(Update: The Connecticut Spring Antiques show has been canceled due to the coronavirus outbreak. No reschedule date has been announced.)
For nearly a half-century, the annual Connecticut Spring Antiques Show has endured a number of challenges, from overpowering nor’easters to prolonged economic downturns. Perhaps its greatest challenge has come in the past decade or so, as certain categories of the trade have seen waning interest.
But as the 47th edition of the event in the familiar Hartford Armory looms on March 21 and 22, show organizers are counting on a growing segment of the show’s audience: millennials and young collectors. While early Americana remains at its core, the show has broadened its scope of late with a wider range of offerings, including folk art, garden antiques and fine art. Both first-time buyers and veteran collectors can find something among the thousands of one-of-a-kind objects at the show.
To attract a younger and broader audience, organizers have sought to make the show more relevant and appealing, as well as educate new buyers on how to wisely purchase antiques and use them to furnish their homes.
“In recent years we have reached out to millennials to show how to incorporate a unique and special antique object or piece of art into a 21st-century setting and how to curate a space as a reflection of individuality and style,” says Elizabeth Malloy, executive director of the Haddam Historical Society. Proceeds benefit the society’s work and preservation of the 18th-century Thankful Arnold House Museum. “Antiques not only have a distinctive story and past, they are also … considered the ultimate recycled object.”
Renowned for pre-1840 Americana of the highest caliber, the show will feature 40-some of the country’s top antiques and art dealers with a particular focus on New England objects. Few other places outside museums allow one to see everything from handmade 19th-century chests and vibrant and folky wooden boxes to garden statuary and graphic quilts.
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“It’s a wonderful opportunity to see and touch objects from our material past,” show manager Karen DiSaia says. “When you are in the presence of wonderful old things, they have a special energy. The uniqueness of each piece and the energy it gives us is something very special.”
Young people can easily get started without spending a lot of money by acquiring one statement piece instead of focusing on furnishing a whole room, DiSaia says. “Even if you have a room full of Ikea, if you have one interesting old piece, it changes the energy in the room,” she says. “Instead of feeling like a sterile catalog setup, it has life, and to me that’s the way these kids need to get started. One great old piece or one piece of art can start a conversation. There are things that are under $500 in all these categories so I feel that there is absolutely plenty of room to use your money wisely.”
This year’s edition will include presentations, educational exhibits and workshops on historic home preservation. The Connecticut Office of the Arts and State Historic Preservation Office will counsel homeowners on how to qualify for tax credits to rehabilitate their historic property. Preservation Connecticut, which protects historic buildings, sites and landscapes, will talk about its programs and services. Qualified restoration vendors with expertise on maintaining antique homes will present and be available to answer homeowners’ questions.
Connecticut Spring Antiques Show
Hartford Armory, 360 Broad St.
March 21, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; March 22, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
Tickets: $15 (people ages 35 and under admitted free Sunday)