As plein-air painters (who adopt as a studio all of the great outdoors) can attest, creating visual art sometimes takes space, often considerable space, so a recent relocation by one of the metro area’s longest-tenured art-centered organizations may well overjoy local artists at all levels.
In October, the 56-year-old Craft Alliance (previously Craft Alliance Center of Art + Design) moved from 6640 Delmar Blvd. in University City, its home since 1969, to a new facility at 5080 Delmar Blvd. In so doing, it almost doubled its area, from 8,000 to 14,000 square feet.
Craft Alliance now occupies the burgeoning Delmar Maker District (delmarmakerdistrict.com) of St. Louis’ Central West End and Academy neighborhoods. There, it joins MADE (Makers, Artists, Designers and Entrepreneurs), The Magic House @ MADE and Third Degree Glass Factory.
“It’s been quite a year,” reflects Mark Witzling, Craft Alliance’s executive director, himself a practicing abstract painter (markwitzlingart.com). “I would not have believed it if you had told me that we would be announcing a major relocation, completely renovating a building and moving during a pandemic – and still completing the project on time.
“It’s quite an accomplishment by everyone involved in this effort, which benefits the entire community by creating a great new venue for craft education.”
Overseeing design and architectural services at the new facility was St. Louis’ Mademan Design; that firm previously provided similar services for Third Degree Glass Factory.
The CWE facility can “serve more students and host larger exhibitions and events,” a Craft Alliance press release states, because it features “larger studios, an expanded exhibition gallery as well as retail space, and administrative offices. New studio space includes facilities for artists-in-residence, ceramics, metals, wood, fiber, glass and other craft media.”
The press release continues that Craft Alliance “engages over 25,000 people annually.” It also quotes Witzling as eagerly anticipating collaboration with other residents of the Delmar Maker District.
That district, according to its mission statement, seeks “to create an environment to attract artisans, designers, makers and entrepreneurs of all walks of life who will live, make and sell their goods” and to become “a destination for both locals and tourists to create, shop, learn and socialize.”
Craft Alliance – a “nonprofit art center dedicated to empowering and enriching communities through craft,” according to the press release – wholeheartedly welcomes visitors to its new locale, including its Staenberg Gallery (where the inaugural artists-in-residence exhibition there concluded on Halloween) and its gallery shop.
Regarding that welcome, the COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated safety measures, which are subject to change, for limited-capacity guided tours. Specifically, visitors to the new locale have to sign in and answer a brief questionnaire, undergo a temperature check, sanitize their hands, observe social distancing protocols and, of course, wear face masks.
For the safety of the Craft Alliance community, the nonprofit urges visitors and artists to visit at a different time, if feeling sick or experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19, as well as to follow governmental and health official guidelines for isolation and testing.
Witzling reflects with pride on how Craft Alliance’s new locale has thus far impressed visitors.
“We have been giving tours of our building since we moved, and the community response has been extremely positive,” he says. “We hear comments about how open and inviting the new space is, and visitors love the light from the skylights above the new Staenberg Gallery and the way light moves through the windows between the studios.
“It’s a very engaging space, with larger studios and a beautiful retail gallery shop. During a recent tour of the studios, one visitor said, ‘It just keeps going and going.’ I think our members feel that we have created a vibrant new space that encourages collaboration and creativity. I hope everyone has a chance to come see the realization of our vision for Craft Alliance here in the Delmar Maker District.”
Craft Alliance, 5080 Delmar Blvd., St. Louis, 314-725-1177, craftalliance.org