Remembering: Eudorah Moore

Remembering: Eudorah Moore

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Potter Harrison McIntosh and Eudorah Moore at the opening of "Golden State of Craft" at the Craft and Folk Art Museum. Photograph courtesy of Craft and Folk Art Museum.

 

"The social as well as the physical climate of California in the 20th century has presented the ideal breeding ground for the new, and more broadly based wave of humane declaration, which we call the New Craftman's Movement. With remnants of the do-it-yourself need of the frontier spirit still intact, and with the sense of individual worth and identity from that experience still within memory, there was little in subjugation or established pattern to overcome. Self-expression was in many ways the base of the culture."

These lines were part of an introduction written by revolutionary craft curator and early promoter of California design, Eudorah Moore, for the catalogue of "California Design '76." Although that was the last exhibition that would be organized by Moore, the spirit of California crafts and design - harmony of the arts with nature, a cultural identity expressed through craft, and the all-important influence of time and place upon the artist - and its importance to the contemporary craft movement were her main cause throughout a career that began in the 1950s and continued into the 1980s. Moore, a champion of California craft and design and Honorary College of Fellows member, died on April 20 at the age of 94 in her Pasadena home.

Eudorah Moore, née Morse, was born in 1918 in Denver, Colorado, and attended university at Smith College in Massachusetts. With her husband, she moved to California in the early 1940s and quickly involved herself in the fields of craft and design. By the early 1950s, she had established the Pasadena Arts Alliance and served as its founding president. She became president of the board of the Pasadena Art Museum (now the Norton Simon Museum) in 1957 and was appointed as the museum's curator of design in 1962. It was in her role as curator that Moore exerted her greatest influence over the emergence of California crafts and design: she became the director of the Pasadena Art Museum's "California Design" shows in 1961 and implemented a number of changes that shifted the focus of the exhibitions (shows changed from an annual to triennial format, switched from invitational to juried, and moved away from focusing primarily on contemporary furniture to a variety of crafts). Under her directorship, the "California Design" shows became a premier venue for American contemporary craft and served as a window to California artistry and creativity that was previously unknown to the rest of the country. Moore and her show staff were let go by the Pasadena Art Museum when the institution became the Norton Simon in 1974, but through Moore's continued passion, two more independent "California Design" shows were held in 1974 and 1976.

From 1978 to 1981, Eudorah Moore served as crafts coordinator at the National Endowment for the Arts. In this position, she campaigned for greater recognition of crafts on a national scale and worked on initiatives to secure the future of craft in America. In particular, she instituted a grant program that encouraged craft practitioners and artists to work in collaboration with architects, planners, and builders. Moore saw crafts and design as essential components in the lives of everyone and in all her initiatives, she sought to place handmade goods in the greater perspective of society.

Moore was recognized many times over for her tireless promotion of the arts both in California and across the nation. She received the Trailblazer Award of the National Home Fashions League in 1971, the Smith College Medal in 1973, and an honorary doctorate from the California College of Arts & Crafts (now California College of the Arts) in 1979. She was made an Honorary College of Fellows member of the American Craft Council in 1980. The October/November 1981 issue of American Craft states that "With an unflagging interest, intelligence, and energy, Eudorah Moore has celebrated the American craftsman as designer, artist and vital force." Through her exhibitions and national campaigns, Moore not only helped elevate California crafts and design, but also the status of handmade goods in America.