Arkansas Craft Guild

The Arkansas Craft Guild, a cooperative of Arkansas craft artisans, seeks to promote excellence in both traditional and contemporary handmade crafts. Since its incorporation in 1962, the guild has been widely recognized as one of the most significant forces in the revival and preservation of pioneer crafts practiced by Arkansans.

Originally incorporated under the name Ozark Foothills Handicraft Guild, the organization’s initial aim was to provide supplemental income for the people in the north-central Arkansas foothills. In 1960, the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service representative, Leo Rainey, along with officials in Stone County, began exploring ways to bring cottage industry into the area. Soliciting crafters to exhibit at local craft fairs, they found the members for the proposed guild. Focusing first on Stone County, they soon extended its area to include seven surrounding counties. The guild decided to include all of Arkansas in 1967. The name was changed to the Arkansas Craft Guild in 1990 to indicate a statewide organization.

Establishing the guild would not have been possible without the enthusiastic volunteer efforts of crafters and the community. Jim Warren was elected president, and the members drew up by-laws and articles of association. Incorporation papers were filed on November 17, 1962. By-laws provide for a seven-member board of directors who are elected by the members. The president and board appoint the committees.

A Small Business Administration loan of $15,600 in 1963 provided for building log cabins in Salem (Fulton County), Clinton (Van Buren County), Hardy (Sharp County), Heber Springs (Cleburne County), and Mountain View (Stone County); all were finished and operating in 1964. These were the guild’s first retail outlets. Jim Warren, woodcarver and carpenter, almost single-handedly built all five. Manned exclusively by member volunteers, the outlets offered merchandise placed there on consignment by members.

The guild prospered, and, by 1975, it was able to purchase land near Mountain View and build a craft shop/office complex, including the space necessary to hold its Annual Spring Craft Show. The first paid director, office secretary, and shopkeepers were hired at that time. Merchandise was purchased from members on a wholesale/retail basis.

The first Annual Spring Craft Show was held in Mountain View in April 1962, coinciding with the blooming of the dogwood trees. The next year, Mountain View held its first Arkansas Folk Festival in conjunction with the show. A second juried annual show, held the second weekend in October, was instituted in 1966 in Heber Springs during that city’s Ozark Frontier Trails Festival. In 1990, the fall show was held in Mountain View during Bean Fest, and continued until management chose to discontinue both the spring and fall shows in 1993.

The guild sold the property north of town and closed the long-running and successful galleries in Hot Springs (Garland County), Little Rock (Pulaski County), and Eureka Springs (Carroll County) in 2000. The guild office and gallery moved to downtown Mountain View, at the old post office, a historic limestone building that had recently been the Star Gap Gallery. The guild voted to accept two-dimensional artists, painters, and photographers as members in 2005, not just crafters.

In 2008, guild members were urged by Mayor Jim Cash to bring back quality craft shows downtown during both the Arkansas Folk Festival and Bean Fest, and together with other interested arts and crafts clubs, formed the Mountain View Arts Council, starting the new Artisans Market on the Square. In 2015, the guild was asked to take over the administration and promotion of the Artisans Market.  The Annual Christmas Showcase was established in December 1978 at the Statehouse Convention Center in Little Rock. It continues to be a very successful and profitable show and sale. In 2005, the guild helped in the creation of the Ozark Craft School, although it did not maintain its involvement.

The office and gallery is located at 104 E. Main in downtown Mountain View. The guild maintains occasional featured artist appearances and educational demonstrations for the public.

For additional information:
Arkansas Craft Guild. http://www.arkansascraftguild.org/ (accessed July 7, 2009).

Bryant, J. M. “Arkansas Craft Celebrates 35th Anniversary.” Ozarks Mountaineer 45 (August–September 1997): 52–53.

Erlene Carter
Mountain View, Arkansas

Last Updated: 01/02/2010