As the base of Pittsburgh’s economy shifts from industry to one of education, finance, and healthcare, its residents haven’t forgotten the city’s tradition of hard work and innovation. The Do It Yourself (DIY) culture has been growing in America, and Pittsburgh is no exception. Every year, Pittsburgh plays host to independent crafters both local and out-of-state by throwing Handmade Arcade. Not your traditional arts & crafts fair, Handmade Arcade provides grassroots artisans, makers, and crafters a high-profile venue to sell their wares and make their names known among shoppers interested in quirky, off beat products. This annual celebration of creativity and craft attracts over 80,000 visitors from around Pittsburgh, nearby states like Vermont and Tennessee, and even as far away as Japan.
Handmade Arcade started in 2004 when a group led by Gloria Forouzan and Elizabeth Prince recognized the upswing in the popularity of DIY projects across America. Like many groups at the time, Handmade Arcade was tired of seeing talented youth leave Pittsburgh because of the idea that the pastures were greener in cities like New York and Chicago. Handmade Arcade aimed to make Pittsburgh more attractive to young people and give them an opportunity where they could be successful without having to leave the city. They decided to do this by organizing a convention for indie craftspeople that would mark Pittsburgh as a leader in the DIY scene.
Handmade Arcade had an idea. They also had the connections and the skills to make that idea actually happen. What they did not have was the money. To fix this, Handmade Arcade turned in a proposal to The Sprout Fund requesting financial assistance to secure a venue and advertise their event. Sprout recognized the uniqueness of Handmade Arcade’s proposal, and was proud to lend their support to help this new, creative community of young crafters flourish.
The first Handmade Arcade was a success beyond the organizer’s expectations. They received many more vendor applications than expected, and turnout for the event was more than thousand people. Attendees that traveled to participate in the event from places like New York or Philadelphia left Pittsburgh with a new appreciation for the city, with one person who had recently moved away from Pittsburgh saying that the event had changed their opinion about the city.
Now after several years hosting festivals, changing locations, and scaling up to include more vendors, Handmade Arcade is still going strong, and each year it gets bigger and better. Attendance has grown from that first year to a more than nine thousand. From a modest forty vendors, Handmade Arcade now hosts between more than one hundred. From that first day at Construction Junction, Handmade Arcade has moved into the cavernous David L Lawrence Convention Center. In addition to amazing, one-of-a-kind crafts, the Handmade Arcade also features DIY workshops and installation art demos.
Handmade Arcade 2011 begins Saturday, November 12 at 11am at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Downtown Pittsburgh. Visit handmadearcade.com for more details. We’ll see you there!
Handmade Arcade received its first Seed Award in 2004 to support Pittsburgh’s inaugural craft festival. Handmade also received support in 2007 for the Craft Congress, and most recently in 2011 to expand its DIY Hands-On Handmade printmaking.