Our History

Our History

Published on Monday, January 23, 2012.

Webb unwinding at home at her potter's wheel.




1939: Led by Aileen Osborn Webb, an affiliation of craft groups called the Handcraft Cooperative League of America is formed to develop markets in metropolitan areas for rural craftsmen. This same year, the American Handcraft Council, a separate organization formed by Anne Morgan (a friend and neighbor of Webb) incorporates in Delaware. 
1940: America House, a retail outlet, opens at 7 East 54th Street in New York City. The shop is a cooperative operated by the League. 
1941: The Handcraft Cooperative League of America publishes the first issue of a magazine, as yet untitled, and sends it to all craftsman consignors of America House. (In 1942, the magazine is named Craft Horizons.)
1942: The American Handcraft Council led by Anne Morgan and the Handcraft Cooperative League of America led by Webb merge into a single organization, the American Craftsmen’s Cooperative Council, Inc.
1943: Recognizing the importance of its educational work, the Cooperative Council initiates the American Craftsmen’s Educational Council. The Council is granted a provisional charter by the Board of Regents on behalf of the Education Department of New York “as an educational association to provide education in handcrafts and to further and stimulate public interest in and appreciation of the work of handcraftsmen.” (An absolute charter is issued in 1948.) America House moves to 485 Madison Avenue and provides space for the expanding activities of both the Cooperative and Educational Councils.
1944: The first student, a New Hampshire marine discharged after combat injuries, arrives at Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH, to attend the School for American Craftsmen, sponsored by the American Craftsmen’s Educational Council and the Dartmouth College Student Workshop. (In 1949 the school becomes affiliated with Rochester Institute of Technology, NY.) 
1949: The Educational Council inaugurates its new gallery at America House, relocated at 32 East 52nd Street, with the exhibit “The Modern Embroideries of Mariska Karasz,” coinciding with the publication of her book Adventures in Stitches.


1950: The Council inaugurates “Young Americans,” a national competition for craftsmen under 30. The selected entries are exhibited at America House. (Twelve additional “Young Americans” competitions are held through 1988.) 
1951: The American Craftsmen’s Cooperative Council dissolves and its directors are elected trustees of the American Craftsmen’s Educational Council. America House is incorporated. 
1953: “Designer Craftsmen USA 1953,” a national exhibition initiated by the Council, is shown at the Brooklyn Museum (through January 4, 1954) and later at the Art Institute of Chicago and the San Francisco Museum of Art. 
1955: The Regents of the University of the State of New York grant permission to shorten the name of the American Craftsmen’s Educational Council to American Craftsmen’s Council (ACC), and to amend the purpose to “provide that the corporation may own and operate a museum.” 
1956: The Council opens the Museum of Contemporary Crafts in a brownstone purchased by Webb at 29 West 53rd Street in New York City, with the exhibition “Craftsmanship in a Changing World” featuring 314 objects by 180 craftsmen from 19 states. The ACC Library, part of the Council since the 1940s, becomes a formal space in the new building. 
1957: “Craftsmen Today,” the first national conference of American craftsmen is sponsored by the ACC at Asilomar, CA, June 12-14, with 450 people attending.
1957: In October, the Council begins the newsletter Forum to serve as its “conversation in print” with members. (The title changes to Outlook in 1960, and in 1977 information in the newsletter becomes part of the Craft World section in Craft Horizons magazine.)
1958: An exhibition of American crafts is organized by the Council and shown in the U.S. Pavilion of the Brussels World’s Fair. 
1958: ACC sponsors a second national conference, “Dimensions of Design,” held June 23-25 at Lake Geneva, WI.
1959: The Council divests itself of ownership of the stock of America House. In October, the shop moves to the ground floor, mezzanine and part of the second floor of a brownstone purchased by Webb at 44 West 53rd Street in New York City. The third and fourth floors were rented by the Council. (In 1960 the building won a design award from the Fifth Avenue Association.) 
1959: “Exploring the Craftsman’s World” is the theme of ACC’s third annual conference, held June 19-21, at Silver Bay in Lake George, NY, drawing 510 participants.
1959: At the Second International Congress of Contemporary Ceramics, Belgium, the U.S. exhibit, organized by the Council, wins the Grand Prix des Nations in a field of some 25 competing.


