Top 3 Reasons to Go See Tennessee Craft: A Statewide Member Exhibition 

By Meghan E. Gattignolo 

For many people, art means a canvas covered in paint or a carved statue. Artistic expression can be found over many different kinds of media, however. For decades, Tennessee Craft has celebrated and highlighted artists who love to create with a broader brush. The organization supports member creators by giving them opportunities to shine, showcasing their unique craftsmanship at craft fairs and special biennial exhibits. You’ve heard of fine art. What about fine craft? Tennessee Craft: A Statewide Member Exhibition displays a cross-section of work from the finest crafters in the entire state of Tennessee.  

Longing for Houses
Mixed media
Leslie Patterson-Marx

Enjoy a different kind of art 

“Craft” is a broad term, but refers to items made by hand, and usually by just one person from start to finish. Much like other forms of art, craft is a creative pursuit, but a crafter’s skill determines the quality of the end product. Examples of what visitors can expect at an exhibit such as Tennessee Craft include pottery, jewelry, fiber arts (clothing, crochet, quilting, etc), woodwork (furniture, containers, sculpture), mixed media… the list goes on. The sky is the limit when it comes to crafting. Expect to see something imaginative and outside-the-box. A crafted product can be useful, or simply beautiful to look at, but it always means something special to the crafter. The individuality that is poured into a crafted piece reminds us that something as simple as a bowl or spoon can also be exquisitely beautiful. The work, patience and skill that goes into a beautiful dress, a necklace or embroidered quilt can be monumental and result in some fantastic works of art.    

Recent Landscapes II
Handwoven tapestry
Jennifer Sargent

Crossed Paths II
Steve Hutchins

Experience a multitude of artists  

One of the special things about this exhibit is the number of different craft artists involved. The participants include over 70 different artists who are members of the Tennessee Craft organization. These craft artists include sculptors, jewelry makers, woodworkers, fiber artists, mixed media artists and many others. A visitor to this exhibit is surrounded by a variety of tastes, styles and mediums. In one corner, there’s Cornfield Croquet by Craig Nutt, a fun agricultural expression of the classic yard game. Another unique piece is a rug inspired by a plant cell, made by artist Katherine Frensley. In contrast, a mesmerizing limestone sculpture by Steve Hutchins can also be enjoyed in the same exhibit. No matter who you are, something will dazzle the senses of anyone who enters the gallery.   

Hand-dyed and painted pine needle coiling
Marty McConnaughey

Appreciate Tennessee’s craft history 

Tennessee Craft has provided a platform for creators for almost 60 years, but it was born from a much older appreciation for craft. Crafts form an unmistakable piece of Tennessee and early America’s identity. Crafting was done out of necessity: bowls, utensils, clothing, bedding.  Everyday household items were made by the individual, and incidentally each item was unique and special. Some were so well-made they became heirlooms and were passed down through the generations. With the advent of the Industrial Revolution, however, the need to make items that could now be mass produced disappeared. Some feared the beauty and uniqueness of handmade items would disappear, too. As an organization, Tennessee Craft is descended from a desire to preserve and celebrate the unique beauty of skilled craftsmanship. Few places are more appropriate to showcase an art exhibit that also celebrates the past than the Customs House Museum & Cultural Center, an institution with its own special appreciation of art and history.   

Come see Tennessee Craft: A Statewide Member ExhibitionVisitors can check out this amazing and multifaceted exhibit in the Crouch Gallery, now through October 26. You can even vote for your favorite artist to have the opportunity to host their very own upcoming exhibit at the Customs House Museum & Cultural Center

Meghan E. Gattignolo is a freelance writer and longtime Clarksville, TN resident. She loves to obsess about historical subjects and annoy her family daily with unsolicited random facts. Meghan holds a History B.A. from Austin Peay State University and lives in town with her husband and two daughters. 

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