Last year, Leigh Taylor Mickelson, an accomplished ceramics artist of 25 years, was readying to participate in her first craft show. Then, as the story goes, the world was put on pause. The COVID-19 virus resulted in shelter-in-place orders, shuttered venues and canceled events, including craft shows. Mickelson, and the hundreds of artists who were set to display their works, lost the much relied-upon revenue that these shows have the potential to provide. So she decided to do something about it.
She and co-organizers Alexandra FitzGerald and Loren Maron got to work contacting artist friends, and the Ossining trio put together the first Westchester Craft Crawl, which took place last October. The grassroots effort hatched a plan that allowed the community a safe and socially distanced way to take in some culture while supporting its local artists: multiple artists at each of a handful of locations spread were across several towns.
“The public was eager to interact with makers and shop [for] handmade items.” In fact, the event was so successful, says Mickelson, that two repeat events have been planned – one this month, and another in October.
The upcoming Westchester Craft Crawl has safely expanded to include more than two-dozen additional artists. “Everyone who participated last year had such a good result that they are all participating again for the spring event. We also had several new artists inquire about being hosts and guest artists.”
On May 15-16, the works of 56 professional craft artists – working in clay, wood, fiber, metal, glass, jewelry and mixed media – will be on display at 10 “tour stops” across Tarrytown, Ossining, Croton, Cortlandt Manor and Peekskill. There is even a Google Map that outlines the locations.
Mickelson says that the event will follow CDC protocols at each of those locations: “Our system of having a greeter at the front of each tour stop kept crowds in check [last year]. We administered hand sanitizer, ensured masks were in place and took information for contact tracing.”
So why ten stops instead of one? “Multiple locations allow us to really spread the artists out and create a socially distanced outdoor event. People can start at any stop they like, and this way they are avoiding big crowds in one location.”
Mickelson compares the tour to a scavenger hunt, explaining that there is no right or wrong; no rules on where to begin. Wherever an attendee decides to go first, they will receive a “passport.” This card will get stamped at each subsequent location. With six or more stamps, the attendee will be eligible to win prizes donated by participating artists and tour sponsors.
“In several cases, attendees even get to see where the host artist lives and works. There is something special about that.” Speaking of the artists… Mickelson stresses: “This is an artist-organized event in support of artists, so full proceeds go to the artists. The internet is great, but it can only do so much. Nothing beats that face-to-face interaction, even when masked!”
Upcoming Craft Shows in Westchester
Spring Crafts at Lyndhurst
Through May 2, 2021
November 17-19, 2021
Westchester Craft Crawl
May 15-16, 2021
October 2-3, 2021
Armonk Outdoor Art Show
September 25-26, 2021
A version of this article first appeared in the May issue of ArtsNews, ArtsWestchester’s monthly publication. ArtsNews is distributed throughout Westchester County. A digital copy is also available at artsw.org/artsnews.