As this time of year rolls around, many folks find themselves looking forward to the Festival of Fine Craft presented by WheatonArts and Cultural Center in Millville, NJ.
Rain or shine, this year’s event will be happening on Saturday, October 3 and Sunday, October 4, from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
In its fine 16-year tradition, the festival will feature work by more than 130 artists from all over the country. Visitors can get up close and interactive with many of the artists, who will demonstrating their craft –weaving, woodturning, painting on silk, chair caning and making coin jewelry. Or festival-goers, for an additional fee, can try hands-on basket making, silk scarf painting and casting aluminum tiles in scratch molds.
Food vendors will be selling a variety of edibles, such as BBQ, seafood, Italian specialties, salads and gourmet desserts. Visitors can sample award-winning wines from Balić Winery in Mays Landing, and gourmet vinegars and oils from East End Foodies of Suffern, NY. And WheatonArts’ Sweet Suite Café will offer made-to-order sandwiches, salads, beverages and baked goods.
Got kids? Bring them along and they’ll have plenty of fun with activities like scarecrow crafting, making Day of the Dead masks and beaded spiders, doing watercolor resist painting and drawing with sidewalk chalk.
After its successful debut last year, the Wine and Beer Garden returns, hosted by Auburn Road Vineyard and Winery in Pilesgrove and Flying Fish Brewery in Somerdale. Musical entertainment will be provided both days from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. by the PackageGoods Orchestra.
And – as I have said before and will surely say again – the festival features a one-of-a-kind experience, the Glass Pumpkin Patch. It is a wondrous, vibrantly colorful collection of glass pumpkins (as well as an occasional eggplant or other vegetable) displayed outside the glass studio for visitors to ogle and buy. And, if you are fortunate enough to be in the patch on a cloudless day, you will never forget the way the sun sparkles off the surface of the glass. It is quite magical.
Janet Peterson, WheatonArts Marketing and Public Relations Director, told me that the crowd at last year’s festival was the largest ever – 10,000+ people during the two days – and she feels fairly certain that the glass pumpkins are a big part of what brings people to the event.
“The pumpkin patch has really enhanced the festival,” Peterson said. “We have so many repeat visitors who come to the show each year to get their glass pumpkins.
“The artists have been making them for weeks and weeks and weeks. We know how popular the pumpkins are, and we have to be ready.”
While the pumpkins are definitely a crowd-pleaser, they are simply one thing at the festival that will delight visitors.
“The artist demonstrations are something that people really like,” said Peterson. “Being able to watch an artist at work is special, and adds another dimension to the pieces they are offering for sale.”
“There are reasons why we don’t want the festival to get too big,” she said. “Right now, we have a highly diverse group. If we find that we need to add something particular, we may go out and find new artists. But we want those that participate to be satisfied.
“Artists spread the word about the festival to their friends and fellow artists,” continued Peterson. “There is really a great word-of-mouth network.”
It is also important to note that Wheaton Arts and Cultural Center is a place of rich tradition, creativity and vitality, even when the festival is not going on.
The nearly-year-round mainstays of WheatonArts– The Museum of American Glass, the Creative Glass Center of America, and the Down Jersey Folklife Center, as well as the hot glass studio and several craft studios – will all be open and operating during the weekend.
Speaking solely for myself, I will never again see a piece of blown glass quite the same way since observing the creation process in action in WheatonArts’ glass studio.
During the event weekend – and beyond – visitors can watch demonstrations of ceramics, glass and paper in the studios, and visit the exhibitions and displays in the museum and galleries.
Two exhibitions are on view through January 4 in the Museum of American Glass. One, “Creativity Ascertained: the Art of the Fellowship,” showcases recent Creative Glass Center of America (CGCA) Fellows who explore their craft in new ways. The exhibit includes sketches, prototypes and other elements of each fellow’s creative process.
The other exhibit is “Emanation: Art + Process,” featuring 10 new installations by renowned contemporary artists and highlighting Wheaton’s unique connection between the site of creation and the site of display.
In The Gallery of Fine Craft through October 4 is “Lighten Up! The Art of the Ubiquitous Lamp.” In the exhibit, we see lamps made by 20 artists, with the sole criteria being that the object have a cord, plug into the wall and light up. Aside from that, the artists had free reign to craft their illuminated creations.
And last, but not least—especially for those of us unable to pass by a museum-quality shopping opportunity—there are five stores at WheatonArts, and they are open during the October 3 and 4 weekend.
“Coming to the Festival of Fine Art is a very full experience,” said Peterson. “For the one admission price, visitors have access to everything.”
“They’re not just getting the festival,” she said, “they are getting EVERYTHING WheatonArts has to offer.”
Wheaton Arts and Cultural Center’s Festival of Fine Crafts takes place Saturday, October 3 and Sunday, October 4, from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. RAIN OR SHINE! WheatonArts asks visitors to come prepared. They encourage you to wear waterproof shoes and bring rain jackets or other waterproof clothing in case stray showers continue on Saturday or Sunday.
Editor’s Note: WheatonArts is offering a buy one, get one ticket deal to Jersey Arts Members! Check out the event listing on JerseyArts.com to learn more.