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Celebrating 24 Years of Wheaton Arts' "Festival of Fine Craft"


By Shen Shellenberger, JerseyArts.com

originally published: 09/28/2023

Celebrating 24 Years of Wheaton Arts

If you’re looking for something special to do on the first weekend of October (Oct 7 and 8 from 10 AM to 5 PM) how about an outing to Wheaton Arts in Millville for the annual “Festival of Fine Craft.” On any given day, WheatonArts is a place where creativity, culture, and history flourishes. And during the crowd-favorite festival, the place positively shines.

The “Festival of Fine Craft” showcases more than 125 artists and craftspeople, displaying and selling their handcrafted works, including clay, fiber, glass, jewelry, leather, metal, mixed media, painting, and more.

And while you are strolling through Wheaton’s 45-acre campus, you will have the opportunity to see and participate in a wide range of craft demonstrations and hands-on art-making activities.

Celebrating 24 Years of Wheaton Arts

Photo courtesy of WheatonArts.

There are also two exhibitions on view now at WheatonArts. In the Museum of American Glass, visitors will see “Amber Cowan: Alchemy of Adornment,” and the Down Jersey Folklife Center is presenting “The Good, The Bad, and the Funny: Ritual & Mask Dance of Latin America.”

The festival also features a Beer and Wine Garden, specialty food truck and food vendors, live music, and the nothing-quite-like-it Glass Pumpkin Fundraiser.



 
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Now, there are glass pumpkins and then there are the WheatonArts glass pumpkins. And what makes these pumpkins so special? Each one of the thousands (yes, thousands!) made each year is handcrafted by the glass studio team.

“It takes more than one person to create each pumpkin,” Taral Thompson, Wheaton’s Marketing Manager said. “One person does the body, one does the stem, and another signs the bottom. It’s a group effort.”

Thompson describes what she calls “the mad rush” to the pumpkin patch at the opening of the festival each day. “If you are sitting high above, you see everyone run straight for it.”

Celebrating 24 Years of Wheaton Arts

Wheaton Pumpkin Patch Fundraiser. Photo courtesy of WheatonArts.

This dazzling display is certainly one of the event’s highlights and serves as a starting point to the festival. “The pumpkin patch helps draw the people in so they can experience the crafts and artists and everything the festival has to offer,” Thompson said.

The exhibition in the Museum of American Glass shows the work of Amber Cowan, who “uses flameworking and glassblowing techniques to remelt and sculpt vintage pressed glass and transform it into adorned works of art,” she said. “Her pieces are like an 'I Spy' game; you can find many objects in them, like farm animals, toys, and sea life for example. They are so clever.”

Celebrating 24 Years of Wheaton Arts

Photo courtesy of WheatonArts.

In the Down Jersey Folklife Center, one of the largest in the state, the exhibition of Latin American masks “compares perspectives of ritual and celebratory use of masks, their costumes, and dances, as well as an interpretation of symbolism associated with the cultural heritage of the Latin American communities in the region.”

“We are a melting pot of culture in this area,” she said. “It is wonderful to connect with different communities.”  And the exhibition ties in well with the Peruvian mask-making activity. “People can see how the masks are created and learn how to make their own using alternative materials,” Thompson said. “It is informative, and fun.”



 
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In addition to mask-making, other creative activities include spider finger puppets, tissue paper spiderweb suncatchers, coffee filter bats, and a true fan favorite, scarecrow construction.

WheatonArts provides clothing and other things to decorate the scarecrows, or people are invited to bring their own personal items. “It is so funny to see people walking around with their scarecrows dressed in these funky outfits.”

Celebrating 24 Years of Wheaton Arts

Photo courtesy of WheatonArts.

Artist demonstrations throughout the site include wood carving, wire weaving, watercolor texture painting, spinning, felting, and weaving, pysanky (Ukrainian egg decorating), pottery wheel, intaglio etching, copper flame painting, coin-cut jewelry making, and Chinese paper cutting.

When you’re ready to take a break, you can pull up a hay bale or a seat at the Beer and Wine Garden (21 and over only) and enjoy beer from Glasstown Brewing Company in Millville and wine from Bellview Winery in nearby Landisville. And, for your listening pleasure, musician Chris Lax will be performing there.

Speaking of music, back for another festival is the PackageGoods Orchestra whose music runs the gamut – folk, rock, country, swing, R&B, and torch – and will, no doubt, have the audience moving their feet and singing along. “They have been with us for the festival for many years,” Thompson said, “and the crowd loves them.”

Oh, yes, and then there are the Museum stores. There is the charming General Store, where you’ll find unexpected treasures and unique whimsical items, plus an old-fashioned candy counter and an antique player piano that you can operate for a quarter, the Gallery of Fine Craft, which offers works in glass (of course), ceramics, wood, mixed media, and metal, and a fine selection of glass jewelry, and the Arthur Gorham Paperweight Store, featuring paperweights by artists such as Paul Stankard, Mauel Ward, John Deacons, and others.

Celebrating 24 Years of Wheaton Arts

Photo courtesy of WheatonArts.

Last but certainly far from least, is WheatonArts lovely setting, with walking paths, a mile-long looping nature trail, and two garden spaces – a Discovery Garden, maintained by Rutgers Master Gardeners of Cumberland County, and the Rain and Pollinator Garden, cared for by CU Maurice River (Citizens United to Protect the Maurice River).

“What surprises first-time visitors,” Thompson said, “is how large our campus is, with so many. buildings and pathways and so much to do and see.”

“It’s a magical place.” *

*All quotes are those of Taral Thompson.

Celebrating 24 Years of Wheaton Arts

Wheaton Festival of Fine Craft - Scarecrow Making. Photo by David Hoff.



 
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This is a Rain or Shine event! Any unused tickets can be used for general admission to WheatonArts after the event. Please note only service animals are allowed on the grounds. Must be age 21+ to enter the Beer & Wine Garden area.

FESTIVAL SPECIALS

Make your ticket good for both days with a “Tomorrow Pass,” available upon request when exiting the Festival on Saturday.

ADMISSION

$12.00 Adults

$11.00 Senior Adults 
(62+)

$7.00 Students

Children 5 & under are free.

A grant from PNC’s Arts Alive program allows WheatonArts to increase access and engagement with the arts for different programs and events throughout the year. All demonstrations and art-making events at the Festival of Fine Craft are FREE thanks to this grant.

Millville | Oct 7-8 | 10am - 5pm, click here for the list of artists




About the author: Jersey Girl, music lover, and culture geek – Shen Shellenberger has made a career of her life-long love of the arts. From her jobs at WXPN-FM and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, to her 25 years as a freelance writer, she instills her Jersey-born roots in all she does. Whether it’s the beauty of a classic painting, the dynamics of contemporary dance, or the raw energy of rock ‘n’ roll, Shen brings her perspective to whatever she covers.

Content provided by Discover Jersey Arts, a project of the ArtPride New Jersey Foundation and New Jersey State Council on the Arts.




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