Oil City exhibit to highlight artists, craftspeople and architectural history

Staff writer

The talented hands of skilled artisans from across the country will soon be on display in Oil City.

Oil City arts organization Art Inside and the studio of CJ Hurley Century Arts are bringing an exhibit of Roycroft Renaissance Artisan work to 24 Seneca St., Oil City, starting Friday, March 3.

The exhibit, By Our Own Hands: The Roycrofters Continue the Handcraft Tradition of the Arts & Crafts Movement, will showcase hand-crafted work in six areas – furniture, painting, metal, textiles, ceramics and printmaking – from 11 Roycroft artisans from across the country.

“The movement is about hand making beautiful things for people’s homes,” said Barbara Pierce, an organizer of the exhibit and a project manager and consultant with CJ Hurley. “Instead of going to a museum to see artwork, people have it in their home,” Pierce said.

The five-week exhibit is part of a year-long grant-supported series of shows through Art Inside.

The exhibit will provide historical context of the international arts and crafts movement, the development of the Roycroft Campus in East Aurora, New York, and an understanding of how the legacy of the movement is being carried out by artisans today.

Pierce explained that the Roycroft artisans work to continue a legacy of bringing handmade high-quality objects to everyday people.

The artists must undergo a jurying process to be given the title of Roycroft artist.

“It’s a jury of their peers that vote on artists that have applied to the jury,” said Pierce.

In partnership with the gallery, the Oil City Library will host related educational events during the exhibit. There will be displays throughout the library including antique Roycroft books and other publications.

The library will highlight its art and architectural history books on the arts and crafts movement and will also have on loan more rare books on related subjects.

Events during the exhibit will include a talk on the history of the arts and crafts movement, a lecture on the romantic art movement and a screening of the PBS documentary “Elbert Hubbard: An American Original.”

The Roycroft is the oldest surviving arts and crafts colony in America dedicated to traditional handicrafts. It was founded in 1895 by Hubbard, a publisher, philosopher and entrepreneur, in East Aurora, New York.

Craft traditions were in rapid decline due to de-humanizing factory production brought on by the Industrial Revolution, and the Roycroft’s goal was to preserve these American and European handicraft skills.

This project is supported in part by the Pennsylvania Partners in the Arts Grant Program with additional support from Art Inside and Oil City artist support organization.