Masters: Sidney D. Rosoff

Masters: Sidney D. Rosoff

Award of Distinction \ New York, New York
Sidney Rosoff portrait
Julie K. Hanus

The Upper East Side apartment where Sidney D. Rosoff and his wife, Joann, live is peppered with objects. The couple point out some Henry Cavanagh ceramic cars, a glass piece by Josh Simpson. “Craft is art, and art is beauty,” Rosoff says. “To have such objects before your eyes on a daily basis truly enhances your appreciation of the beauty of life and living.”

For almost 60 years, Rosoff has served the American Craft Council – and through it, the field at large. Like many great relationships, this one began by chance. It was the early 1950s. Fresh out of Harvard, Rosoff had joined a New York law firm. A partner popped into his office. Would he take a meeting with Aileen Webb? “He said she has this newfangled idea of a craft organization,” Rosoff explains. “So I said, ‘Of course.’ And I went to the brownstone on 53rd Street.”

That brownstone is where Webb, the ACC’s founder, soon would house the Museum of Contemporary Crafts (predecessor of today’s Museum of Arts and Design). The decade was a time of intense growth for the Council, with the incorporation of the retail outlet America House, national conferences, exhibitions, craft shows, and more. Rosoff, who earned a master of laws in taxation from New York University in 1959, became a trusted advisor – to Webb, to ACC trustees, and to individual craftspeople.

In 1973, Rosoff and his wife went to Rhinebeck, New York, for the first craft show at that now-iconic location. He called a meeting of exhibitors to review sales tax laws. “After this long explanation, there’s a hand that goes up in the back,” Joann recalls. “This beautiful young woman with a baby in her lap, she says, ‘Mr. Rosoff, why?’ ”

Rosoff chuckles. “The crafts­people were busy creating, imagining,” he says. “The practical aspects … you will excuse me, but they were virgins in the business world. So you had a wonderful opportunity [to help educate them].” Over the years, Rosoff continued to hold sessions at shows, contributing to the emerging field’s growing marketplace savvy. He also served as an ACC trustee.

This recognition is “completely unexpected,” he says. He’s already claimed the reward that matters most: His association with the Council, he says, “has added an element of joy and wonder to my practice of law.”

Read about more 2012 American Craft Council award winners.