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Craft in America: Expanding Traditions

October 20, 2007 - January 27, 2008


Mingei International Museum is presenting the landmark, nationally touring exhibition, Craft in America: Expanding Traditions, at its Balboa Park museum from October 20, 2007 through January 27, 2008.

Exploring the vitality, history and significance of the handmade in the United States and demonstrating its impact on our nation's cultural heritage, Craft in America is a 200-year historical survey that features nearly 200 works. The touring exhibition includes objects from Mingei International's own collection, and, while in San Diego, is augmented with selected objects from the Museum's substantial collection of contemporary American craft.

Beginning with the Industrial Revolution, the exhibition explores the many cultures and movements that have contributed to the development and refinement of American crafts during the last two centuries -- furniture, ceramics, fiber and textiles, basketry, glass, wood, jewelry and metal. On view are objects by traditional craft makers, designer craftsmen of the Arts & Crafts Movement, the artists of the WPA programs, post World-War II studio craft pioneers and contemporary studio craft artists.

Conceived more than 10 years ago by potter Carol Sauvion, connoisseur and owner of Freehand Gallery in Los Angeles, Craft in America is a multifaceted project that includes a three-part PBS television series "Craft in America - Memory, Landscape, Community." First aired on May 30, 2007 the television series was rebroadcast by KPBS, the Museum's media partner for Craft in America, on three Thursday evenings October 11, 18 and 25, 2007 in conjunction with the exhibition.

"The idea to make the Craft in America television series came to me after a cross-country trip in 1996 when I took my son Noah on a tour of baseball parks and used the occasion to visit craft artists and special craft locations throughout the United States," says Carol. "We learned a lot about the handmade, which seemed to be hiding in plain sight wherever we went."

Whether our eyes are those of sophisticated appreciators or just casual observers, we are likely unaware of the many ways that craft and design touch our lives. " Craft, both historical and contemporary, is all around us," says President Jimmy Carter in his prologue to the exhibition's companion book Craft in America: Celebrating Two Centuries of Artists and Objects. Carter continues, "For me craft recognizes and communicates so much about what we are as a country. It is our identity and our legacy." The book, by Exhibition Curator Jo Lauria and writer Steve Fenton, will be available in The Collectors' Gallery, Mingei International's museum store.

Craft in America: Expanding Traditions is organized by Craft in America, Inc., Los Angeles, chief curator Jo Lauria; and Curatorial Assistance Traveling Exhibitions (CATE), Pasadena, California. This exhibition tour is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts, American Masterpieces: Three Centuries of Artistic Genius.


In November, 2007 Denise Kang of Craft In America provided to Resource Library further information on the exhibition:

