New England Woodcarvers History
Woodcarving has been practiced ever since man conceived a tool sharp enough to cut wood. Wikipedia cites carving back as far as the first 11 centuries AD. Those interested in delving into ancient carving may find this Wikipedia article interesting.
Focusing on woodcarving in more recent times, the history of New England Woodcarvers (NEWC) begins in the 1960s. Chet Card of Everett, MA and Gene Matheson of Ipswich, MA were invited to exhibit woodcarvings on April 15, 1964 at the Houghton Library in Lynn Massachusetts. Several people who attended the exhibition teamed up with Chet and Gene, this small group would grow into the NEWC. The group began to meet informally at the Legion Hall in Ipswich, Massachusetts. There were no regular officers at the time. Chet conducted the meetings while Gene served as both the Secretary and the Treasurer.
The group soon outgrew the Ipswich facility and moved to St. Agnes' Parish Hall in Reading, MA. A Steering Committee was formed to explore how the group could become a more formal carving club. In 1965 the group became known as the New England Wood Carvers Association, the first known woodcarving club in New England. Chet Card was elected the first President of NEWC in 1970.
The membership grew, due in part to successful exhibits at Burlington Mall in Burlington, MA, and in 1972, the meeting place was moved to the Hancock United Church of Christ Hall in Lexington. When Henry Krueger was elected President for the 1971-72 year he asked Claire Antill to create a constitution and by-laws for the organization. The following year Claire became President. She continued developing the by-laws and started the task of getting the club incorporated. On August 7, 1973 NEWC became a non-profit under the tax code Section 501(c) 3. In 1973 the first election of officers was held under the new by-laws. Also in the 1970s, the New England Woodcarvers began their annual carving show.
During his second term as President in 1982 – 1983 Rip Stangroom was instrumental in moving the club to the Legion Hall in Bedford, Massachusetts in February 1983. In the early 1990s, President Joe Olsen officially named the annual carving show as The Spirit of Wood Show. In February 2000, thanks to the work of Fran McHugh, Paul Ward, Joe Olson, and others, the NEWC moved to Middlesex Community College in Bedford, Massachusetts. The organization had well over 600 members at that time.
Since the beginning of NEWC the New England carving landscape has changed dramatically. More carving groups have formed providing a plethora of wood carving activities, and many of the members of New England Woodcarvers have become nationally known for their carving abilities. NEWC remains the largest carving organization in New England and the mission continues to be the same: to promote and encourage woodcarving, wood sculpture, and whittling as art forms and to educate the community.
Any organization is built by dedicated members, and NEWC has had its share of very dedicated members. We have grown on the shoulders of those who came before us. We thank all those who have served as President of NEWC, as well as all who served on the Board of Directors throughout the years.