Purchase Story

Chester County Antiques Show Gets New Managers

"Change is good,” said Allison Snavely, the director of development at the Chester County Historical Society (CCHS), in response to being asked why the CCHS is changing managers when Wesley Sessa had kept the Chester County Historical Society Antiques & Art Show running for 37 years.

Sessa had recruited new dealers and found a perfect venue at the Church Farm School, at the crossroads of Routes 202 and 30 in Exton, Pennsylvania, but in the last few years the show has not raised as much money for the historical society as it had in the past.

“We have invited Nicholas Vandekar and Deidre Healy to manage the show, to build on the foundation Wesley Sessa established and add a fresh perspective,” said Snavely.

There are other major changes at the CCHS. Beverly Sheppard took over as interim president on July 1 following the departure of director Elizabeth Laurent. In addition to having held leadership positions at the Institute of Museum and Library Services in Washington, D.C., and Old Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts, Sheppard served as assistant director of the CCHS from 1989 to 1998 so she knows the society well.

“We are going through a rebranding,” Snavely explained. “We are reinstalling our collections to tell stories about objects and hope the new installations will be ready by mid-March when the show takes place.” There are many compelling narratives about life and craftsmanship in Chester County that need to be told. The society’s new exhibits should draw an appreciative audience.

The 2020 show will be held Friday, March 13, through Sunday, March 15, at the pavilion on the campus of the historic Church Farm School. Nick Vandekar said he knows many of the CCHS show dealers well from running the Main Line Antiques Show for 16 years. He said his sister-in-law Deidre Healy, wife of ceramics dealer Paul Vandekar, has always wanted to run an antiques show.

“She has lots of experience in the nonprofit art world as a marketing consultant and development specialist. She understands advertising, public relations, and social media,” he said. “I am really an antiques dealer at heart, as were my father and grandfather. Deidre and I make a good team, and we are excited to have been given the opportunity to run the Chester County show. We will strive to create an exceptional show experience that allows dealers to do what they do best and create opportunities to make sales and at the same time raise funds for the historical society.”

West Chester dealer Skip Chalfant, who has not missed a CCHS show, said he is “looking forward to some fresh ideas to breathe new life into one of the best shows in the Delaware Valley, topped only by the Philadelphia antiques show and the Delaware show.”

The CCHS show is known for fine Chester County furniture and needlework (and some New England furniture and decorations, too), folk art, ceramics made in America and ceramics imported and used here in the 18th and 19th centuries, country gear, and some good prints and paintings. Vandekar and Healy hope that dealers who have shown in Chester County for decades will return and that there will be some new names on the dealer list.

It is hoped that Wesley Sessa will have his usual booth filled with 18th- and early 19th-century furniture and decorations, for he still has the passion and love of the show he nurtured to maturity in good times and lean years in many venues. He is turning it over reluctantly to a team that strives to give it new life.

Originally published in the September 2019 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2019 Maine Antique Digest

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