After four years in Orlando, FL, Coverings 2001 moved to New Orleans, LA. The International Tile and Stone Exposition was held from May 21 to 23 at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, and attracted more than 25,000 visitors.

This year, 1,121 companies occupied 846,838 square feet of exhibition space, showcasing the latest developments in natural stone and tile lines, maintenance and installation products, and fabricating and quarrying equipment. Exhibitors came from around the world, and many countries grouped firms together in national pavilions, including Italy, Spain, Portugal, Turkey and Israel.

Attendees hailed from 40 different countries, including as far away as South America, Turkey, Taiwan, Israel, The Philippines and The Republic of China. Additionally, visitors came from the European nations of Spain, Italy, France, Germany and England.

Five new organizations joined the list of official co-sponsors of Coverings 2001. Included were the National Association of Floor Covering Distributors (NAFCD), a U.S. association dedicated to promoting wholesale distribution in the floor covering industry; the Louisiana District Chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID); the Louisiana Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA); the Gulf States Region of the Construction Specifications Institute (CSI); and the South-Central Region of the International Interior Design Association (IIDA), comprised of the Delta Regional Chapter including Louisiana, Arkansas and Mississippi and the Texas/Oklahoma Chapter. Among the returning co-sponsors for 2001 were the Tile Contractors' Association of America, Inc. (TCAA), and the Terrazzo, Tile and Marble Association of Canada (TTMAC).

In addition to the exhibition itself, Coverings also offered Vision 2001, which was comprised of a series of over 75 seminars, roundtables and other sessions designed to enhance personal development and growth in the floor and wall covering industry, focusing on products and strategies. And because of the growing number of Spanish-speaking visitors to the show, Vision 2001 offered six sessions that were simultaneously translated into Spanish.

Many of the seminars also provided the opportunity for architects and designers to earn continuing education credits. Many of the conference seminars were eligible for AIA member learning units through its Continuing Education System (CES) program, which emphasizes learning and enables architects to keep up with current trends as well as mastering new knowledge and skills. Vision 2001 was recently approved as a registered provider of the AIA/CES program. The seminar program also received accreditation from the Interior Design Continuing Education Council (IDCEC), which is made up of members from interior design and decorating trade professional organizations. With this accreditation, all members of ASID, IDC, IDEC, IFMA, IIDA and NKBA received continuing education credits for any of the Vision 2001 seminars and presentations they attended.

As a way of showing gratitude to its host city, the organizers of Coverings 2001 selected a local recipient for a donation of a large quantity of ceramic tile and natural stone. The donation, which was accepted by Bryon Cornelison, Director of "Rebuilding Together"/Preservation Resource Center of New Orleans, represented well over $100,000 worth of materials to be used by the organization in its work to improve the quality of life of low-income elderly and/or disabled homeowners through home repair and the revitalization of New Orleans' neighborhoods.

Sidebar: Outstanding booth design is recognized at Coverings

Special Recognition Awards for "Excellence in Exhibiting," illustrating creative artistry and marketing savvy in booth design, went to 10 different tile and stone exhibits at Coverings 2001. A dramatic, backlit exhibit featuring giant slabs of natural stone and granite, mounted by the Italian firm of Antolini Luigi & C. SpA, was named the Grand Award Winner for the 2001 show. High tech in design and spatial concept, the 2,500-square-foot exhibit soared skyward in the giant hall, showcasing the exotic marbles, onyx and granite that make up the company's roster of natural stone products. Accepting a specially designed Tiffany crystal trophy for the Grand Award to Antolini Luigi & C. SpA was Alberto Antolini.

Awards of merit and other Tiffany crystal trophies were awarded to nine runner-up exhibitors. They included Bisazza North America for its glass mosaic-encrusted display of 6-foot-tall chess pieces on a giant glass tile chess board; Florida Tile Industries for its user-friendly display area surrounded by colorful vignettes; ICEX (The Trade Commission of Spain/Tile of Spain), for its spacious information and hospitality center; Laticrete International for its visually effective waterfall of mosaic tile used to display the company's grout and setting materials; Provenza Ceramiche Srl for its airy and elegant steel and netting "cube" hung with tile displays; Tau Ceramica for its high tech exhibition highlighted by a striking metallic tile entranceway; Techno Art Marmi for its two story stone and stucco Italian-style villa surrounded by product vignettes in individual niches; Saloni, S.A.'s stylish open plan exhibition; and the Turkish Ceramic Association's highly dramatic museum-like information center.