2005-12-08 / Letters to the Editor

Craft fair and age limitations

This letter is in reply to Mr. Bruce Wigton’s complaint made in last week’s Press about the Conanicut Island Art Association’s not allowing children to participate in the CIAA Holiday Craft Fair.

Although Mr. Wigton’s request was made only a few weeks before the beginning of the fair, when plans were already fully undertaken, the CIAA board reviewed Mr. Wigton’s request and the majority felt that we must hold up our age restriction of 21 years at this time. (Also, I don’t know where Mr. Wigton gets his information about “lowering the bar” to the age of 18, as the age restriction is clearly stated on the entry forms provided to craft applicants.) The general consensus of the board was that, if we allow one child to participate, we would have to allow all children to participate without exception, something that would prove to be too unwieldy, given the existing format of the show, raise questions about insurance liability, parental participation etc., issues and details too complex to be taken up at such short notice.

As for having an age restriction in the show, this is not to be confused with age discrimination. There are many public formats (the purchase of cigarettes, consumption of alcohol, attendance at movies — to name a few — that carry age restrictions for children and with good reason.

The CIAA prides itself on the promotion of children’s art in the way of yearly high school scholarship grants (We give more monetary awards to Jamestown children and teens than any other local organization.) as well as annual art awards to elementary school children for workshops at the Newport Art Museum. The CIAA board would be glad to consider the idea of a special event solely for the participation of children, such as a Children’s Art Exhibit and Craftshow. However, it would need the help of Mr. Wigton as well as many other parents to organize such an event. While having many members, the Conanicut Island Art Association has only a handful of dedicated volunteers who year after year give their time and effort and hard work to put together the events that are organized for the benefit of Jamestowners. This year’s Holiday Craft show is a good example — it is growing by leaps and bounds as a professional forum for local artisans, takes a lot of detailed organization to carry out and, we had to turn many applicants away for lack of space.

Mr. Wigton should remember that we are a non-profit, volunteer organization, and would be happy to have his hands-on participation, as we can always use the help. It is easy to stand by the sidelines and criticize others for not doing enough — without shouldering some of the responsibility and without being actively involved.

The CIAA does tremendous work in our community in bringing art to the public as well as supporting the artistic endeavors of its children. Enough said. Allie Sabalis, president

Conanicut Island Art Asssociation

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