The scene is commonplace to the point of cliché. Heads bowed reverently, arms outstretched, palms up, the supplicants consult their devices.
Claiming to employ “social” media, they are the least social and with no sense of irony.
Isolated together, perhaps.
And it seems the media are doing the employment, not the humans.
But this weekend affords one slice among the collecting community opportunities for genuine engagement.
In short order – beginning on February 21st, to be precise – enthusiasts of the earliest phase of modernism will converge at the Grove Park Inn (GPI) in Asheville, North Carolina, for the annual Arts & Crafts Conference weekend.
Each year, for more than a quarter century now, some 2,000 collectors, scholars, speakers, workshop facilitators, small group discussion leaders, and dealers in antique and contemporary Arts & Crafts – and at least a few perhaps less rabid spouses and significant others – spend three full days nestled comfortably in the Great Smoky Mountains.
They listen to lectures in a large conference ballroom, interact with one another about topics as ordinary as home décor and as esoteric as the fine aesthetic points of distinction between early- and mid-period (i.e., 1902 vs. 1904) furniture. Enthusiastic, as eager to share bite-sized bits of information as they are lengthy treatises on arcane subjects, conference attendees embrace mission with a passion.
This year’s conference runs through Sunday, February 24. It is the 27th annual event.
The grand Inn, built into the side of Sunset Mountain with granite boulders pulled by the hands of some 400 workers from the mountain to form the enormous fireplaces and four supporting pillars in its Great Hall, was, from its beginning, testimony for the enduring values and aesthetic of Arts & Crafts, including sociability.
Then, as now, the Inn’s 142 original rooms were furnished with Roycroft furniture and illuminated by lamps and chandeliers from the Roycroft Copper Shop; two newer wings to the Inn feature contemporary mission-style furnishings. Contemporary GPI visitors unacquainted with mission style have been overheard to comment on the curious homogeneity of furnishings present at the Inn.
With all that history, it is the devices that seem out of place.