Back in Chicago To Stay

Back in Chicago To Stay

ACC's Gold Exhibition

Exhibition photo: James Prinz

SOFA Chicago, the flagship Sculpture Objects & Functional Art exhibition and sale, draws thousands of art lovers to the city’s Navy Pier to see the dazzling work that top-flight galleries have chosen to display. But except for a small exhibition and reception in 2003, the American Craft Council has been a quiet voice there for many years.

This past November, the ACC was back at SOFA in a big way, with an exhibition of work by 27 ACC Gold Medal winners. Aptly titled “Gold,” the exhibition was organized by education director Tana Hargest and curated by Michael Monroe, ACC trustee and director emeritus of the Belle­vue Arts Museum in Washington state. 

“Gold” picked up where the Council left off in 1993, when it hosted its last major exhibition of gold medalists at SOFA Chicago. This year’s exhibition showed the work of ACC gold medalists from 1994 to 2010, including Dale Chihuly (glass), Jack Lenor Larsen (fiber), Toshiko Takaezu (clay), Albert Paley (metal), and Wendell Castle (wood). The Gold Medal is the Council’s highest honor, recognizing extraordinary artistry and consummate craftsmanship.

“These 27 medalists have expanded the possibilities of their medium,” Monroe says. “They are the extraordinary ones, the role models, the mentors – the names recorded in history books.” To be selected for this honor, artists must already have been named to the Council’s prestigious College of Fellows.

The “Gold” exhibition, in fact, represents a kind of restart of the College of Fellows awards program, which began in 1975. Hargest points to a number of changes under way to strengthen the program. For example, fellows will be named every other year, rather than annually, with the possibility that more indivi­duals will be honored each time. The biennial awards ceremony, along with an exhibition, will be held at SOFA Chicago, beginning in 2012. And Hargest will be developing educational programming around the honorees, including a speakers’ bureau that will be active at ACC shows.

Want to sample “Gold”? See video highlights of the ACC’s SOFA exhibition, narrated by the energetic Monroe.


Monica Moses is American Craft’s editor in chief.