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"Present Tense: 2019" Conference

"Present Tense: 2019" Conference

Black conference poster hanging against a trellis in a convention space

The American Craft Council hosted a national conversation in Philadelphia in October 2019. Through eight main stage moments and four object stories featuring 42 speakers, the "Present Tense" main stage explored craft’s relevance as a powerful catalyst for navigating and making meaning in an increasingly complex present.

Main Stage Moments

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Toward a Healthy Craft Ecosystem

Six panelists representing Philadelphia’s robust, interwoven craft movement share how they serve and are supported by the greater craft community. Can this case study inspire similar conversations in other cities?



Person speaking at a podium with with an image of a colorful tapestry behind them

Crafting Stories, Storytellers, and Storytelling Machines in the Tense Present

What do we talk about when we talk about craft? Where do we write when we write about craft? How do we publish when we publish on craft? Hrag Vartanian sets the stage for three days of conversation about craft as a catalyst for contemporary American life.


Two people holding mics in conversation at a coffee table with a curtain behind them

Gear Shift

How can craft participate in our current paradigm-shattering age of technology and political dispute? This conversation draws on craft history for an answer, from the emergence of American industry in the 19th century to the proliferation of avant-garde ideas from the Bauhaus in the 20th.


Panel of speakers at a coffee table with a curtain behind them

Making a Seat at the Table: Women Transform Woodworking

Organized in conjunction with a concurrent exhibition at The Center for Art in Wood, this interactive discussion tackles the ways that women makers are deploying their work to build a more sustainable, equitable, and inclusive future.


  • Jennifer-Navva Milliken, artistic director, The Center for Art in Wood


Panel of speakers at a coffee table with a curtain behind them

Where We Learn / How We Learn: De-Coding Craft Education

How can we generate a more expansive and inclusive way of making and teaching craft? This panel interrogates the contemporary systems through which craft is taught, passed down, or picked up and investigates alternative ways craft may come to be valued and understood.



Two people interacting at a coffee table one touching a cardboard box with a slideshow image behind them

Archives Live

This conversation illuminated the one-on-one interactions that curators share with the craft world’s notable artists and figures in their homes and studios before a collection is acquired and made public. The memory recall that occurs in real time, triggered by decades-old documents, often becomes a powerful narrative delivered in the moment.


Panel of people sitting around a coffee table with a presentation slideshow behind them

What Craft Offers

This roundtable between artists whose work traverses disciplines, cultures, and categories explores how practices and concepts of “art” and “craft” continue to transform contemporary making. Through a lively, candid conversation, we will explore such topics as the role of indigenous practices in contemporary art, the power of women artists in our community, and what we mean by craft today.



Two people standing and playing instruments together on stage with two people seated behind with a slideshow image in the backdrop

Craft Is Long

This session connects multiple craft communities through music, storytelling, and conversation. If craft is long and art is the newest iteration, connecting studio craft to folklife and storytelling helps us all understand the depth, breadth, and duration of craft.



Object Stories

Person presenting at a podium beside a ceramic cup on a pedestal with slideshow image in backdrop

Jennifer Ling Datchuk, artist-recipient of ACC’s 2017 Emerging Voices Award, shares about two of her projects in porcelain.

Person presenting at a podium beside a doll on a pedestal

Vashti DuBois, founder and executive director of The Colored Girls Museum, shares about her handmade dolls that have been passed down between generations.

Person presenting at a podium with slideshow image in backdrop

Raven Halfmoon, one of ACC’s 2019 Emerging Voices shortlist artists, shares about her powerful ceramic work and the significance of her ribbon skirts.

Person holding a comb and a mic presenting with a slideshow image behind them

Lucille Tenazas, a graphic designer and the associate dean of the School of Art, Media and Technology of Parsons School of Design, shares about handmade hair pins from her childhood. Lucille also serves on the ACC’s board of trustees.


Conference Impact Off the Main Stage

“Present Tense: 2019” drew upon the spirit of Philadelphia as a craft capital, with participants exploring the city via walking and bus tours and celebrating local craft ecosystem at after-hours events.

Thank You to Our Program Contributors for Their Generous Collaboration and Financial Support

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