HandMade in America, located in western North Carolina, serves artists and craftspeople while preserving the rich craft history of the area. ABI spoke with Executive Director Greg Walker Wilson about their organization.
ABI: Why was HandMade in America established?
GWW: Founded in 1995, HandMade in America (HIA) has developed into a leader and innovator in creative placemaking, revitalizing our Western North Carolina region through innovative and locally-driven initiatives that animated places and sparked economic development.
Throughout our 18-year history, HandMade has designed effective programs to revitalize small towns, drive tourism, broaden markets, and create job opportunities for craft artists by emphasizing Western North Carolina’s craft heritage.
Today, HandMade is a national and international model for cities, towns, and organizations that want to use their unique assets for community-building and economic renewal. We also strive to develop our region’s unique and valuable cultural assets (our artists and their craft-based businesses) and build a strong, vibrant economy for a thriving region. Our process strengthens business skills through training; addresses potential/real barriers to success; connects artists with vital resources, networks for support, and access to new markets; and uses mentorship, technical assistance, and vital follow-through coaching to realize implementation.
ABI: You are located in Asheville, North Carolina, a very historical area for craft. How are you preserving that history?
GWW: Our mission is to grow economies through craft and creative placemaking, and our vision is to advance Western North Carolina as the cradle of craft.
HandMade in America advocates Western North Carolina as the center of craft, culture, and heritage through programs, lectures, strategic partnerships, grassroots campaigns, and trainings throughout North America. We also strive to educate the region on the cultural and economic impact of purchasing handmade items from local artists, in order to drive sales to our craft-based businesses and sustainable economies. To further this effort, we collaborate with local and regional organizations on programming that promotes craft as an engine of economic growth.
Our entrepreneurship programming directly provides local artists with a wide range of business skills and encourages craft-based entrepreneurial activity to ensure our valuable craft history continues into the future. Our unique hands-on approach works holistically to create results that are not only successful, but sustainable. Our initiatives allow artists to develop new knowledge, build diversified partnerships and stronger/wider networks, and connect to existing resources throughout the region.
ABI: What challenges are the artists and craftspeople you serve facing?
GWW: I think the biggest challenge is the critical need for entrepreneurship education for craft artists. Craft-based businesses are a driving industry in our region, attracting visitors/tourists and contributing to a healthy and thriving economy. The artists behind these businesses are trained and talented at their craft, but often lack the knowledge of how to run a successful small business. Sometimes these small-business owners also have difficulties accessing materials specific to their needs.
ABI: What do you feel is the most important thing your members need to know to do business in today’s marketplace?
GWW: Artists must be able to recognize and nimbly adapt to today’s rapidly changing business models. They need to be able to build critical skill sets to address economic realities and pursue innovative business solutions with confidence.
HandMade in America and The Arts Business Institute are partnering to present Art Business Bootcamp: Shape up Your Business! on October 1-2, 2013. Don’t miss this exciting learning event!