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Craft and the Creative Process


The Smithsonian Institution's Archives of American Art will open the exhibition "Craft and the Creative Process" on Friday, June 1, 2001. The exhibition will be on view through Oct. 5, 2001 in the Archives' New York Regional Center. This exhibition celebrates Nanette L. Laitman's gift to the Archives of American Art of $538,000 for the creation of the Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft in America, an unprecedented initiative to document the life and work of America's leading craft artists. During this five-year project, the Archives will record and transcribe 100 oral history interviews with key figures in American craft. The grant also will support a major campaign to collect the papers of prominent artists working in clay, glass, fiber, metal and wood. This project will be realized in association with the American Craft Museum.

On display will be a selection of some of the Archives' most significant papers documenting the life and work of the leading practitioners in the field of American craft. The exhibition will include an assortment of materials from a variety of artists, dealers, art administrators and others, including letters from such artists as Dale Chihuly, Robert Arneson and Beatrice Wood; photographs of Harvey K. Littleton and the first glass-blowing workshop; rare printed materials from craft schools and associations; Claire Zeisler' s notes and instructions for her fiber art; student notebooks of silversmith Arthur Pulos; unpublished writings by potters Marguerite and Frans Wildenhain; the journal of dealer Barbara Fendrick regarding commissioned works by Albert Paley; and Marianne Strengell's textile samples. (left: Harvey K. Littleton trimming the lip of a vase with glassworker's shears in his first glass studio in Verona, Wisconsin, 1962. Photograph by Italo Scanga. Harvey K. Littleton Papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution; right: Potter Marguerite Wildenhain (1897-1985) in her studio, ca. 1945. Marguerite Wildenhain Papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Photo by Otto Hagel, ©1998 Center for Creative Photography, The University of Arizona Foundation)

Selections from the Archives' collections of personal interviews also will be made available at a special listening station. These sound recordings of Anni Albers, Vivika Heino, John Prip, Rudy Autio, Wendell Castle, Merry Renk, and other artists recount their reminiscences about the craft movement, including such topics as the roots of craft education, the development of the American craft market, and issues of patronage and influence.

Since 1954, the Archives of American Art has provided researchers worldwide with access to the largest collection of primary source materials documenting the history of the visual arts in America from the Colonial period to the present. Among the collection's 14.6 million items are letters and diaries of artists and collectors; manuscripts of critics and scholars; records of museums, galleries and schools; photographs of art world figures and events; works of art on paper; and oral and video history interviews.

A research institute of the Smithsonian since 1970, the Archives fulfills its ongoing mission to collect, preserve and make accessible for study the documentation of this country's rich artistic legacy. As a result, the Archives has played a pivotal role in expanding scholarship and illuminating the history of art in America for the benefit of future generations.

The New York City Regional Center of the Archives of American Art is located at 1285 Avenue of the Americas (between 51st and 52nd Sts.), Lobby Level, PaineWebber Building, New York, N.Y. 10019. Hours: 9:30-5:00, Mon.-Fri.; no appointment required but calling ahead is recommended (information as of 4/01)

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This page was originally published in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information. rev. 5/23/11

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