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Kenan Center seeks younger audience by showcasing youthful artisans

LOCKPORT – The Kenan Center is adding a second exhibit area to its popular 100 American Craftsmen craft art show this year, in hopes of luring a younger audience without compromising the show’s reputation for quality.

The 45th annual event will run from Friday through Sunday in the Kenan Arena, 195 Beattie Ave.

This year, besides the regular show in the main arena, an Annex Market will be offered in a smaller space off the main floor.

Elaine M. Harrigan, Kenan Center marketing director, said the purpose is to showcase young artisans, especially first-time exhibitors, whose works might not fit into the standard craft art categories. In other instances, some annex artisans were chosen simply because the main show already had enough of their type of offerings.

But the main point is to try to appeal to a younger demographic. The Kenan has found that about 70 percent of the attendees for 100 American Craftsmen come back every year, but a British study of the craft art market concluded that the main customer base that buys at such shows is women 55 and older.

“If that’s been the truth for 45 years, we’re losing some of our audience,” Harrigan said. “It really informed our decisions.”

A strategic planning session concluded that the show needed to try to attract younger buyers, who often buy their first piece of craft art as a gift for someone else. Thus, this year’s new slogan: “Fresher, Giftier, Craftier Than Ever!”

But not cheaper. Harrigan said the annex artisans won’t necessarily be selling their wares at lower prices than those on the main floor.

“This show has such a reputation for quality,” she said. “There’s no possible way we can back off of that.”

While the crafts artists in the main arena all were chosen by the usual Kenan Center jury, those in the annex were generally selected by the center management because they fulfill the expectation that new styles and types of material, especially items made from recycled materials, might tempt a younger crowd.

“We can expose different kinds of craft media that is still quality,” Harrigan said.

For example, take Joshua Fraass, of Pendleton, who just completed his freshman year at the University at Buffalo, majoring in environmental design and fine arts. His medium is recycled paper.

“I make different home decor and stationery items,” Fraass said. “I go antiquing all the time for old books and maps and sheet music.”

Harrigan recruited him for the annex earlier this month when they met at the Kenan Center’s “Mom’s Night Out” fundraiser for the center’s Montessori preschool.

“I was really excited. I know this is a really important, high-end show for the area,” Fraass said. “To use old things and give them a new life is called ‘upcycling.’ That’s what my business is built on.”

Other annex artisans use such materials as reclaimed wood, while an artisan in the main show probably would show traditional woodworking techniques with fresh lumber. “People want to see more renewed resources,” Harrigan said.

The annex also will include exhibits of work by 16 craft art students from SUNY Buffalo State, which, unlike the other wares in the annex, will not be for sale. Harrigan said that two recent Buffalo State design graduates were chosen by the jury for the main show, which includes a total of 21 new artisans this year.

In the Kenan House during the craft show is an exhibit of the works of Robert L. Wood, coordinator of the ceramics program at Buffalo State. Harrigan said it was part of a plan to reconnect to the Kenan’s educational roots.

The Buffalo News is a major media sponsor of the show. Admission is $6 for adults, while children 12 and younger are admitted free. The hours are 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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