Smithsonian Craft Show Panel: Craft Today – Washington, D.C. & Beyond
As part of the 34th annual Smithsonian Craft Show, Craft in America’s executive director, Carol Sauvion, hosted a panel entitled “Craft Today: Washington, D.C. & Beyond.” This discussion on the contemporary craft movement included voices from diverse physical and philosophical locations in American Craft: Nicholas Bell, Curator-in-Charge, Renwick Gallery; Cliff Lee, Artist; Patrick Benesh-Liu, Associate Editor, Ornament Magazine; Dona Look, Artist; and Jane Milosch, Director, Smithsonian Provenance Research Initiative.
Hosted at the National Building Museum on April 21, this was the opening panel of “The Great Collectors Series: Finding Beauty at the Smithsonian Craft Show.” The title of the panel, “Craft Today,” references Paul Smith’s career which is marked by his role as Director of the Museum of Arts and Design. Sauvion introduced the panel discussion, saying:
There have been changes in the craft field. Now, intense study, mastery and skill building in one medium are often replaced by what art historian Jenni Sorkin refers to as interdisciplinarity: the incorporation of many types of materials and techniques into one practice. Add the new technologies such as 3D printing and computer aided design and we are once again challenged to describe exactly what craft is. Are there crafts that truly have a sense of place? Has the life of a craft artist changed over the past generation? How have individual practices evolved? These are questions we will attempt to answer today.
Each panelist responded to the larger prompt and was asked to consider particular areas of interest depending on their experiences. To get a sense of some of the perspectives and thoughts offered in the panel, we caught up with Patrick Benesh-Liu, associate editor of Ornament Magazine this week. Benesh-Liu is a craft journalist and a lifelong observer of the field, having grown up participating in the craft world alongside his parents.
Benesh-Liu offered a summary of his contributions to the panel below:
What I think is important is not just what’s changed in craft, but how craft has stayed the same and what it is in its essence. What craft is, and always has been, is a way for humans to consciously shape our world and our environment, and to connect with one another.
I love craft because it is the antidote to the digital world. Where in the digital world one can have instant connections, but no physical presence, and stimuli and entertainment, but no direct interaction, craft is implicitly involved with the human hand in creativity, and with the relationships one person makes with another.
What we need to do is create our own community in the digital world so all of this beauty, from the objects that are created to the people who make them, can be found and embraced.