Milan Village School of Art’s Spoon Gathering makes a comeback after a two-year pandemic hiatus – West Central Tribune

MILAN – The great tradition of spoon carving returns to Milan’s Village School of Arts next weekend. The 14th annual Spoon Gathering is scheduled for June 2-4, where registered attendees can learn all about spoon carving and green woodworking through demonstrations, workshops and presentations.

“Everyone is really excited. They’re ready,” said MVAS director Ron Porep.

If the coronavirus pandemic had not happened, the event would celebrate its 17th year in 2022. Rather, it is the 15th gathering, the last two having been canceled due to the pandemic.

“2020 was impossible, we were closed,” Porep said. “In 2021 we were just starting to get going and it wouldn’t have worked because we didn’t get back to the full pace of things until April anyway.”

There was even thought of jumping again in 2022, but Porep and the rest of the MVAS board didn’t want to waste another year, because every year an event is missing, the harder it is to restart it. Plus, with art classes held at school quickly filling up with waiting lists, Porep knows people are eager to get out and do things. Besides learning and enjoying the art with a group of people, it’s always more fun than learning through an online video or alone.

“People have been locked up for two years,” Porep said. “It’s so exhausting. They want to do something.”

Walter Riddle of Madison, Wisconsin chops wood he will later carve with during the 12th annual Spoon Gathering on June 1, 2018 in Milan.

Erica Dischino/West Central Tribune file photo

The Spoon Gathering was first created by artist and instructor Frank Foltz, along with several other spoon carvers, and is one of the first and original such events in the country, Porep said. Over the years it has grown steadily, growing from a handful of carvers to dozens and dozens.

“It has grown steadily every year,” Porep said, adding that the school has started inviting internationally renowned artists to teach at the gathering, which attracts even more people. “A few years before COVID, we had over 200 carvers.”

To make this year’s event possible, the school requires that all attendees be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. When registering, participants asked to send a photo or photocopy of their vaccination record to the school. There were fears that people would spread the virus and get really sick if vaccination was not needed, as the participants spend almost three days together.

Another change from past years is that the general public, or those not registered to attend the rally, will not be allowed to walk around and watch what happens.

“It’s just too difficult” to ensure everyone who enters would be vaccinated, Porep said. “Next year, fingers crossed, we’ll be back to a normal year.”

Erica Dischino/TribuneJonah Lindsey, left, Liesl Chatman and Lee Ann Behling work together to sculpt a giant spoon at the 12th annual spoon gathering on June 1 in Milan.  The Spoon Gathering is a three-day festival that offers workshops and lessons in traditional woodworking and more for those interested in age-old craftsmanship.
Jonah Lindsey, left, Liesl Chatman and Lee Ann Behling work together to sculpt a giant spoon during the 12th annual spoon gathering on June 1, 2018 in Milan. The Spoon Gathering is a three-day festival that offers workshops and lessons in traditional woodworking and more for those interested in age-old craftsmanship. It will be held this year from June 2-4, after a two-year hiatus caused by the pandemic.

Erica Dischino/West Central Tribune file photo

Up-to-date registration information is available at

milanvillageartsschool.org

. Cost for the entire weekend is $30 for individuals or $45 per family, while all 18 and under are free. One day fee for Friday or Saturday is $20 per person or $30 per family. Registration remains open and Porep said he expects them to accept registrations until the event.

“I think we will have around 100 to 120. I think it will be manageable,” Porep said.

Porep expects the gathering to be quite similar to past years, although perhaps a bit smaller. Some of the best artisans and teachers from across the country will be on hand to share their skills in various woodworking mediums such as spoon and bowling carving, kuksa carving, kolrosing, chip carving, incision and even how to take care of your tools and gather the wood needed to make the works of art. There is also plenty of time to sculpt and create.

“Anything made with freshly cut wood” can usually be found at the gathering, Porep said.

In addition to art, the gathering is also a fun social event for artists to come together, make friends and network. Most people who frequent the camp during the gathering, which offers free camping facilities. Although most people who attend the gathering usually have experience in spoon carving or other woodworking, it is also open to beginners.

“We wanted to be an inclusive event for everyone,” Porep said.

Erica Dischino / TribuneCarver Jane Mickelborough of Brittany in France presents attendees with the Brenton-style spoon sculpture during the 12th annual spoon gathering June 1 in Milan.
Sculptor Jane Mickelborough from Brittany in France introduces attendees to the Brenton-style spoon sculpture during the 12th annual Spoon Gathering on June 1, 2018 in Milan. This year, artisans from across the United States will return to Milan after two years to learn and teach.

Erica Dischino/West Central Tribune file photo

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