This Present Moment: Crafting a Better World” Examines the State of Contemporary Craft in America Today 

Contact Person
Rebekah Mejorado
Contact Email
Contact Phone Number

New Exhibition Features 135 Recently Acquired Artworks That Tell an Inclusive Story of American Art

“This Present Moment: Crafting a Better World” showcases the dynamic landscape of American craft with 171 artworks from the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s extensive holdings of modern and contemporary craft, including 135 recently acquired works made by a broadly representative and diverse group of American artists. These objects deepen the history of the studio craft movement while also introducing contemporary artworks that push the boundaries of what is considered to be handmade in the 21st century.  

The exhibition marks the 50th anniversary of the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Renwick Gallery as the nation’s premier museum dedicated to American craft. The Renwick Gallery opened its doors Jan. 28, 1972, to showcase the ingenuity and relevance of craft and design in American culture. For the past 50 years, the museum has featured many expressions and definitions of craft. Today, through exhibitions and the collection galleries at the Renwick, the museum continues to celebrate the creativity of American craft artists, and the vital role craft plays in modern life. 

“This Present Moment: Crafting a Better World” is on view at the Renwick Gallery from May 13 to April 2, 2023. The exhibition, which activates both floors of gallery space, explores how artists have crafted spaces for daydreaming, stories of persistence, models of resilience, and methods of activism that resonate today. To craft a better world, it must first be imagined.  

The exhibition is organized by Mary Savig, the Lloyd Herman Curator of Craft; with Nora Atkinson, the Fleur and Charles Bresler Curator-in-Charge for the Renwick Gallery; Anya Montiel, curator at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian; and Elana Hain, collections manager. “This Present Moment” is the latest in a series of exhibitions presented at the Renwick Gallery that reassess what craft is in a modern world. 

“We are thrilled to celebrate 50 years of the museum’s contemporary craft program at the Renwick Gallery, the flagship museum of American craft,” said Stephanie Stebich, the Margaret and Terry Stent Director of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. “Building on its innovative legacy and embracing the tremendous change encompassing the present, I believe the museum’s next 50 years will also astonish. The artwork being crafted and collected now is shaping an even bolder future, one that will help us better understand ourselves, each other and the world around us. The Renwick Gallery will continue to be a driving force in this conversation.”  

The Renwick Gallery 50th Anniversary Acquisition Campaign, which began in 2020, increased the number of Black, Latinx, Asian American, LGBTQ+, Indigenous and women artists, among others, represented in the nation’s collection. The artworks acquired—more than 200 objects to date—both through gifts and museum purchase, represent a range of craft mediums, including fiber, ceramics, glass, metal and wood. Judith Chernoff and Jeffrey Bernstein have given 43 works from their collection of sculptural wood art, all of which are featured in the exhibition in a dedicated gallery. 

“Craft has always been a measure of the present moment,” Savig said. “This is because craft is inherently a measure of who we are—our labor and our memory. With this ambitious exhibition and acquisition campaign, we embraced the opportunity to document the contours of the present moment, including the global pandemic with acquisitions like face masks. The success of this endeavor relies on the collective efforts of many, many people. Together, our efforts measure our hopes for a better world.” 

The exhibition display includes verbal descriptions for 16 key artworks. The descriptions will be available for public use online via personal screen readers, through Aira, a visual interpretation service, and on paper in large print at the Renwick Gallery. The verbal descriptions are part of the museum's initiative to increase accessibility of artworks for blind and low-vision visitors. 

Please see below for the complete list of the 148 artists featured in the exhibition. 

Book

An accompanying catalog features essays by Atkinson, Montiel and Savig as well as commentary by artists David Chatt, Kelly Church, Sonya Clark, Alicia Eggert, Steven Young Lee, Wendy Maruyama, Myra Mimlitsch-Gray, Connie Mississippi and Judith Schaechter. Co-published by the Smithsonian American Art Museum in association with D Giles Limited, London, it is available for pre-order in the online bookstore. The cover of this volume is printed in 50 color variations ($54.95, hardcover). 

Ticketed Opening Party 

The museum is hosting a ticketed opening party Friday, May 13, from 7:30 to 11:30 p.m. Tickets are $125 for general admission and $200 for VIP admission. The general admission ticket includes a preview of the exhibition, savory and sweet treats, open bar, valet parking and music from Caroline Polachek (DJ Set); the VIP ticket also includes early access to the party at 6:30 p.m. and 20% off at the museum store during the event. Tickets and additional information are available online; advance purchase is required. 

Virtual and In-Person Public Programs  

Museum staff have organized a series of free and ticketed public programs in conjunction with the exhibition. A free open house will be held Friday, May 13, from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., featuring gallery talks with Savig at 11 a.m. and Atkinson at 1:30 p.m. Several artists will be in the galleries to talk with visitors about their work. Confirmed participants include Guillermo Bert, Bisa Butler, Einar de la Torre, Jamex de la Torre, Tom Loeser, Lauren Mabry, Jiha Moon, Ché Rhodes, Curt Theobald, Consuelo Jiménez Underwood and Wanxin Zhang. 