1960: Craft Horizons magazine is officially incorporated into the Council. Subscribers to the magazine become subscribing members of the Council at an annual fee of $6.
1960: A $100,000 grant from the Rockefeller Foundation enables the Council to develop its craft research service and to continue its photographic and documentary survey of contemporary crafts, including the dissemination of “Your Portable Museum,” a slide and filmstrip lending service. A few years later, the Craft Research Service expands to the Research & Education Department, which throughout the 1960s-1980s publishes books, pamphlets, reports and conference proceedings. 
1960: The Council sponsors six regional conferences across the U.S. as a first step in organizing a regional program. Six regional assemblies are later formed across the country and various conferences, workshops, and exhibitions (occasionally) are held by the volunteer assemblies through the late 1970s. 
1960: The Council-sponsored “Designer-Craftsmen USA 1960” opens at the Museum of Contemporary Crafts (MCC). Some 1,109 craftsmen from 44 states submitted 1,992 objects from which 114 pieces were selected by a jury.
1961: “Creative Research in the Crafts” is the theme of ACC’s fourth national conference held August 26-29, at the University of Washington in Seattle, WA. 
1963: The American Institute of Architects awards the Council a citation for, among other achievements, “the outstanding exhibitions held at its Museum of Contemporary Crafts in New York.” 
1963: The first Council fellowship, an award of $2,000 provided by the Designer Shoe Guild, is given to John Charles Karrasch to research the fabrication of molten glass. Later this year, a second award is given to Clayton Bailey to research the construction of test kilns for salt glazing.
1964: The Council creates a photographic essay on five studio craftsmen for display at the New York World’s Fair, Pavilion of American Interiors. 
1964: The First World Congress of Craftsmen, organized by Webb and Margaret Patch, is sponsored by the Council and convened June 8-19 at Columbia University in New York City, NY. It leads to the formation of the World Crafts Council, which is headquartered at Council offices until 1984. During the First World Congress of Craftsmen, ACC also holds its fifth national conference.
1965: Museum West of the American Craft Council opens in Ghirardelli Square, San Francisco, CA. (It operates through July 1968.) 
1966: “Craftsmen USA ‘66” is the umbrella title for six regional competitions sponsored by the Council in cooperation with, and shown at, major museums and art centers across the country. The Council’s Research and Education Department publishes The National Directory of Craft Courses. (The department issues additional directories, bibliographies and guides through 1974.) 
1966: Marking a “first” in Council history, the ACC Northeast Regional Assembly sponsors “Confrontation,” a craft fair and conference, at Stowe, VT. The fair is repeated the next year at Mt. Snow, VT. As the Northeast Craft Fair, it moves to Bennington, VT, in 1969, to Rhinebeck, NY, in 1973, and to West Springfield, MA, in 1984. 
1968: At a press conference in Lincoln Center, New York City, the Johnson Wax Company of Racine, WI, announces plans to acquire the works of approximately 100 of the nation’s master craftsmen for a traveling exhibition, “Objects: USA, The Johnson Collection of Contemporary Crafts.” Curator and gallery owner Lee Nordness and MCC director Paul J. Smith start work on the collection in July. It begins a nationwide tour at the National Collection of Fine Arts at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., on October 2, 1969. An international tour also occurs.  
1968: ACC celebrates its 25th anniversary and commences a members’ fundraising drive. From its beginning in 1943, the Council relied on the substantial support of Webb to realize its programs. In a letter to members, ACC Executive Vice President Donald L. Wyckoff explains, “We are now taking all possible measures to make ACC self-sustaining.” 
1969: ACC holds its sixth national conference at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, NM June 7-13, where the exhibition “Young Americans 1969” is previewed at the University of New Mexico Art Gallery before a national tour. For the first time, entries for the competition are juried by slides, rather than by actual work. During the conference, the ACC hosts its 26th annual meeting, during which members vote on the board recommendation to change the name of the American Craftsmen’s Council to one more encompassing: the American Crafts Council. 


