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A Turn at the Wheel, A Match Made in D.C., Culture of Support

A Turn at the Wheel, A Match Made in D.C., Culture of Support

A Turn at the Wheel, A Match Made in D.C., Culture of Support

December/January 2012 issue of American Craft magazine
Mediums Clay Fiber

Sarah Millfelt, director of Northern Clay Center in Minneapolis. Photo: Christian Novak

A Turn at the Wheel
"They are very, very big shoes to fill," Sarah Millfelt says of her predecessor, Emily Galusha. In October, Millfelt became the director of Northern Clay Center in Minneapolis. Galusha, who announced her retirement in 2010, led the nonprofit for 17 years, guiding its growth into one of the United States' largest institutions supporting ceramics.

Yet Millfelt is equally a veteran of the organization - and that's one of the many qualities that made her a top candidate for the job."We talked to a lot of great people from various parts of the country," board chair Ellen Watters says, "but when all was said and done, it was clear to us that Sarah had an incredible passion for the work of NCC as well as great experience with the organization."

The energetic 35-year-old has been on staff since 1999, when, bearing a BFA in ceramics from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, she was hired as an assistant to the education director, managing NCC's budding outreach program; about a year later, Millfelt was directing the program. In her most recent role, she was deputy director of programs, responsible for education and artist grants programs, and, in the past three years, new programming for older adults.

She seems equally thrilled and humbled to be at the helm: "There are so many great brains in the organization right now," she says, nodding to the staff, studio and teaching artists, and board. Like Watters, she anticipates NCC will continue to expand its ambitious level of diverse programming - from international exhibitions to summer clay camps for youth to its always-anticipated annual American Pottery Festival - but she's also looking ahead, at the macro picture.

As champions of clay in an electronic age, "our biggest challenge as an organization is also our biggest opportunity for growth," Millfelt says. "How are we going to stay relevant as we move forward?"
~Julie K. Hanus

A Match Made in D.C.
Two distinguished Wash­ington institutions are joining forces: The Textile Museum has announced plans to move onto George Washington University's Foggy Bottom campus, into a planned 35,000-square-foot facility that will also house the future George Washington University Museum, all scheduled to open in mid-2014.

The textile collection will be a cornerstone of the joint museum, with gallery space and programming dedicated to the medium year-round. The Textile Learning Center (a hands-on activity gallery), the Arthur D. Jenkins Library of Textile Arts, and the museum shop will also move to the new location, just four blocks from the White House. Both museums' names will be on the building.

The unique partnership goes beyond just sharing physical space, however; the two organizations will also work together to expand scholarship and education. GWU plans to integrate collections from both institutions into academic studies, cultivating the next generation of textile and craft scholars.

The school is also building a 20,000-square-foot conservation and resource center in nearby Loudoun County, Virginia, on the university's Science and Technology campus. The center will include a preservation laboratory and space for scholars to access and study both institutions' collections.

As close as the organizations will be, some important divisions will remain. "The mission of The Textile Museum will not change, and the museum staff will continue to manage care of the collection and have continued responsibility for exhibitions, programs, education, and scholarly activities," explains Textile Museum communications and marketing manager Katy Clune.
~Andrew Zoellner

Culture of Support
In a challenging economy, it's uplifting to see a surge of support for craft at the institutional level. In late 2010, Emily Zilber joined Museum of Fine Arts, Boston as its first Ronald C. and Anita L. Wornick Curator of Contemporary Decorative Arts. Then, last summer, the Smithsonian's Renwick Gallery shared its good news: the fulfillment of a challenge gift that endowed a second curator of craft at the institution.

This fall, the Renwick had even more to celebrate, announcing an endowment to support its first curator of craft, set up by Fleur Bresler. Bresler, with her late husband Charles, is a longtime collector and advocate; Nicholas Bell, a curator at the Renwick since 2009, now holds the title of Fleur and Charles Bresler Curator of American Craft and Dec­orative Art.
~Julie K. Hanus