The museum’s popular crafting happy hour, Handi-hour, will take place at the Renwick Gallery Thursday May 19, from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Tickets ($20) are required and include two drinks, crafting supply kits and light snacks. Participants will create a mini macramé piece while sipping craft cider from ANXO Cidery. Space is limited. Registrants must be 21 years or older to attend and must present a valid ID and proof of vaccination against COVID-19.  

Throughout the run of the exhibition, the public will be invited to 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 will be required: 

  • Thursday, June 9; 7 p.m. ET: Preston Singletary 
  • Thursday, Sept. 22; 7 p.m. ET: Chawne Kimber 
  • Thursday, Dec. 8; 7 p.m. ET: Katie Hudnall 
  • Thursday, Feb. 16, 2023; 7 p.m. ET: David Harper Clemons 

Artist Roberto Lugo will give a talk Wednesday, Sept. 14, at 6:30 p.m. ET as part of the museum’s annual Clarice Smith Distinguished Lecture series. This program will take place in the museum’s McEvoy Auditorium and will be webcast live through YouTube. Details will be available on the museum’s website this summer. 

A symposium is scheduled for Friday, March 3, 2023. Additional information about speakers and a schedule will be available on the museum’s website as details are confirmed. 

Exhibition-Related Products for Sale 

          A series of products created exclusively in connection with the exhibition, including apparel, home décor, jewelry, ceramics and more, are available in the Renwick Gallery store and in the museum’s online shop. Custom products include glass plates and t-shirts featuring the Renwick 50th Anniversary book cover image. Additional items for sale include a limited-edition silkscreen print from award-winning artists JW and Melissa Buchanan of Little Friends of Printmaking, upcycled totes made from Renwick Gallery exhibition banners and an array of handmade items by artists.  

Credit 

“This Present Moment: Crafting a Better World” is organized by the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Generous support is provided by Carl and Jan Fisher, Shelby and Fred Gans, the James Renwick Alliance for Craft, and Ann Kaplan and Robert Fippinger. 

The catalog is made possible by Cindy Miscikowski.  

Additional support is provided by Alturas Foundation, Elizabeth Broun Curatorial Endowment, Sharon and Bob Buchanan, Sheila Burke, Billings and John Cay, DLR Group, Elizabeth and James Eisenstein, Mary Anne Fray, Cary J. Frieze, The Galena-Yorktown Foundation, Michael and Heather Greenbaum, Chris G. Harris, Cecily and Bannus Hudson, Maureen and Gene Kim, Colleen and John Kotelly, Joseph P. Logan, Nion McEvoy and Leslie Berriman, Eleanor T. Rosenfeld, Dorothy Saxe in memory of George Saxe, Maggie and Dick Scarlett, Barbara Tober, Judith S. Weisman, Myra and Harold Weiss, Kelly Williams and Andrew Forsyth, and Todd Wingate and Steven Cason. 

