American Craft Council Announces Gwynne Rukenbrod Smith as Senior Director of Programs and Partnerships

American Craft Council Announces Gwynne Rukenbrod Smith as Senior Director of Programs and Partnerships

Portrait of Gwynne Rukenbrod Smith
Portrait of Gwynne Rukenbrod Smith

Gwynne Rukenbrod Smith, a widely respected member of the national craft community, has been named senior director of programs and partnerships at the American Craft Council, a national nonprofit based in Minneapolis.

“Gwynne has a passion for craft community engagement and is best known for her work at the intersection of craft and entrepreneurship,” said Andrea Specht, executive director of ACC. “Given Gwynne's extensive knowledge, expertise, and connections in the world of contemporary American craft as well as her skill in arts administration, nonprofit leadership and business acumen—not to mention her track record as a respected coach and mentor to artists and staff—I can't imagine a better colleague to join our senior leadership team at this time.”

Over the past 17 months, Rukenbrod Smith has contracted with ACC to oversee the creation and implementation of the Emerging Artists Cohort, a program designed to help participants strengthen their business skills and forge professional paths through workshops, coaching, and grants of $10,000 per Cohort member; the “Object As…” project, which supported six visual craft-based artists to produce original objects that were featured in the Spring 2022 issue of American Craft, the curators’ Object Stories online, and American Craft Podcast episodes; and Future Insights conversations, a series of talks engaging a diverse artist community on their current challenges, innovative ideas, and future insights. She also partnered with the ACC Fund Development team to secure the largest grant ACC has ever received from the Windgate Charitable Foundation, which will fund the Emerging Artists Cohort for the next three years.

Rukenbrod Smith’s team will be responsible for a diverse suite of programs that includes in-person marketplaces, the emerging artists program related to both the cohort and marketplace, a newly-launched Online Artists Directory, ACC Awards and, in close collaboration with the editorial team, American Craft Forums.

Rukenbrod Smith originally trained as a hot glass artist and ran a glass business for seven years before focusing her full attention on arts administration. Since making that shift, she served as the first fine craft curator for the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft, executive director of HandMade in America, and executive director of the Society of North American Goldsmiths. She taught professional development and entrepreneurship workshops for craft artists in both rural and urban communities across the United States for over two decades and is deeply committed to helping artists and small business owners expand their markets and create sustainable businesses.

“I am thrilled to be joining the team at the American Craft Council,” Rukenbrod Smith said. “ACC has been a pivotal organization in my 27-year career in craft. I am honored to continue ACC’s support of artists through the various programs we currently offer and will continue to develop in the future. Helping artists and makers find success in the field is what my whole career has focused on, and to be able to take on that role here at ACC is a dream come true.”

Rukenbrod Smith serves as the Craft Your Commerce project director at Mountain BizWorks and the board chair for the North Carolina Glass Center. She will continue to live and work in Asheville, North Carolina.

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