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American Craft Magazine October/November 2012

Masters: Bruce Pepich

Honorary Fellow \ Racine, Wisconsin

Photo: David E. Jackson
At Racine Art Museum's 2003 inaugural show, Pepich realized he had ushered every object into the collection.
Wendell Castle, Desk, 1967. Photo: Jon Bolton
Photo: David E. Jackson
Photo gallery (4 images)

“One of my friends once said that I don’t do drugs, I do art,” Bruce Pepich says. “It’s the one addiction that leaves you stronger every time you imbibe, because you learn something more from it. But you still crave more,” he adds.

Call it whatever you want: Much of Racine Art Museum’s success can be attributed to Pepich’s zeal. The executive director and curator of collections joined the institution (then the Charles A. Wustum Museum of Fine Arts) in 1974, fresh from Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, with an undergraduate degree in art history. He’s spent his entire career there, giving him the opportunity to cultivate a world-class collection of contemporary craft, and, in 2003, fulfill his vision of launching Racine Art Museum, in a new building, as one of the country’s preeminent craft museums.

Pepich, for his part, is quick to give credit to the patrons, colleagues, and many others who helped open RAM, including Karen Johnson Boyd, a major benefactor who, he says, taught him about the field. “From the 1970s forward, she was constantly looking at craft media as the equivalent to painting and sculpture media,” Pepich says. “It helped me realize things I saw early on but didn’t verbalize in my career, and set me on that path as a director and a curator.”

RAM celebrates its 10th anniversary next year. When it opened, Pepich recalls, a colleague asked him how it felt to have created the only job in the country that he would have left his old job at the Wustum for.

“That really did put it in context,” Pepich says. “I’ve really been able to make this institution change and grow along with me. It’s been a very, very good marriage.”

Read about more 2012 American Craft Council award winners. Learn more about Bruce Pepich.

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We are very pleased that the American Craft Council has honored Bruce. Through his extensive knowledge and appreciation of fine craft and his untiring dedication, he has created a beautiful museum – the Racine Art Museum – that can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the best fine craft museums in New York, Washington or anywhere else. The permanent collection is outstanding, and the shows Bruce assembles are invariably fascinating, proving time and again that there is no meaningful distinction between fine art and fine craft. RAM is one of the few must-see fine craft museums in the country. As residents of the Chicago area, we are very glad to live within easy driving distance of such a fine museum. Congratulations to Bruce and thanks to American Craft for spreading the word. Laurie & Greg

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