A historic building in downtown Lancaster will be the new home of the Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen and a center for craft serving a multi-state region.
The Guild has an agreement to purchase the facility on Queen Street in the heart of Lancaster’s thriving arts district. It will be the first time the Guild has owned its own home after 68 years of renting space.
The 5,500-square-foot brick building, formerly the Italian-American Citizens Club, will provide space for exhibition galleries, an expanded Guild store, and multiple classrooms and workshop spaces that will allow the Guild to multiply its educational programs, which have grown steadily in recent years. The Guild closes on the property on April 30 and a soft opening is scheduled for early July.
“This is a fantastic opportunity for the Guild,” said Margaret Fultz, board treasurer. “We have come through the recession in great shape, we’ve outgrown where we are, and this is the next logical step to expanding the organization and serving our members.”
While acquiring the property is possible with existing reserves, the Guild will launch a major Capital Campaign next month to raise funds to develop workshop spaces and key areas that will allow the facility to truly be a magnet for those who want to make, and learn about, craft.
“The Pennsylvania Guild’s mission statement is our guiding foundation and we build on it with everything we do,” explained Timothy Knight, board president. “Moving from a small rental space to our own building adds to what we have built over the last 68 years, and puts us in position to grow for the next 68 years.”
The success of Guild programming in recent years has meant that the organization must rent space for more than 98 events, workshops, classes and meetings annually which cannot be held at the present location. To solve the problem, the Board of Directors formed a Facilities Committee more than two years ago to research the various aspects of relocation, need, service to the mission and financing a home of its own. The Committee’s recommendation included finding quality space for educational programs while maintaining a facility in Lancaster, near the heart of the Guild’s membership. While the Board has toured multiple properties in the last year, none suited the Guild’s needs until now.
The new Pennsylvania Guild facility will be a Center for American Craft and will serve as a magnet for those in a multi-state region who want to make, and learn about, craft. The Guild’s mission recognizes that the making of craft enriches all.
“We look forward to adding the Guild’s future American Craft Center to the list of keystone arts organizations now located in the City of Lancaster,” said Mayor J. Richard Gray in a letter of endorsement for the project to the Pennsylvania Guild. “The opportunities that this craft center could create with the City School District and a growing active adult community, both in the City and the County, are extraordinary.”
Founded in 1944 at the recommendation of Eleanor Roosevelt, the Guild helped citizens to become more self-sufficient so that factory goods could be used for the war effort. The first classes taught women of Philadelphia’s Main Line to comb their dogs, spin the hair into yarn and make coats for their families. Today, the Guild embraces both functional and non-functional craft of all mediums.
The Pennsylvania Guild is now the nation’s 7th largest craft membership organization according to the Craft Organization Development Association (CODA). This prestigious list includes the American Craft Council, American Association of Woodturners, NCECA and the Society of North American Goldsmiths. Of “state-based” all-craft guilds, the Pennsylvania Guild is now the largest nationwide, serving nearly 1,400 members in 33 states and two countries. It is one of the few Guilds in the country to encourage community-based and media specific chapters where members can live, learn and make in close proximity to one another. The Pennsylvania Guild reaches more than 20,000 patrons in person annually and another 92,000 visitors to its updated website.
The Guild’s desire to own its own home and establish a craft center is not a new idea.
After years in Bedford and State College, the Guild moved in the 1980s to an idyllic farm house in a state park in Bucks County. “But the designs called for a $5 million renovation and there was no way we would ever do that to a property we didn’t own,” said board member Sharon Giles. “This Lancaster location will be ours for just $375,000 and it is in a great urban location. When I see the renaissance that’s gone on in downtown Lancaster, especially in the area of the arts, I get excited to think that the Guild can be part of this growth. The possibilities are endless!”
New board member Marilyn Berger first spotted the property and the process began in March with Board action. Now after a special meeting, contracts, tours, inspections, appraisals and financing proposals, the Guild will close on the property April 30th.
“The building has great potential and can immediately host three or four workshops or classes simultaneously, while leaving space for both an exhibition area and our popular Guild Store,” said Sherrie Boyer, executive director. “While we must do some renovations to move in, we won’t do anything major right away.”
Originally the headquarters of the Italian-American Citizens Club in 1942, the brick warehouse at 335 N. Queen Street was most recently used as a restaurant and assembly space. The two-story structure features wide open spaces, tall ceilings and ample light from large south-facing windows. It is handicapped accessible on the first floor.
“It’s been closed up for a while so it’s dirty but nothing a little soap, water and some handy craftsmen couldn’t handle,” said Cynthia Baker, board member. “I’m hoping Guild members will really step forward with sweat- equity hours, time, and skills.”
In honor of the new space, the Guild will launch two special “Home at Last” projects prior to the soft opening in July.
The first is a “Home at Last” donor Campaign in mid-May to raise capital funds. The second is a “Home at Last” exhibition. Boyer said she hopes all members will embrace both projects whole heartedly.
The Home at Last Campaign will raise $300,000 for capital renovations, workshop equipment, gallery space and more through a member donor drive, corporations and foundation giving.
“Just think, if every member donated just $25—we could raise $35,000. But if every member could give $100—just $2 a week—we could raise $140,000, and that right there, would be a huge statement of support for craft and the power of this Guild,” said Paula Lewis, board member.
Boyer said the Home at Last campaign will offer members the option of making a year-long pledge that could be paid monthly or quarterly via check or credit card. “When allowed to pay over time, many people are able to give in a way that works best for them,” she explained. “The pledge option is a great way to help both the donor and the Guild work together.” Board members Jerry Flury and Marilyn Berger will serve as campaign co-chairs for individual, corporate and foundation giving.
The second project, the Home at Last Exhibition, will open in July 2012 featuring unique works by members on the “home” theme. All craftsmen and (in honor of their longtime commitment) emeritus members will be eligible to apply for this special opening exhibition. Details will be available in upcoming e-newsletters and on the Guild’s website very soon. Unique entries should focus on the concept of home or housing or nesting or settling down. Only a small percentage may be items exclusively for use in and around the home, such as furniture or fixtures. Applications are available now and will be due June 1.
Additional details about the new Center, including move in dates, volunteer work days, exhibition details and more, will be announced in the coming weeks.