"Present Tense" Conference
"Present Tense" Conference
The American Craft Council hosted a national conversation in Philadelphia in late 2019. Through 8 main stage moments and 4 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 Moment 1:
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?
- Jennifer Zwilling, curator of artistic programs, The Clay Studio
- Elisabeth Agro, Nancy M. McNeil associate curator of American modern and contemporary crafts and decorative arts, Philadelphia Museum of Art
- Ryan Berley, founder, owner, Franklin Fountain and Shane Confectionery
- Seth Bruggeman, associate professor of American studies/history, Temple University
- Syd Carpenter, professor of studio art, Swarthmore College
- Alex Gilliam, co-founder, Tiny WPA, founder, Public Workshop
- Michael Hurwitz, furniture maker, ACC fellow
- Roberto Lugo, ceramist, assistant professor and program head of ceramics, Tyler School of Art and Architecture, Temple University
Main Stage Moment 2:
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.
Main Stage Moment 3:
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.
- Glenn Adamson, curator and writer working at the intersection of craft, design history, and contemporary art, senior scholar, Yale Center for British Art
- Susan S. Szenasy, director of design innovation and former publisher and editor-in-chief, Metropolis magazine
Main Stage Moment 4:
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
- Meg Bye, woodworker and sculptor, founder and principal artist, Knot and Burl Studios
- Emily Bunker, woodworker
- Sarah Marriage, furniture maker and founder, A Workshop of Our Own
- Laura Mays, program director, Fine Woodworking program at the College of the Redwoods in Northern California, founding president, Krenov Foundation
- Janice Smith, furniture maker
- Folayemi (Fo) Wilson, artist, designer, educator, independent curator, and writer, board of trustees, ACC
Main Stage Moment 5:
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.
- PJ Gubatina Policarpio, educator, curator, and community organizer
- Paul Sacaridiz, executive director, Haystack Mountain School of Crafts
- Carol Zou, artist, writer, educator, and cultural organizer
Main Stage Moment 6:
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.
- Mary Savig, curator of manuscripts, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution
- Judith Schaechter, artist and ACC fellow
Main Stage Moment 7:
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.
- Sharon M. Louden, artist, educator, and advocate for artists, editor, Living and Sustaining a Creative Life series, artistic director of visual arts, Chautauqua Institution
- Raheleh T. Filsoofi, multi-disciplinary artist, assistant professor of ceramics, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley
- Sonya Kelliher-Combs, mixed media artist, arts advocate, educator, and curator
- Beth Lipman, artist, board of trustees, ACC, ACC fellow
Main Stage Moment 8:
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.
- Keith Bear, Mandan-Hidatsa storyteller and musician
- Troyd Geist, folklorist, North Dakota Council on the Arts
- Bud Larsen, craftsman and maker of Hardanger fiddles
- Namita Gupta Wiggers, director of MA in critical and historical craft studies, Warren Wilson College
Jennifer Ling Datchuk
Vashti DuBois, founder and executive director of The Colored Girls Museum, shares about her handmade dolls that have been passed down between generations.
Raven Halfmoon, one of ACC’s 2019 Emerging Voices shortlist artists, shares about her powerful ceramic work and the significance of her ribbon skirts.
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