In fact, not a single item in the whole of the Monticello gift shop is made in America, at least not as of a year ago. It’s pathetic.

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