This Present Moment: Crafting a Better World” Introduction

  • "This Present Moment: Crafting a Better World" marks the 50th anniversary of the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Renwick Gallery by celebrating the dynamic landscape of American craft. On view from May 13, 2021, to April 2, 2023, the exhibition features more than 170 artworks from the museum’s permanent collection that push the boundaries what we interpret the handmade to be in the twenty-first century. The exhibition activates both floors of gallery space, highlighting a range of craft mediums from fiber and ceramics to glass and mixed media, and asks the questions, “How have you reimagined your idea of home during the global pandemic?” “How is craft relevant to your life?”

    This Present Moment features artworks made by a broadly representative and diverse group of American artists including Black, Latinx, Asian American, LGBTQ+, Indigenous, and women artists who have crafted spaces for daydreaming, stories of persistence, models of resilience, and methods of activism that resonate today. Explore works by artists including Bisa Butler, Sonya Clark, Sharon Kerry-Harlan, Preston Singletary, and Wanxin Zhang, among many others.


    - (Mary Savig) This exhibition was conceived to celebrate fifty years of the Renwick Gallery, fifty years of expanding the boundaries of craft and disrupting our expectations of what craft is and what it can do. On view are more than 170 artworks by more than 150 artists. The artworks on view include examples in traditional craft mediums, including fiber clay, metal, glass, and wood. And they also include more experimental works in bison horn, neon, and even discarded plastic. "This Present Moment" inhabits both floors of the museum. The first floor is about centering ourselves in place, and the second floor is centering ourselves in time. The exhibition poses two questions. The first floor asks, "How have you reimagined your idea of home during the global pandemic?" On the second floor, we ask the question, "How is craft relevant to your life?" The global pandemic really required us to recalibrate our entire approach to the fiftieth anniversary exhibition. Our daily life was disrupted by the pandemic. Disruption of everyday life coincided with an eruption of protests. Among these events we wondered, "How can we make an anniversary exhibition relevant and meaningful to our audiences?" We've always followed the lead of artists to help us grapple with uncertain times and to help create a path forward. I was so humbled by the transformative ideas offered by the artists. In a lot of ways, these artworks created unexpected connections across mediums and across time. Putting them together in this exhibition was almost like mapping a constellation in the night sky. And I hope visitors can find their own connections and find their own place in this exhibition. Craft teaches us empathy, it teaches us connections to each other, and we need that, perhaps now more than ever.