The Year in Craft: 2018

The Year in Craft: 2018

Published on Wednesday, December 26, 2018.
2018 Year in Craft

Clockwise from the top left, here are a few scenes from year: the ACC Awards, the Renwick's Burning Man exhibition, ACC's new executive director, a crafty submission from Dessa's music video, and MAD's first winner of the Burke Prize.

In 2018 we saw craft appear in new lights – both entertaining and powerful, we witnessed makers and work gain well-deserved recognition, craft and art organizations went through some significant transitions, and we lost a few friends. “The Week in Craft” is one of ACC’s ways of keeping tabs on what's happening in the field and beyond, and at the close of each year we like to take a look back through each week and share the highlights.

Research into the importance of craft and making in various aspects of our lives continues to build. For example, in Canada, doctors officially prescribed art as medicine, CBS News reported that working with your hands may be key to making our brains happy, and the New York Times confirmed that maker education has incredible benefits. Despite continued threats from the current presidential administration, the National Endowment for the Arts received increased funding this year. Although the world lost a wonderful cultural institution – and many works and artifacts – when Brazil’s National Museum was gutted by flames, we have also seen craft appearing in new and exciting places. Vogue highlighted Native designers who are reclaiming their culture through fashion, and Minneapolis writer, emcee, and Doomtree member Dessa invited fans from around the world to stitch, draw, and frost lyrics to her song "5 out of 6."

The year was full of exhibitions pushing boundaries in a variety of different ways and with a variety of different outcomes. Sarah Rose Sharp critiqued “Fired Up: Contemporary Glass by Women Artists” and explored the question of whether or not “female glass art” is a necessary distinction from “glass art.” The Renwick Gallery presented “No Spectators: the Art of Burning Man” to mixed reviews. The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture acquired pieces from the blockbuster movie Black Panther. Plus, it was the inaugural year of New York City Jewelry Week.

Art lending libraries paved the way for the next generation of art collectors, the Smithsonian is explored the use of “interactive androids,” and the Met made 50,000 resources available online. Janelle Shane’s coordinated a partnership between a computer program and the Ravelry knitting community, and we saw the creation of the “Cyclo Knitter,” which allows commuters to make a scarf while they wait for the train. Craft also appeared in new, more colorful campaign signs, driven by the abundance of female candidates.

The road is long, but the field continues to make progress on diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. The Rhode Island School of Design announced a museum program allowing new US citizens to have free access to its facility and exhibitions, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston hosted its first ever naturalization ceremony for new US citizens. The New York Times highlighted the work of museums to hire more people of color for curator positions. “QuiltCon” was an explosion of protests and calls to action this year. More recently we saw the yellow hazard vest become the latest piece of fashion to help support and communicate activism during the French protests.

We honored the recipients of our 2018 ACC Awards in October. United States Artists announced its 2018 Fellows, each of whom received an unrestricted $50,000 grant. The National Endowment for the Arts announced the recipients of the Heritage Fellowships, awarded to those making “significant contributions to the nation’s folk and traditional arts.” Cannupa Hanska Luger won the inaugural $50,000 Burke Prize awarded by the Museum of Arts and Design. Finally, two ACC Fellows were recognized: Jeweler Sharon Church received a lifetime achievement award, and glass artist Paul Stankard received an alumnus award.

We welcomed Sarah Schultz as our new executive director. Chris Taylor moved from the Clay Studio in Philadelphia to start as Pilchuck Glass School’s new executive director. The Clay Studio hired Jennifer D. Martin to take its helm. Fuller Craft Museum announced Denise Lebica as its new director, North Bennet Street School hired Sarah Turner as its new president, and Mary Ceruti stepped in as the new executive director of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. A few folks have stepped away from their leadership roles too, including Anderson Ranch Arts Center’s Nancy Wilhelms, the Queens Museum’s Laura Raicovich, and the Society of Arts and Crafts’ Fabio Fernandez.

The craft world lost some of the greats this year, including ACC Fellows Betty WoodmanWendell CastlePaula Winokur, and Katherine Westphal. We also said farewell to textile artists Ethel Stein and Mary Giles, LA ceramist Dora De Larios, critic and glass expert James Yood, handbag designer Judith Lieber, sculptor Robert Indiana, longtime ACC show artist Mark Orr, and chef, television host, and former ACC Rare Craft Award juror Anthony Bourdain.