After a four-year hiatus, the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in Morningside Heights relaunched its favorite holiday tradition, the 25th annual holiday artisan market dubbed “Crafts at the Cathedral.”
From Dec. 1 through Dec. 3, steady flow of visitors browsed the aisles in the central part of the world’s largest gothic Cathedral for holiday presents like pottery, sculptures, jewelry, paintings, and much more, presented by 85 crafters featuring their magnificent handcrafted art.
Robyn Markowitz attended the show for the first time and knew many of the artists, showcasing and selling their work.
“I think all of the work here is unique and really well conceived and beautifully executed,” Markowitz said.
It was also Markowitz’s first time visiting the Cathedral.
“[The Cathredal is] magnificent. It’s a beautiful space. It is just absolutely stunning to be in this gorgeous building,” Markowitz said. “The art in this Cathedral is magnificent. It seems to blend well with the show.”
The fine crafts show, which benefits the work of Saint John and its programs, was produced and curated by Richard Rothbard and Joanna Rothbard, owners of An American Craftsman Galleries.
The Rothbard’s know a thing or two about putting on shows at this scale since they have produced shows and exhibits since the 1980s, like the Berkshires Arts Festival.
Richard Rothbard said they were looking for originality and art that “wasn’t run of the mill” when they curated the show.
“Obviously not manufactured,” Rothbard said. “But you’re really looking for things that you’re not going to find in stores or unless it’s a gallery like mine, of which there’s very few.”
Trefny Dix, who owns Hokanson Dix Glass with her husband, showcased their stunning, one-of-a-kind, limited-production, blown and cast glass art.
It was the first time Trefny Dix participated in “Crafts at the Cathedral,” but Dix shared that they sell their work in shows “up and down the Eastern seaboard.”
Dix loved the space.
“I also have an Art History degree where I studied early Christian mythology. So this is right up my alley,” Dix said.
Art has long been an integral part of the Cathedral. It is home to art pieces like “Altarpiece: The Life of Christ” by the late Keith Haring and Edwina Sandys’s sculpture, “Christa,” a 250-pound bronze statue of a bare-breasted woman on a translucent acrylic cross. The sculpture created a controversy when it was on display in 1984, and the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New York had it removed because the statue was “theologically and historically indefensible.”
Currently on display at Saint John’s through June 2024 is “Divine Pathways,” a textile art installation by Brooklyn-based multi-disciplinary artist Anne Patterson.
Kristine Pottinger, Saint John’s director of marketing and communications, explained that the piece, hanging from the vaulted nave of the Cathedral, consisted of 1,110 strands of gold, red, green, and blue ribbons, each 75 feet long.
Pottinger shared that Patterson didn’t know that her installation was the same color scheme as the stained glass window titled “Christ in Glory” behind the Cathedral’s high altar because it was still covered with scaffolding after a fire in 2019.
“So she couldn’t see it,” Pottinger said. “And she just had this vision of what it should be. And then the scaffolding came down. And she was like, ‘Well, that’s it. It was meant to be.'”
The Dean of Saint John the Divine, the Very Reverend Patrick Malloy, said it was important to showcase artists’ creativity, which he believes is “sharing God’s creativity.”
“When we see all of these people producing beautiful things that really come out of their hearts, it stirs up in us a great appreciation for the goodness of humanity that is the beauty of art, and we see the divine hand [of God] at work,” Malloy said.
Malloy’s message for the holiday season was “that there can be light amid darkness.”
“The message I would hope that people have in this Christmas season is to hold on to the hope that there can be light in the darkness because there’s a lot of darkness,” Malloy said. “And if we fall prey to the belief that that’s all there is, then we’ve given up, and that would be the end of us.”