The Association for Creative Industries (AFCI) announced yesterday that it intends to merge with the International Art Materials Association (NAMTA). Pending a vote by both organizations’ members, the merger will be finalized by mid-August 2021.

AFCI’s Board Chairman, Jim Scatena, wrote in a letter to members, “AFCI, like many in our community, has been deeply impacted by the global pandemic. Consolidation, closures, and shifts in how our industry does business have had a rippled effect on the financial stability of AFCI and our membership operations.”

He went on to say that the association’s main sources of revenue, memberships and the annual Creativation trade show, have been in decline for several years and that this year’s virtual trade show event did not provide “the financial revenue necessary for AFCI to continue business operations in its current capacity.” AFCI’s Executive Director, Peter Finn, took another job within Smith Bucklin, the association’s management firm, in October.

AFCI, formerly known as the Craft and Hobby Association, currently has approximately 437 member companies and NAMTA has approximately 350. Once the merger is complete all AFCI members will become NAMTA members through the end of 2021. Two seats will be added to the NAMTA board of directors for AFCI representation.

In a letter to members, NAMTA president, Steve Chamberlain, wrote, “Unlike many mergers, this was not a matter of necessity for NAMTA, but one of opportunity. It is an exciting endeavor to align two associations that have many synergies in the creative art industries.”

Consumer anthropologist Georganne Bender is a former AFCI board member and has been involved with the association for 40 years. “I love NAMTA, it is a wonderful association run by smart people,” she says. “It’s an association that is in constant contact with its members, offering consistent guidance and important programs to help them succeed. I hope this merger happens because our members deserve it. AFCI will be in good hands with NAMTA.”

Ecommerce craft seller Charlene Anderson of The Anderson Group, LLC, has been a longtime member of both AFCI and NAMTA, and expressed some reservations about what this merger might mean. Anderson attended Creativation+ featuring Art Materials World, the virtual show hosted by both associations that took place in March. “It felt like craft was the poor stepchild,” she says. Anderson also notes that NAMTA dues are much higher than AFCI dues and wonders if AFCI members will be charged the higher amount after their memberships expire.

Still, she says maybe the merger will allow AFCI to survive when it couldn’t otherwise. “Was AFCI planning to go the way of TNNA and this is a way to save it?” she asks, referring to The National Needle Arts Association, which suspended operations in the summer of 2020.

AFCI has a long history dating back to 1940 when it was founded as the Hobby Industry Association (HIA). In 2003, HIA merged with the Association of Crafts & Creative Industries to become the Craft and Hobby Association. In February 2017, it was renamed the Association for Creative Industries, and its signature craft industry trade show, the Mega Show, was rebranded as Creativation.

After the merger, AFCI’s remaining assets will be transferred to NAMTA and AFCI’s foundation will close. (All remaining assets in the foundation were used as scholarships for the 2021 virtual trade show.) NAMTA staff will assume all operations and AFCI will not retain any of its own staff. Members of AFCI and NAMTA will be asked to vote on the merger in the coming weeks. “I think the next 18 months will be one of big change for us on all fronts including supply chain, marketplaces, shows, everything,” says Anderson.

Abby Glassenberg

Abby Glassenberg

Abby co-founded Craft Industry Alliance and now serves as its president. She’s a sewing pattern designer, teacher, and journalist. She’s dedicated to creating an outstanding trade association for the crafts industry. Abby lives in Wellesley, Massachusetts.

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