Nation Building: Craft and Contemporary American Culture Symposium Playlist

  • This symposium examined craft’s increasingly urgent role within contemporary American culture. Coinciding with the fortieth anniversary of the Renwick Gallery as the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s branch museum for contemporary craft and decorative arts, the program sought to broaden the dialogue surrounding craft’s recent histories, and to articulate rapid changes to the field since the beginning of the current century.

    Research presented by both senior and emerging scholars complicates our understanding of modern craft as a response to mass culture, and probe the evolution of the field beyond the studio movement. Themes include: the politics of craft within the museum, new directions in technology and education, craft at war, converging practices in craft and contemporary art, changing aesthetics, craft’s role in industry, and the burgeoning DIY movement.

    The title of this symposium references modern craft’s history as a regenerative (and often political) force in society, but also 20th-century political theorist Hannah Arendt’s assertion that what fundamentally distinguishes us as a species is our capacity for “world-building.” The value of craft as evidence of diverse human agency and its impact on the American experience is at the heart of this project.

    The symposium was webcast live, and archival videos can be viewed online. Selections from the proceedings were published in print form in 2013.

    Watch all seven videos from our symposium by clicking on the menu icon in the upper left corner of the video.