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This Month in American Craft Council History: April 2012

America House, the New York retail sales outlet founded by Aileen Osborn Webb in 1940, under the direction of Francis Wright Caroe
“U.S. Crafts at Brussels,” Craft Horizons, May/June 1958
American Craft Council St. Paul Show, April 2011
America House, the New York retail sales outlet founded by Aileen Osborn Webb in 1940, under the direction of Francis Wright Caroe
Photo gallery (3 images)

With nearly 70 years of organizational history, the ACC has greatly impacted the continuing evolution of the American craft movement. Here are some ACC history highlights that occurred in the month of April:

April 1948: Frances Wright Caroe, director of America House, and Florence Eastmead take a 16,000-mile motor trip in the interests of America House to "see and talk with as many craftsmen as possible whose workshops are west of the Mississippi.” America House was established in 1940 by Aileen Osborn Webb as a cooperative retail store in New York City to promote and market contemporary American craft. While the Council's historic center was New York and the Northeast, there was an interest in reaching out and learning more of the craftsmen of the western United States. This caravan was a fact-finding mission and marketing campaign to create an inclusive ACC organization that was more representative of the entire crafts movement all across the United States. As the Council grew, it was vital to promote and recognize the perspective of members from all regions of the country. Under the direction of Frances Wright Caroe, America House remained a vibrant institution representing artists from all across the United States for more than 30 years.

April 8, 1958: American crafts – 130 pieces by 75 artists – are featured in the U.S. Pavilion of the Brussels World’s Fair. The submission of entries was organized and promoted by the Council, recognizing this was a unique opportunity to extend the awareness and credibility of contemporary American craft to the world at large. Expo 58, as it was known, was the first major world’s fair after World War II, and was held in Brussels, Belgium from April 17 to October 19, 1958. This is also believed to be the first time that American crafts had been included in the American section of a world's fair. ACC founder Aileen Osborn Webb and trustee Alfred Auerbach were on the Committee of Selection and Procurement and worked tirelessly to bring this opportunity to fruition. As a constant advocate for the American craft movement, Webb said, “In this age of Sputniks, the humanistic values of a country's craft culture are more important than ever. The finest possible work must be made available for foreign showings. The ACC is confident that the craftsmen of the U.S.A. in cooperation with our government agencies will meet this challenge.”

April 15, 1976: The public relations firm of Ruder & Finn completed “A Long Range Program for the American Craft Council,” a study commissioned by the ACC board. As with most organizations that have remained active for almost 70 years, the ACC has undergone many reinventions; but the drive to promote understanding and appreciation of contemporary American craft has never changed. Among the recommendations by Ruder & Finn was that “the first step in a meaningful long-range plan for the ACC is to make a decision about its name, and the name must be one that can be applied to all functions of the organization. It must be memorable, and it must effectively communicate the essence of the organization.” In conjunction with the study, a survey was mailed to more than 3,000 ACC members - representative of an accurate statistical sample. This study was instrumental in redefining the ACC, creating a long-term vision, and enhancing relevancy for an organization that was almost 40 years old at the time.

April 8-12, 1987: American Craft Enterprises, a division of the ACC devoted to the shows and exhibitions, launched Craftfair Minneapolis/St. Paul with 315 exhibitors generating combined sales of $1,563,000. As a result of the show's success, the fair became an annual event. The Council's experience with the show here in Minnesota was, in part, a determining factor to move the organization's headquarters to Minneapolis from New York City in 2010. Still going strong in 2012, the next ACC St. Paul Show will be held on April 20-22, with more than 250 of the top artists from around the country highlighting contemporary jewelry, clothing, furniture, and home décor. Hope to see you there!

This Month in ACC History" takes a look at events from the American Craft Council's 70-year history that shaped not only the organization but also the contemporary craft movement in America.

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