Featured Artists

  • Tanya Aguiñiga  
  • Corey Alston 
  • Olga de Amaral 
  • Laura Andreson 
  • John Beaver 
  • Lanny Bergner 
  • Guillermo Bert 
  • Dixie Biggs 
  • Joanne Segal Brandford  
  • Edith Bondie (Chippewa) 
  • Daniel Brush 
  • Bisa Butler 
  • Margarita Cabrera 
  • Hubert Candelario (San Felipe Pueblo) 
  • Arthur Espenet Carpenter 
  • Syd Carpenter 
  • Nick Cave 
  • David Chatt 
  • Dale Chihuly 
  • Kelly Church (Ottawa and Pottawatomi) 
  • Sharon Church 
  • Chunghi Choo 
  • Hunt Clark 
  • Sonya Clark 
  • Richard Cleaver 
  • David Harper Clemons 
  • Andy Cole 
  • Cristina Córdova 
  • Carolyn Crump 
  • Rick Dillingham 
  • Sharon Doughtie 
  • Cindy Drozda 
  • Ruth Duckworth 
  • Alicia Eggert 
  • Micah Evans 
  • Joe Feddersen (Colville Confederated Tribes, Okanagan and Arrow Lakes) 
  • Harvey Fein 
  • Ray Feltz 
  • J. Paul Fennell 
  • Ron Fleming 
  • Virginia San Fratello 
  • Jeremy Frey (Passamaquoddy) 
  • Susie Ganch 
  • David Gilhooly 
  • Shan Goshorn (Eastern Band Cherokee) 
  • Myra Mimlitsch Gray 
  • Michael Hampel 
  • Stephen Hatcher 
  • Donté K. Hayes 
  • Carla Hemlock [Kanienkeháka (Mohawk)]  
  • Louise Hibbert 
  • Pat Hickman 
  • Ron Ho 
  • Lisa Holt (Cochiti Pueblo) 
  • Robyn Horn 
  • Katie Hudnall 
  • Homei Iseyama 
  • Janel Jacobson 
  • Ferne Jacobs 
  • Tim Jerman 
  • Christine Joy 
  • Nadine Kariya 
  • Susan Kavicky 
  • Sharon Kerry-Harlan 
  • Jerry Kermode 
  • Chawne Kimber 
  • Basil Kincaid  
  • Elizabeth F. Kinlaw 
  • Silas Kopf 
  • Pat Kramer 
  • Julia Kwon 
  • Karen LaMonte 
  • Dora De Larios 
  • Ron Layport 
  • Cliff Lee 
  • Steven Young Lee 
  • Thomas Loeser 
  • Dona Look 
  • Linda Lopez 
  • Roberto Lugo 
  • Lauren Mabry 
  • Jeannine Marchand 
  • Julian Martinez (San Ildefonso Pueblo) 
  • Maria Martinez (San Ildefonso Pueblo) 
  • John Mascoll 
  • Sharon Massey 
  • Wendy Maruyama 
  • Shari Mendelson 
  • Hal Metlitzky 
  • Connie Mississippi 
  • Katrina Mitten (Miami Tribe of Oklahoma) 
  • Jiha Moon 
  • Philip Moulthrop 
  • George Nakashima 
  • Mark Nantz 
  • Marvin Oliver (Quinault/Isleta Pueblo)  
  • Jane Osti (Cherokee Nation) 
  • Woody de Othello 
  • Marilyn Pappas 
  • Kit Paulson 
  • Michael Peterson 
  • Kevin Pourier (Oglala Lakota) 
  • Valerie Pourier (Oglala Lakota) 
  • Graeme Priddle 
  • Elsa Rady 
  • Ronald Rael 
  • Sheila Kanieson Ransom (Mohawk, Wolf Clan from Akwesasne) 
  • Harlan Reano (Santo Domingo/Kewa Pueblo) 
  • Ché Rhodes 
  • Jon Eric Riis 
  • L.J. Roberts 
  • Avelino Samuel 
  • Betty Scarpino 
  • Judith Schaechter 
  • Kay Sekimachi 
  • David Sengel 
  • Aram Han Sifuentes 
  • Linda Sikora 
  • Preston Singletary (Tlingit) 
  • Linda Sormin 
  • Robert Sperry 
  • Wendy Stayman 
  • Polly Adams Sutton 
  • Hiroshi Sueyoshi 
  • April Surgent 
  • Toshiko Takaezu 
  • Koji Tanaka 
  • Curt Theobald 
  • Marlana Thompson (Mohawk, Wolf Clan from Akwesasne) 
  • Holly Tornheim 
  • Einar de la Torre 
  • Jamex de la Torre 
  • Howard Ben Tré 
  • Gale Tremblay (Mi’kmaq and Onondaga) 
  • MJ Tyson 
  • Consuelo Jiménez Underwood 
  • Kukuli Velarde 
  • Jacques Vesery 
  • Paul Villinski 
  • Leona Waddell 
  • Dawn Nichols Walden (Ojibway descendant, Mackinac Band of Chippewa and Ottawa Indians) 
  • James C. Watkins 
  • Kurt Weiser 
  • Andi Wolfe 
  • Nancy Lee Worden 
  • gwendolyn yoppolo 
  • Brent Kee Young 
  • Wanxin Zhang 

# # #

Note to editors: Selected high-resolution images for publicity only are available through the museum’s Dropbox account. Email americanartpressoffice@si.edu to request the link. 

About the Smithsonian American Art Museum and its Renwick Gallery

The Smithsonian American Art Museum is home to one of the most significant and inclusive collections of American art in the world. Its artworks reveal America’s rich artistic and cultural history from the colonial period to today. The museum’s main building, located at 8th and G Streets N.W., is open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. The museum’s Renwick Gallery, a branch museum dedicated to contemporary craft and decorative arts, is located on Pennsylvania Avenue at 17th Street N.W. and is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Check online for current hours and admission information. Admission is free. Follow the museum on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. Smithsonian information: (202) 633-1000. Museum information (recorded): (202) 633-7970. Website: americanart.si.edu.

Press Images

  • Press - Sharon Kerry-Harlan, Portrait of Resilience

    Press - Sharon Kerry-Harlan, Portrait of Resilience

    Sharon Kerry-Harlan, Portrait of Resilience, from the Flag Series, 2020, dye discharge fabric, antique quilt fabric, vinyl, flag fabric, and African print fabric, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase through the Kenneth R. Trapp Acquisition Fund, 2021.35. © 2021, Sharon Kerry-Harlan. Photo by Lee Stalsworth – Fine Art through Photography