Weekend event celebrates Williamsburg's contemporary artisans


Williamsburg is home to countless artists, and the Plein Air Art Show and Contemporary Artisans Festival offer up a unique opportunity to see their works of art.

Occurring simultaneously, the former sees the artists crafting their wares along Duke of Gloucester Street and the latter lets them sell those creations to the public.

“It’s really just a unique event,” said Brandie Weiler, executive director of Housing Partnerships. Her organization runs the event, now in its seventh year. “It’s a unique dynamic.”

She said that, especially in the midst of a technological age, there’s value witnessing artists at work. Painters unleash their visions, the Colonial Lacemakers handcraft lace made with bobbins and silversmiths turn silverware in wind chimes in front of eager crowds.

“It’s so intricate that it just blows your mind that people are still doing this,” Weiler said. “It’s just neat to see people are still doing this, especially for the younger generations. The kids will stand there in awe.”

Woodturners crafting bowls out of blocks serves as a prime example.

“They’re used to just walking into Target and buying a wooden bowl,” Weiler said. Saturday offers a chance to see the craftsmanship and artistry that go into such concepts.

In addition to local artists, some travel from Virginia Beach and as far as Maryland. But as a lifelong local, Weiler is in it for the good of the city.

“I’ve been here my entire life,” she said. “DoG Street is the heart of Williamsburg.”

The festivals hope to capitalize on that while also complementing the Williamsburg Farmers Market and William and Mary’s parents weekend.

“It’s fun,” Weiler said, adding that she’s become friends with many of the artisans over the years. More than 30 turned out last year. “Seeing it grow has been a highlight.”

Housing Partnerships launched in 1985 with the mission of offering emergency home repairs in Williamsburg as well as James City and York counties.

“Basically, our job is to keep folks in their homes, keeping our neighbors safe, warm and dry,” Weiler said. The money raised through artist registration goes toward that goal. “That money stays here. It’s neighbors helping neighbors.”

Williamsburg art coordinator Terry Buntrock praised the festivals and Weiler’s mission.

“She’s a wonder woman,” Buntrock said. “It’s a worthy cause.”

Want to go?

The Plein Air Art Show and the Contemporary Artisans Festival, one block from Merchants Square on Duke of Gloucester Street, are free and open to the public. Artists can register for $25 the day of the event.

Birkenmeyer can be reached by phone at 757-790-3029.

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