Chautauqua Craftsman and Artisans of the Black Hills (CCABH) board members: Ron Engelbrecht, Jo Schroeder, Terry Slagel, Rhonda Kocourek, Sandy Bloom, and Gail Pinkleton. The Chautauqua Artisans Market celebrates it's three year anniversary on Thursday, April 11, 2019.

HOT SPRINGS – The Chautauqua Artisans Market is celebrating it's third Anniversary with an open house on Thursday, April 11 from 4-7pm.

The event will be held at the market building at 629 N River St.

The Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce will be holding a mixer to coincide with the anniversary event.

The Market is operated by the Chautauqua Craftsman and Artisans of the Black Hills (CCABH), a non-profit organization created in 2016.

The CCABH's mission is: "to provide a venue for local and regional artists and craftsmen to exhibit and market their work; support professional development of craftsmen and artisans; provide opportunities for education and participation in the arts and crafts to the community at large," as stated by the CCABH.

The Chautauqua Artisans Market serves the Hot Springs area as a collective space for artists and craftsman to showcase their work. The retail gallery provides an opportunity for individuals to sell their work in a bright and customer friendly venue.

The CCABH and Artisans Market recently won "Retail Business of the Year" from the Hot Springs Area Chamber of Commerce.

Beyond occupying the role of a quality retailer, the CCABH's vision is to expand upon their educational foundation, to utilize more spaces in the Hot Springs area to harbor an increasingly diverse group of quality educators.

The market hosted 50 or so classes in 2018 on a variety of subjects. As the market moves into it's fourth year, the CCABH is focused on expanding it's educational programming.

CCABH board members will be planning more classes for children. Plans are also in the works to design a series of inter-generational classes, welcoming all ages and learning styles.

The true form of the CCABH's educational platform is still on the horizon. Organizers would like to see their programming evolve into a "folk school" type of structure.

Folk schools are proponents of "learning for the sake of learning". They tend to be low-competition environments, teaching hands-on skills important to regional traditions.

The CCABH wants their educational programming to include the entirety of the Southern Hills, promoting classrooms all over the area. Organizers hope to de-centralized their programming to increase the number of active participants by year six.

In 2018, the Chautauqua Artisans Market was finding it difficult to draw from a reliable pool of artisans and craftsman willing to instruct smaller groups. Smaller classrooms equal less compensation amounts for teachers, creating reluctance from a certain type of artist/craftsman/instructor.

This year, the CCABH has made some breakthroughs.

Pop Wagner, a nationally renowned cinch weaver, is instructing two sessions scheduled in June at the Artisan's Market. The Market has completely sold out the first session, with attendance looking good for the second.

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The popular cinch-maker will be instructing classes on his technique for creating handcrafted mohair girths and cinches in a variety of styles.

Members of the CCABH think the excitement surrounding Wagner's class has to do with a combination of factors—the popularity of his craftsmanship is sought after by many; the program includes both the classroom instruction plus enough materials to make one cinch; and that the fees also include two free tickets to a musical performance by Wagner at week's end, to be tentatively held at the Hot Springs Theatre. 

This week long event presents an opportunity for the CCABH to cater to a specific niche of student—the equine enthusiast—and provide a substantial event for the community of Hot Springs to collectively enjoy.

Providing cultural education and entertainment is a win-win for local residents.

Chautauqua's support for local events like the Fall River Balloon Festival and Beat the Winter Blues Concert allows them to become more visible in the public eye while still making positive strides to enrich local arts and education.

Although they're hitting a recent stride, these CCABH's successes didn't happen overnight.

Much of what the Artisan Market has endured throughout their formation is what other startups would expect—hard work, perseverance, and happy-accidents all helping their up-hill battle.

All of their current successes would not be possible without the support and participation of their artisans and craftsman.

The formation of a 501(c)(3) non-profit is challenging in it's own right. Statistics show that 50% of new startups fail in their first year. 50% of those that survive their first, die off before their third year.

Interpersonal woes have been an on-going challenge. So is finding a reliable volunteer base.

Meeting the needs of a variety of artists—in order to house them under one roof—has proven to be a consistent stress to the Market volunteers and organizers. But, by handling these steps in stride, teamwork continues to prevail for the group. 

Approaching it's fourth year, the CCABH has not only seen growing interest in their marketplace, they have been an increasingly powerful sponsor for community events.

The Market's third Anniversary is a milestone for local commerce.

For a startup non-profit to not only survive, but thrive, in a small town market past it's third year is a success, "a big deal," according to the CCABH.

More and more the Chautauqua Artisans Market would like to see it's efforts stimulate the local economy and improve local quality of life—whether it's by developing the Hot Springs community into a more hands-on, participation oriented market—or by simply giving artisans a place to hang their hat—The CCABH will continue to promote a healthy cultural and educational center for the Hot Springs community—all while giving many thanks to the area's artisans and craftsman.

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