Crafting Democracy: Fiber Arts & Activism

In late 2017, I began the journey of co-curating the exhibition Crafting Democracy: Fiber Arts & Activism with Hinda Mandell. The show opened in Rochester, NY in August 2019 and subsequently traveled — even during the COVID-19 pandemic and the incredible election cycle of 2020. Along the three-year journey, I have learned from the entire community of artists, gallerists, makers, and those who show up — for instance, on a rainy August morning to help with a craft intervention on the site where Frederick Douglass gave his impassioned speech, “What to a Slave is the Fourth of July?”

Whereas Hinda’s strengths are in making and activism as well as deep knowledge of fiber arts, activism, and craft as agency, mine lie in experience as a curator, exhibition organizer, researcher and scholar, as well as editor. We came together to create an exhibition that began as a group exhibition at one venue, accompanied by a gorgeous catalogue featuring every work in the show and essays from makers, scholars, curators. The show has shown no boundaries and continues to garner interest even now in 2021. The venues and recent publicity mentions are below.
*All photographic images shown on this page were taken by Elizabeth Lamark, February 19, 2020.

Exhibiting artists and their works

On view, Rochester & Monroe County Public Library, August-November 2019

On view August 21, 2019–ongoing, Ancillary Craft Intervention as part of Rochester’s Biennale, Current Seen. While the biennale has concluded, our intervention is still on site. See here.

On view November 29, 2019–January 10, 2020, The Sculpture Center, Cleveland, OH
Curator’s talk with Juilee Decker, Friday, December 6, 2019
Roundtable discussion with co-curators, Saturday, December 14, 2019

On view, February 14—March 14, 2020, Bevier Gallery, Rochester Institute of Technology
Events listed here.

Traveling schedule paused due to COVID-19

August 14—September 14, 2020, Woodlawn & Pope-Leighey House, Alexandria, VA

October 1—December 1, 2020, Davis Gallery at Houghton House, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Geneva, NY
-Curator Talk, Juilee Decker at Hobart & William Smith, October 19, 2020
Talk by Betsy Greer re: Craftivism, in dialogue with artists from Crafting Democracy, October 29, 2020
The Fabric of War, film discussion, Friday, November 13, 2020

Supporters of the exhibition include Central Library; the Farash Foundation (for underwriting the catalogue); Friends & Foundation of the Rochester Public Library, RIT’s Museum Studies, School of Individualized Study, School of Communication, the College of Liberal Arts (for the Rochester venues); and Humanities New York (for the installation at Hobart and William Smith).

Together with my co-curator, Hinda Mandell, and gallery director Anna Wager, we created a downloadable bibliography of resources here.

Article “Craft Activism in the Trump Era on Exhibit in ‘Crafting Democracy’” by Susan Gawlowicz, July 15, 2019.

Article “RIT Professors Organize Yarn Installation in Rochester Aug. 21” by Susan Gawlowicz, July 19, 2019.

Using Yarn Installation to Create a Thread to Rochester’s Social Activism Past by Beth Adams, WXXI News Morning Edition, July 25, 2019.

Article “The Fiber of Democracy” by Smriti Jacob, Rochester Beacon August 5, 2019.

Article “‘Crafting Democracy’ Fights Fire with Fiber” by Rebecca Rafferty, City Newspaper August 6, 2019.

Article “‘Crafting Democracy’ Exhibit in Rochester Shows how Art Can Spark Political Activism” by Robin L. Flanigan, USA Today, special to Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, October 10, 2019.

Mention “On the Bookshelf” by Fiber Art Now magazine

Article “RIT Art Gallery Hosting Traveling Craft Exhibit Borne Out of Political Activism” by Rich Kiley, February 18, 2020.

Opening reception: Crafting Democracy at the Bevier Gallery, Rochester Institute of Technology, February 14 through March 14, 2020 | Gallery Director, John Aasp; Exhibit Coordinator, Shane Durgee. Reception: Wednesday, February 19.

Cited on Pratt’s “Craftivism: An Introduction” LibGuide, May 8, 2020.

Bethany Snyder, “Davis Gallery Hosts Crafting Democracy Events” Hobart & William Smith Colleges, November 2, 2020

If you have a mention that should be listed, please let me know.

If you are interested in having the exhibition at your venue, please contact me. There is no cost to the show, other than transportation to and from your venue.

To view information about a collaboration with City Art Space in Rochester and Art Bridges Foundation, see here. We aimed to bridge the gap between audiences and participatory art experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic by hosting a series of online events focused on representation, identity, and community.

To view my other exhibition and curatorial practices, click here.

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