1971: America House closes after 30 years. The building, at 44 West 53rd Street, becomes the headquarters of the Council with a small shop, the American Crafts Council Gallery, on the main floor and mezzanine. 
1973: ACC’s seventh national conference occurs at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, CO from June 5-9, with 600 attendees. The Council’s Research & Education department sets up a mini-library and gives “information clinics” for conferees. 
1973: The ACC Northeast Regional Assembly hires a director to run the Northeast Craft Fair and opens an office in New Paltz, NY. 
1974: The ACC Northeast Regional Assembly votes to set up a board of directors for the NE Craft Fair. Jurying of exhibitors begins. 
1975: R. R. Bowker Co. publishes Contemporary Crafts Market Place, a 500-page directory compiled by the Council’s Research & Education Department. The American Library Association cites it as an outstanding reference book of the year. 
1975: The Council honors 17 men and women who have contributed significantly to the American craft movement. Called Fellows of ACC, they are inducted into the Academy of Fellows at the Council’s annual meeting held simultaneously in New York and San Francisco by telecommunication. An ACC committee nominates additional Fellows in 1976, and in subsequent years the Fellows themselves elect their peers.  
1975: The Northeast Craft Fair becomes an independent operation as a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Council with an elected board of directors. It is named Northeast Craft Fair, Ltd.
1976: The first Pacific States Craft Fair at Fort Mason in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, San Francisco, CA, draws more than 38,000 visitors. The new venture grew out of a Council agreement with the National Park Service, in which the Council was program developer for the service. The fair becomes an annual event run by Northeast Craft Fair, Ltd beginning in 1978. 
1977: Northeast Craft Fair, Ltd. sponsors the first Winter Market, in the Civic Center, Baltimore, MD, with 300 craftspeople. Later in the year, the organization’s name is changed to American Craft Enterprises, Inc. (ACE). 
1977: The council’s eighth national conference, held June 6-12 at Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, NC, focuses on the historical traditions and evolutions of the new South.
1978: The Council’s property and the site of the MCC at 29 West 53rd Street, New York City, is sold to the Museum of Modern Art for the latter’s expansion. Council staff moves to 22 West 55th Street.
1978: A collection of handmade ornaments by American craftsmen is assembled through ACC under the direction of MCC’s Paul J. Smith for display on the “Creativity Tree” at the residence of Vice President and Mrs. Walter Mondale. The ornaments become part of the permanent collection of the museum. 
1979: The Museum of Contemporary Crafts, now called the American Craft Museum, reopens at 44 West 53rd Street. The Regents of the University of the State of New York amend the charter of the American Crafts Council to change the name to American Craft Council. Craft Horizons is newly titled American Craft
1979: Aileen Osborn Webb, the Council’s founder, president and chairman (1958-1976) dies at her home in Garrison, NY, at age 87. 
1979: The National Endowment for the Arts awards the Council a $150,000 challenge grant. A second challenge grant, of $500,000, is awarded in 1985. 


1980: “Art for Use,” an exhibition featuring 100 works by 72 artists, is organized by the museum at the request of the National Fine Arts Committee of the XIIIth Olympic Winter Games, 1980, Lake Placid, NY, where it is shown. 
1981: American Craft publishes a nine-page article in the October/November issue on the 25th anniversary of the American Craft Museum, including a complete listing of exhibitions presented since 1956. During a benefit dinner marking the museum anniversary, the Council awards its first Gold Medal honor to Anni Albers.
1982: ACC headquarters move to 401 Park Avenue South, New York City. The building at 44 West 53rd Street, deeded by Webb to the Council in 1969, continues to house the museum and library.
1982: American Craft Museum II opens at International Paper Plaza, 77 West 45th Street, New York City, with the exhibition “Papermaking USA: History, Process, Art.” (It operates through August 1985.) 
1984: The Council negotiates the exchange of its property at 44 West 53rd Street for the construction of a condominium unit in the office building to be erected on the site by CBS Inc. and the Gerald D. Hines Interests. The museum offices, ACC Library and Your Portable Museum slide service vacate 44 West 53rd Street and move to 45 West 45th Street.
1986: The ACC holds its ninth national conference, “Art/Culture/Future: American Craft ‘86”, June 4-7, at the Oakland Museum, CA. More than 850 attend.
1986: The American Craft Museum reopens in an 18,000 square foot, three-level condominium at 40 West 53rd Street in New York City, with the exhibition “CRAFT TODAY: Poetry of the Physical.” 
1987: American Craft Enterprises (ACE) launches Craft Fair Minneapolis/St. Paul, which becomes an annual event. ACE also starts American Craft at the Armory, a retail show of one-of-a-kind and limited-edition works by 100 craftsmen in a gallery-like environment at the Seventh Regiment Armory, New York City. The Armory show is repeated annually 1988-1991. 
1988: Through a $25,000 grant from the Prospect Hill Foundation, the Council completes the first stages in the development of a computer database in the Council library. 
1989: “Craft Today USA” opens at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris, its first stop on a two-year tour. Organized by ACM, and curated by Paul J. Smith, the show includes some 200 works and visits 15 countries until December 1992.


