Video: SSAC Membership Event in Honour of Nita Brown, SSAC Founder. December 2014, Mahon Hall, Salt Spring Island. Video by Henny Schnare.

ArtCraft is an annual, juried display and retail venue for over 100 local artists. It is the largest and longest running exhibit of its kind in British Columbia.
Open from June to September, this Salt Spring Arts Council initiative has been in operation since 1968. This was due mainly to the inspiration and efforts of Nita Brown. In 1996, the Arts Council also took over the running of the annual Christmas Guilds Sale. This became WinterCraft.

This is the article that appeared in the Gulf Islands Driftwood on June 27, 1968 , which heralded the beginning of ArtCraft.

Artists and hobbyists are invited to exhibit, demonstrate and enjoy their arts and crafts, and those of other workers, at Mahon Hall, on Salt Spring Island during the summer.
The arts centre will be open from July 2 to September 3. There will be no charge.
Gulf Islands Community Arts Council is seeking to encourage all local artists by the establishment of the arts centre. Trustees of Gulf Islands School District have co-operated by granting the use of Mahon Hall during the summer months.
The arts council has a director on each island and residents may learn more about the project from the local member or from Mrs. A M. Brown at 537-5360. Entries may be made by the same means.
This is not a commercial venture, the arts council emphasized, but exhibits may be sold. The council feels that many people abandon their work for fear of the cost of materials. The work may be sold in order that the artist may carry on with other work.
Demonstrations of all crafts will also be welcome.
Directors of the arts council are not paid for their contribution to this community project.

By 1978, Artcraft had grown from a small display of ‘mostly pictures’ to a true arts and crafts show featuring over 106 participants, who now paid a 15% commission on sales. This enabled the Arts Council to now give grants to the Potters, Weavers and Painters Guilds, as well as the Salt Spring Players and to promote the arts through many other endeavours. Membership is the Arts Council was required to show at Artcraft. The membership fee was $2. More than 4500 people visited the show in 1978.
During this time and for years after, the show was run exclusively by volunteers. However, as Artcraft expanded and responsibilities became more complex, a manager, who reports directly to the Artcraft Committee, was hired. Over the years, membership fees, registration fees and consignment rates increased. As the responsibility for Mahon Hall moved from the School District to the Arts Council, it was possible to lengthen the duration of the show, which now runs from mid-June to mid-September. Jurying was formally initiated in 2008 (?) although an informal process had been in place for years.

From the 1970’s, the Guilds were organizing an annual Pre-Christmas sale that ran for three days. It was originally started by the Potters and then the Painters and then joined by the Weavers, the Jewellers and the Woodworkers. In 1996, this became Wintercraft. Wintercraft is more informal than Artcraft. It is not a juried show and there is more of a ‘market’ feel. Quality is nonetheless a top priority. It is overseen by the Artcraft manager.

Both Artcraft and Wintercraft are the responsibility of the Artcraft Committee, a volunteer group which operates under the umbrella of the Salt Spring Arts Council. The Committee meets monthly and assumes the responsibility of ensuring the smooth operation of the two shows as well as the annual Showcases. The intent of the Showcases is to highlight exceptionally fine art and craft.

The Salt Spring Arts Council thanks Suzanne Prendergast for documenting the history of the Council.