Arrowmont Instructor Exhibition blends the traditional and the cutting-edge

May. 16, 2014 @ 04:26 PM

Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts is steeped in tradition. It also is rooted in the here and now.

“If you’re interested in traditional woodturning, you can learn how to do that here,” said Stefanie Gerber Darr, the school’s gallery manager. “Or you can take a class that really pushes the limits of what furniture can be.”

Visitors can get a sense of the school’s range starting Saturday, May 17, when the annual Arrowmont Instructor Exhibition opens. It runs through Aug. 16 in the Sandra J. Blain Galleries.

The exhibition features works in media including glass, wood, fiber and painting. “In almost every media on display,” Darr said, “there’s a great juxtaposition between traditional processes and more cutting-edge, alternative processes.”

There is quilting, for example, “that’s really pushing the boundaries of traditional crafts,” Darr said.

At Arrowmont, 150 instructors teach classes in various craft traditions, from metals and enamels to pen making and stonecarving. Workshops start June 1. Among the instructors, 69 submitted work for the show.

“It’s a promotional tool,” Darr said of the show. “Somebody visiting may not realize we have classes, so they’ll go through the gallery, and then come back and take a class. Or teachers use it as a teaching exhibition, to show their students what they do, as well as what other artists do.”

Visitor foot traffic to Arrowmont and the gallery is healthy, Darr noted, especially in the summer and fall.

“There are a lot of people who are very surprised, who had no idea we’re here,” she said. “We’re tucked away. And we’re such a different experience than what you’d find down on the Parkway, in the midst of the tourist attractions.”

In April, Arrowmont reached an $8 million funding goal and purchased the school’s property from Pi Beta Phi Fraternity for Women. After a long period of uncertainty, Arrowmont’s future is settled.

“It’s a very joyous time,” Darr said. “When the workshops start, I think there’ll be even more joy.”