1990: The headquarters of the Council relocate to a loft at 72 Spring Street in New York City’s SoHo arts district that provides threefold expansion for the Council library. In a restructuring, the Council establishes the American Craft Museum as an independent organization and provides the museum free use of the Council’s condominium property on 53rd Street. The subsidiary ACE is merged with the Council. 
1990: In May, ACE introduces its retail show in Atlanta in cooperation with the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation.  
1992: The Council library receives a gift of 349 volumes from the estate of the stained glass artist Robert Sowers, adding to significant donations made in 1990 by Ed Rossbach and Mildred Constantine. A benefit that same year raises $96,000 to support library programs. 
1993: The Council celebrates its 50th anniversary and the Year of American Craft with ceremonies held at the Sculpture Objects & Functional Art (SOFA) expo in Chicago. The August/September issue of American Craft is devoted to the anniversary.  
1996: ACC Craft Fair Baltimore, greatly expanded, celebrates its 20th year. 
1997: In a new program, the Council gives grants to several nonprofit organizations for projects that advance understanding of the crafts. The Council sells its condominium property to the American Craft Museum. 
1999: The Council launches craftcouncil.org.


2000: Seven wholesale and three retail craft shows are presented by the Council during the year in Atlanta, GA, Baltimore, MD, Charlotte, NC, Chicago, IL, San Francisco, CA, Sarasota, FL, and St. Paul, MN. 
2001: The catalog of the Council library’s holdings becomes accessible for reference online. The Council initiates an annual Emerging Artist Grant Program. 
2002: The Council renames its annual awards honoring excellence in craft the Aileen Osborn Webb Awards, which include the Gold Medal for consummate craftsmanship, Awards of Distinction to individuals and organizations, and the College of Fellows. 
2002: The American Craft Museum, a separate organization from the Council since 1990, changes its name to the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD), reflecting the new position of craft and its integration with the other disciplines. (In September of 2008, the museum moves to 2 Columbus Circle in New York City.)
2003: The Aileen Osborn Webb Awards are presented at SOFA Chicago. 
2004: The Council closes its Highland, NY, office, integrating the craft show operations with other Council programs in the New York City headquarters. In a continuing focus on education, the Council invites a group of curators, artists and educators to a discussion on the potential for a national exhibition project. 
2005: The Council appoints a director of education to implement educational programming, including a national conference. A benefit for the Council, The Bash for Craft!, is held in Palm Beach, FL, at which the Aileen Osborn Webb Award in Philanthropy is presented to Sam Maloof.
2006: The standalone Council newsletter is relaunched as News & Views. (In 2011, the newsletter is renamed the Current and is issued in a quarterly electronic version.)
2006: The Council holds its first conference in 20 years in Houston, TX. Entitled “Shaping the Future of Craft,” it is a national leadership, invitational conference. 
2009: The Council holds its next conference “Creating A New Craft Culture” in Minneapolis, MN. This conference is open enrollment, serving a wide spectrum of audiences and offering a platform for ongoing dialogue on the current state of craft—inside and out—and beyond the field of craft.
2009: The Council begins hosting “convenings,” curated, peer-to-peer conversations affording key stakeholders in the field of craft a chance to articulate the issues, challenges and concerns they are facing in the field today. The first of these events takes place at the ACC conference. 


2010: After 67 years in New York City, the American Craft Council moves its headquarters and library to Minneapolis, MN. The Council hosts the second convening in partnership with Penland School of Craft.
2011: The Council hosts its third convening in partnership with California College of Art in San Francisco.
2011: American Craft magazine celebrates its 70th anniversary with an issue featuring a timeline of craft history covering the past seven decades.
2011: The Council presents a retrospective exhibition, “Gold: American Craft Council Gold Medalists, 1994-2010” during the SOFA Chicago show.

For more information on specific Council events and activities, check out the ACC Library Digital Collections.