Hamilton, Ohio – If you’re looking for cookies and cakes, you’ve come to the wrong place.
The Bake Sale at the Fitton Center for Creative Arts is the tongue-in-cheek name for the community arts center’s gift shop, a name derived from the fact many items therein were fired in Fitton kilns.
While none of the gifts are edible, it’s still a pretty sweet story.
In late 2015, a pottery student donated a pair of display cases she acquired when a local grocery chain got rid of them. The pottery-studio manager at the time - Carol Waldorf - used the cases to show off student work in the first-floor hallways near the studio classrooms.
“(The Bake Sale) didn’t have a name at first; it was a very organic start,” said Cathy Mayhugh, director of exhibitions. “It was sort of an extension of the community gallery at first, with the cases back there by the studios. It was just another way to share people’s artwork.
“I honestly don’t remember if somebody asked if any of the items in the cases were for sale or if somebody suggested we should be selling them. Either way, though, we decided to give it a try. It very quickly grew as students and teachers began to realize that people were interested in buying local artwork.”
The Fitton Center acquired more cases, moved them to the box office area in the front of the building and – sure enough – sales took off. Mayhugh credits Executive Director Ian MacKenzie-Thurley with the Bake Sale name.
“It was kind of a joke, a play on words, but it really made a lot of sense,” Mayhugh said. “It stuck. We’ve had some people come in looking for brownies and cookies, but when they see the quality of the artwork, they usually aren’t too upset.”
As many as 200 individual pieces of art may be for sale at any given time. Jewelry, ceramic dishware, mosaics, ornaments, prints, sculptures. You name it, Fitton artists make it. And sell it.
With the holidays at hand, the next step in the evolution of the Bake Sale kicks off this week.
Hands-on displays will be available to guests attending the Celebrating Self luncheon Dec. 7 and the Motown Christmas show Dec. 10. Staff and/or volunteers will be on hand to assist with purchases.
“We just want to make things as easy as possible for our guests,” MacKenzie-Thurley said. “There’s always an uptick in sales around the holidays anyway. We thought this way we could connect with some audiences already in the holiday spirit and offer them first opportunity to see what our artists are creating.
“They can get gift ideas on their way into the shows, pick what they like and we’ll process the sales while they enjoy the performances. We’ll bag up their purchases and have them waiting at the door when they leave. We’re just trying to make it as convenient as we can.”
Convenient, yes, but important, too.
“When you purchase something from the Bake Sale, you’re really giving a triple gift,” Mayhugh said. “First, you’re getting yourself or somebody you love a unique and personal hand-crafted gift. But you’re also supporting the local artists who get paid for their work. Third, you’re supporting the work the Fitton Center is doing to provide these opportunities for artists. That’s a real benefit.
“It’s also an especially great way to promote our teaching artists. People see those cases of art and think, ‘Oh, I can learn how to do something like that here.’ And they can. The Bake Sale is a great inspiration for many of our students.”
The Fitton Center Bake Sale is open during regular office hours, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays. In addition, the Bake Sale operates during any and all Fitton-sponsored events, including the Celebrating Self and Show Stoppers series performances.
The Fitton Center for Creative Arts is located at 101 S. Monument Avenue on the Riverfront in downtown Hamilton, Ohio.
Building Community Excellence through the Arts and Culture