The small town of Putney is a big draw for artists. With a population of 2,600, this Connecticut River Valley community has one of the highest concentrations of artists and artisans in Vermont. It’s also home to the oldest continuous craft tour in the United States — the Putney Craft Tour.
The Putney Craft Tour, which has served as a prototype for other craft tours throughout the nation, will host its 35th anniversary over Thanksgiving weekend on Nov. 29-Dec. 1. The craft tour gives Vermont visitors an opportunity to meet local artists and purchase handmade items at the start of the holiday season.
Twenty-six Putney artists within a 12-mile radius are part of the tour, including some of the event’s founding members who arrived in Putney in the 1960s and 70s. Ken Pick came to Putney in 1969 after receiving a teaching degree from Antioch-Putney Graduate School and eventually became a potter. It wasn’t long before Pick and a group of artists came together to organize the town’s first craft tour 35 years ago.
“We recognized there was a lot of talent around here, and we pooled our resources to create an appealing event that would attract people — at first from nearby communities — and now from far and wide,” said Pick.
The tour, which includes jewelers, painters, metalwork artists, potters, hand-blown glass artists, and weavers, draws between 3,000 and 5,000 visitors over the three-day weekend.
For such a small town, Putney is a vibrant community with a thriving art scene. Putney is home to the Next Stage performing arts center, Sandglass Theatre, and the Yellow Barn Summer Music Festival. The town’s creative spirit and its proximity to Boston, New York, and Montreal make it an attractive place for artists to live and work.
Dena Gartenstein Moses, who has a background in physics and optics, became a professional weaver after she moved to Putney.
“I feel that I probably would not have become an artist if I had settled somewhere different,” she said. “I have lived in the Putney/Brattleboro area for 27 years. Having access to the vast number of artists who are successfully able to support themselves opened it up as a possibility for me.”
This year, Moses will be participating in her tenth consecutive Putney Craft Tour, and she says that locals, visitors, and artists appreciate all that the tour has to offer.
“What makes the Putney Craft Tour special is both the longevity of it and the professionalism of it,” she said. “After so many years, we have really got it down, and our customers are incredibly devoted to us.”
**If You Go: Putney Craft Tour
Visitors may start at The Gleanery Restaurant, located at 133 Main Street in Putney for information, maps, and a preview exhibition.