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Kentucky Crafted: The Market is Artful Business

By Lydia Bailey Brown

Left: Cecy Thompson (left) and Susan Grant, of Louisville-based Fleece & Flax, are among the  dozens of artists who will be exhibiting their work  at Kentucky Crafted: The Market.
Cecy Thompson (left) and Susan Grant, of Louisville-based Fleece & Flax, are among the dozens of artists who will be exhibiting their work at Kentucky Crafted: The Market.

Kentucky Crafted: The Market, April 21-23 at the Lexington Convention Center, is the largest celebration of Kentucky arts each year. Lydia Bailey Brown, Kentucky Arts Council executive director, sat down with The Market’s producer and one of the agency’s senior leaders, Chris Cathers, for a discussion about The Market’s distinct position in Kentucky business.

Lydia Bailey Brown: Why should Kentucky’s business community participate in and support The Market?

Chris Cathers: There’s a lot of talk about supporting small businesses, buying local, and here’s an opportunity to visit more than 150 small businesses that sell handmade Kentucky art and craft, all under one roof for an entire weekend. It’s an opportunity to support the local economy and sustain entrepreneurs and small businesses throughout the commonwealth.

LBB: For the first-time visitor to Kentucky Crafted: The Market, describe the event.

CC: The Market is an opportunity for us to showcase the best work of the arts council’s Kentucky Crafted artists. It’s an opportunity for corporate buyers and the general public to find amazing works from many small-business owners in the arts who may not sell through wholesale or retail space throughout the year. From the event, these arts business-folk build a network of retail customers and forge long-term corporate relationships.

LBB: How has The Market changed for the creative exhibitor since its beginnings 35 years ago?

CC: The caliber of participating artists has significantly increased over the years. A number of artists came into the juried Kentucky Crafted program as hobbyists or enthusiasts and over the years have evolved into savvy entrepreneurs, developing a business around their art. Some use it as a launching pad to expand their careers. Others use this opportunity to build stable relationships with wholesalers.

LBB: We know that The Market has become a travel destination for many. What is The Market’s reputation outside Kentucky?

CC: Our reach has gone beyond the typical art and craft show, and people recognize our name throughout the Southeast. Lots of other shows have come and gone; there are not that many that can say they’ve been around 35 years. We’ve expanded the show to offer performances and highlight culinary arts, literary arts and even educational activities in our hands-on area. Really, we produce an arts festival. In fact, the Southeast Tourism Society named Kentucky Crafted: The Market in their Top 20 List of Festivals and Events.

Folks from other states come to visit, not simply to experience and purchase the art pieces, but to learn about our process for jurying artists into the selection and creating such a high-quality, tourist-worthy, hometown-feeling experience.

LBB: Tell us about the first day of Market, April 21, the “trade day” for wholesale and corporate buyers.

CC: Trade day is a wholesale buying day exclusively designed for retail buyers, corporate buyers, interior designers, and architects, to name a few. With their complimentary entrance and the immersive creative environment, it’s a very relaxed atmosphere for the buyer, which gives them a chance to speak to the artists one on one. Buyers get to see work showcased in artful ways and learn how that fits into their corporate buying or public art initiatives. This is a great opportunity to investigate new design concepts. It gives them a sense of how to utilize art in workspaces.

For the first-time corporate buyer, the trade day is a comfortable opportunity to dip their toe in, whether they are in charge of corporate gifts or retail shops. For someone who wants to make a mark on their prospective clients with something uniquely Kentucky, this is the place to find it!

LBB: How would a new corporate or wholesale buyer arrange to attend and look at the opportunities?

CC: We encourage them to preregister on our website at artscouncil.ky.gov/KAC/Showcasing/2017Market-Buyers.htm but we also provide onsite registration by just showing up on Friday, April 21. We need to verify shoppers’ status as a business buyer, so they need to provide that documentation. Companies are encouraged to come to The Market and see how Kentucky products can enhance their business. On Saturday and Sunday, April 22-23, The Market is open to the general public. ■

Lydia Bailey Brown is executive director of the Kentucky Arts Council.