Creative Segment Leader Spotlight: Martha Fitch with Vermont Crafts Council
Creative Segment Leader: Martha Fitch
Organization/Business and Position: Vermont Crafts Council, Executive Director
Creative Segment: Visual Arts & Fine Crafts
Medium: Networking and Professional Development
Creative Zone: Statewide Organization, VCN Steering Team Member
Crafts Council Home Page
Visit Open Studio
The Creative Segment Leader Spotlight series explores the seven Creative Segments that make up Vermont’s diverse creative sector by shining a spotlight on the people who work within them.
Tell us about your work/business or organization and how it came to be:
The Vermont Crafts Council was founded in 1990 as a non-juried nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization serving visual artists in Vermont. Our Mission: The Vermont Crafts Council will create and enhance an appreciation among the public of the quality, beauty, and history of Vermont crafts and artwork to encourage and sustain the creation of original craft and artwork in Vermont. It now has a membership of more than 260 artists, art centers, and small galleries.
I have been involved with the Vermont Crafts Council since the early days of its organization. At that time there was no statewide organization, except for craft event promoters, that attempted to represent those working primarily in the five main craft media: clay, fiber, glass, metal, and wood. At that time craft artists were routinely excluded from fine art exhibits and galleries. We also recognized the importance of small rural arts businesses to the tourism network in Vermont and wanted to create an organization that would partner with that network. To do that, we invited representatives from the other craft organizations in the state to join us, and they became the first working board for the organization. Fairly quickly, we opened our membership to painters, sculptors, and other fine artists, as well as small galleries and arts centers. Now our public facing events are the two Open Studio Weekends held in May and in October, and through them we execute our mission which includes support for our 260+ members.
Share something exciting you/your organization is working on:
Spring Open Studio Weekend will be hosted at sites around Vermont on May 27th and 28th. Artists open their workspaces to share their tools, equipment, and inspirations. Whether in small towns or at the ends of back roads, studios are interesting places to visit because they reflect the dynamic yet organized process used to design and produce a finished work of art.
Small galleries and art centers that take part in this event show a unique collection of hand made and local artwork, including special events and exhibits. Plan your visit to as many Open Studios as you can by looking up the over 140 host sites in Vermont on our website here.
As we hopefully exit the pandemic, we have decided to move our office, which we largely abandoned during that time, to a more accessible building across town to the Center for Arts and Learning. This art center has studios and a gallery, so we are looking forward to being in the middle of this community and hopefully contributing to its vibrancy and at the same time making it easier for more people to find us and connect with us.
Describe something that has changed for you and your work during the pandemic:
For us the pandemic was not an unmitigated disaster thanks to the help available from the federal and state governments and from the Vermont Arts Council. Sometimes a catastrophe allows a reset and an opportunity to do things differently, to let go of what hasn’t been working well for a while in favor of trying something new. We were already in the early process of redesigning our website and we completed this during Covid, producing a much more robust tool for profile members and making it easier for visitors to plan their Open Studio tour and to connect with artists. We also picked up our partnership with Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing as part of two promotions to bring more sales to artists. We embraced Zoom and moved our arts business trainings online. This has enabled us to reach many more artists but has also revealed the need for more technology training for some of the members of our community. This is definitely not a one-size-fits-all challenge, and we are working our way through developing new support for these artists.
Share something special about being a creative within your town or community:
Living in Montpelier, I see art and design everywhere. It is evident on the outsides of buildings, in architecture, in the several small galleries and with the many public and accessible outdoor sculptures. Inside the Vermont Statehouse, paintings and sculpture tell the history of our state with the actual marble flooring and granite pillars showing the geologic history as well. Our combined heritage is that of makers, all sorts energetically connected to the land where they worked and still work.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
In my years as a gallery owner, public school art teacher, textile artist and now working with clay, it is more critical than ever for people to continue their visual arts education throughout their lives. We need to be ever more savvy consumers of visual images, and visual planning and critique have become essential foundational skills as never before. However, stepping away from our screens to immerse ourselves with color, shape, and texture, with our own art, is a restorative we need even more.