Artisan-Career Venue Spins Beer City Into Craft City

Anna Helgeson is keeping a steady eye on the future of fine craft. Photo by Matt Rose

On a lazy Tuesday afternoon, a casual visitor to The Center for Craft, Creativity & Design might find its polished-industrial headquarters a quiet space for the contemplation of artistry. But beneath that placid exterior, says CCCD Grants and Programs Coordinator Anna Helgeson, is a storm of activity in support of contemporary makers.

“It can be a little deceiving for that [weekday] visitor if they don’t know all of the branches and roots that the organization is involved with,” Helgeson says. When she applied for her position, she found that the Center had helped fund books she’d loved in her photography MFA program, such as Thinking Through Craft by Glenn Adamson.

Now that she’s got the job, she helps others find funding for their dreams. Asheville Made recently sat down with Helgeson to learn more about her role and how the Center supports the area’s craft community.

What does a typical day look like for you?
It depends on the time of year, but we move at a fast pace. Today, I’m planning for the Windgate Fellowship Awards, which give $15,000 to graduating college seniors looking to pursue a career in craft. I’m also planning for upcoming programs that go along with the exhibitions we host locally.

Why do you do what you do?
The creative challenges here give me an insider’s view of what’s going on with craft, art, and contemporary making. It’s really enjoyable to develop programming with some of the artists involved in our gallery exhibitions.

How can CCCD grant applicants stand out?
The best applicants put a lot of thought into why craft matters to them, but they also situate themselves in a broader craft conversation. They aren’t just thinking about where they want their future to go — they’re thinking about how their work can contribute.

Besides grants, CCCD offers a wealth of other resources to local makers, including residencies, exhibitions, conferences, and a two-day “Craft Think Tank.” Now it seems you’ve also entered the branding business …
This year, we started a series of programs under the umbrella of Craft City. We had a series of outdoor pop-up workshops where a local artist offered a hands-on crafts activity. We also just started Craft City food and art tours, where we’re partnering with businesses that pay attention to how things are made.

Is “Craft City” the new “Beer City?”
Yes! Asheville is Beer City in part because it is also Craft City. The history of craft runs deep here and has affected the personality of the city and the types of things we’ve become known for. Craft ethos — reverence for materials, skillful making —and a connection to community can be found throughout Asheville. In our Craft City tours, we connect all these dots.

The Center for Craft, Creativity & Design, 67 Broadway St., Asheville. For details, call 828-785-1357 or visit The Craft City Tour happens Saturday, December 16. CCCD’s spring exhibition, Scale Up: 10 Years, 10 Fellows, 10 Projects (marking the 10th anniversary of the Windgate Fellow Project Grants), opens January 19

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