Crafting a Better World

SAAM’s director on the exhibition celebrating the Renwick’s 50th Anniversary

 Stephanie Stebich, SAAM's Margaret and Terry Stent Direction in the museum's Lincoln Gallery. Photo by Gene Young. 
Stephanie Stebich
The Margaret and Terry Stent Director, Smithsonian American Art Museum and Renwick Gallery
May 12, 2022
Gallery view of quilt and ceramic sculptures

One of the dazzling galleries in This Present Moment: Crafting a Better World. Photo by Albert Ting.

We just opened the new exhibition, This Present Moment: Crafting a Better World, at our Renwick Gallery to mark the 50th anniversary of our branch museum dedicated to American craft and I am keen to tell you all about it. First, please note we devote the entire building to one theme just as we did with WONDER in 2015 and No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man in 2018.

Second, the exhibition builds on the Renwick’s half century as the country’s premier museum of craft and uses this important anniversary as a springboard to explore what craft means at this particular moment.

Third, the exhibition is artist-centered with many new works recently acquired to better help us understand our world. Most importantly, we are grateful to the many artists, collectors and supporters who have helped us create this exhibition and handsome catalogue. I think you will find this is a must-see exhibition that you will want to return to again and again with friends and family. To ensure you have time to fully explore and enjoy This Present Moment, the exhibition remains on view until April 2, 2023

I want to acknowledge we had some help from our neighbors right across the street. It is my pleasure to thank First Lady Jill Biden in her role as Honorary Patron of the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Renwick Gallery, which continues our special relationship with first ladies begun in 1962 with First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy. She led a team of preservationists to help save the historic building nicknamed “The American Louvre” from demolition. Decades later, in 1993, First Lady Hillary Clinton invited former Renwick curator Michael Monroe to organize the exhibition The White House Collection of American Craft. We displayed the exhibition at the museum’s main building in Washington, DC before touring it across the country until 2000. More recently, First Lady Michelle Obama served as Honorary Patron of the Renwick’s reopening in 2015. We are grateful for Dr. Biden’s endorsement as we move into the Renwick’s next half-century of championing American ingenuity and creativity.

With the Renwick’s legacy of innovation and its embrace of the tremendous changes encompassing the present, I believe the museum’s next fifty years will be just as transformative. The artwork on view in This Present Moment reflects an even bolder future, one that will help us better understand ourselves, each other, and the world around us.

The future is now. This present moment is here. We invite you to join us on this exciting journey. Come visit soon.

Prefer to visit us from the comfort of home? Go behind-the-scenes into the studios of artists featured in This Present Moment and learn about their work and creative process. These virtual tours are free, but registration is required. The series launches on June 9 with Preston Singletary and continues throughout the course of the exhibition with artists Chawne Kimber, Katie Hudall, and David Harper Clemons. More details can be found on the exhibition web page

Watch as Stephanie Stebich, Renwick curators Nora Atkinson and Mary Savig, and six artists whose work is in the museum's collection reflect on the past, present, and future of the Renwick.



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