Craft in America is a multi-faceted journey into the origin and continuation of craft traditions. The project illustrates the craftsmanship passed from artist to artist over the last two centuries and highlights the cultural significance of this craftsmanship. Ceramics, glass, wood, furniture, metalwork, jewelry, fiber and baskets are included in this ground-breaking project.
"There is an extraordinary wealth of objects that mean so much to who we are as a nation, part of our living heritage, that are often hiding in plain sight," explains Carol Sauvion, executive director of Craft in America. "Everything from the iconic Revere bowl, to a free-form Sam Maloof rocking chair, to a quilt that's been passed down in a family from generation to generation."
Craft In America Three-Part PBS Television Series Airing Nationwide This December
The three-part, high definition PBS documentary will be broadcast to millions of PBS viewers. In each of the three episodes --Memory, Landscape, and Community -- we meet artists in a way that goes beyond the media in which they work. We explore the relationship between what they do, how they do it, and why they have chosen a life of creating art for all to enjoy and appreciate.
Some of the series' featured artists include Mary Jackson -- a basket weaver who continues a South Carolina tradition that was started by slaves from Africa; Richard Notkin -- a Montana potter of protest who makes teapots and tiles that argue eloquently for peace and humanity; and Tom Joyce, a New Mexico blacksmith and recipient of a MacArthur "Genius" fellowship, who instills a sensitivity to the land and its people in each of his works.
Carol Sauvion is creator and co-executive producer of Craft in America. Kyra Thompson is co-executive producer and writer of the series. Directors: Nigel Noble ("Memory"); Daniel Seeger ("Landscape"); Hilary Birmingham ("Community").
Craft in America.is a co-production of Craft in America, Inc. and the Independent Television Service (ITVS) with funding provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), and is presented in association with KCET/Los Angeles. Executive in Charge of production for KCET is Joyce Campbell. Production Executive for KCET is Robert McDonnell.
Experience Craft in America: Nationally Traveling Museum Exhibition
An extensive museum exhibition, Craft in America: Expanding Traditions, began its successful seven-city, two-year tour this past April in Little Rock, AR and continues to San Diego, CA; Houston, TX; Bloomfield Hills, MI; Oklahoma City, OK; and Brockton, MA through 2009.
This landmark historical survey recently received a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Arts and features more than 175 works, spanning a period of nearly two hundred years. Beginning with the Industrial Revolution, the exhibition explores the many cultures and movements that have contributed to the development and refinement of American crafts during the last two centuries. Integrating the various media of handcrafted furniture, ceramics, fiber and textiles, basketry, glass, wood, jewelry and metalwork, the exhibition represents a broad base of craft-makers including: traditional artists, designer craftsmen of the Arts & Crafts Movement, the artists of the WPA programs of the 30s, post World-War II studio craft pioneers and contemporary studio craft artists.
Reading Craft: Illustrated Craft in America Book Featuring Prologue by President Carter Released in October 2007
President Jimmy Carter, a long time craftsman and craft advocate, contributed the prologue to the book, Craft in America: Celebrating Two Centuries of Artists and Objects. Published in October 2007 by Random House imprint Clarkson Potter, this book features more than 250 images and showcases some of the greatest works of craft of the last two centuries. The publication explores what makes craft in America uniquely American while highlighting the objects created by America's most original and esteemed artists.
With an eye to the contribution craft has made to America's vitality, history and identity, Craft in America: Celebrating Two Centuries of Artists and Objects examines: craft as communicator, the evolution of American craft, communities of craft (Shakers, Amish & native movements), and more.
In the prologue to the book, President Jimmy Carter says, "During my presidency, I always had the desire to somehow recognize the skill and singularly American style that was present in handcrafted objects. I was fortunate that Joan Mondale, wife of my vice president, Walter Mondale, shared my love and interest in the expressions of our native artists. Few places in the world display the unbridled creativity exhibited by the tens of thousands of artists who make craft a unique part of the American experience."
Online Craft Source: www.craftinamerica.org
The project's Web site, www.craftinamerica.org, is an online vortex that brings together all elements of this ambitious project. "Our Web site, craftinamerica.org will be an unparalleled resource," says Craft in America Executive Director Carol Sauvion. "If the public wants to learn more about well-known artists, or discover those making creative break-throughs, it's there. Also included are histories, tools, techniques and ways to start learning a craft yourself." The extensive Web site also provides an educator guide for middle and secondary school teachers. It contains plans and activities for students to continue their investigation of craft.
Craft in America continues to enlighten and satisfy the curiosity of all who have looked at a bowl, a necklace, a chair -- and wondered how it came to be, and turned out the way it did.

Exhibition Schedule

Arkansas Arts Center, Little Rock, Arkansas
April 13 through June 24, 2007
Museum of Contemporary Craft, Portland, Oregon
July 22 through September 23, 2007
Mingei International Museum, San Diego, California
October 20, 2007 through January 27, 2008
Houston Center for Contemporary Craft, Houston, Texas
February 22 through May 4, 2008
Cranbrook Art Museum, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan
June 8 through September 14, 2008
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
October 11, 2008 through January 18, 2009
Fuller Craft Museum, Brockton, Massachusetts
February 21 through May 25, 2009


About the museum

Mingei International Museum reveals the beauty of use in folk art, craft and design from all eras and cultures of the world. The word mingei, meaning 'art of the people,' was coined by the revered Japanese scholar Dr. Sôetsu Yanagi by combining the Japanese words for all people (min) and art (gei). Yanagi's teachings awakened people to the essential need to make and use objects that are unfragmented expressions of head, heart and hands.

Established in 1978, Mingei International Museum collects, conserves and exhibits these arts of daily use -- by anonymous craftsmen of ancient times, from traditional cultures of past and present and by historical and contemporary designers.

Mingei International's museums in Balboa Park, San Diego and in Downtown Escondido, California open a window on the great world, revealing similarities and distinctions of individuals and cultures in art of the people, and inspiring people to express their own innate creativity.

-- above museum description excerpted from the museum's website

Mingei International Museum is funded in part by The City of San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture and The County of San Diego Community Enhancement Program and the Community Projects Fund. The museum is located at 1439 El Prado in Balboa Park in San Diego and in Downtown Escondido at 155 West Grand Avenue. Please see the museum's website for hours and admission fees.

Editor's note: RL readers may also enjoy:


and also from the Web:

Craft In America, a non-profit organization with a mission to promote and advance original handcrafted work, through educational programs in all media, presents here a virtual exhibition of objects in the multi-city, multi-year tour of Craft in America: Expanding Traditions. An online video of a portion of the television series is shown here.


and this video:

Craft in America. This 2007 DVD from PBS Home Video includes three 1-hour episodes: "Memory," "Landscape," and "Community," shown in widescreen (16x9 aspect ratio). 180 minutes on 1 disc. PBS says: "This program explores the history and significance of the craft movement in the United States and its impact on the nation's cultural heritage. "Memory" focuses on the historical relevance of craft through the eyes of several contemporary pioneers in the field. "Landscape" examines the interdependent relationship of craft artists to their media and the natural world. "Community," highlights the social and emotional connections that crafts embody."


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