Craft + Social Practice


Critical Craft Forum hosted its fifth annual session at College Art Association, February 13, 2014. Panelists Michael Strand, Sarah Archer, and Jen Delos Reyes shared projects and their thinking about the relationship between craft + social practice - and with audience participation, questioned the term social practice, the contexts in which artists work, and the role of institutions in contemporary practice. (unedited recording)

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Introduction by Namita G. Wiggers, Museum of Contemporary Craft, Pacific Northwest College of Art and Elisabeth Agro, Philadelphia Museum of Art, co-chairs.


Michael Strand, North Dakota State University

Michael Strand is Head of Visual Arts and Associate Professor of Art at North Dakota State University. As potter, Strand’s work moves seamlessly into public practice through projects that utilize the inherent participatory nature of craft-based media as a trigger for social engagement and change. His work has been published internationally with recent articles in Hemslojd, Public Art Review, Studio Potter, Ceramics Art and Perception/TECHNICAL, Ceramics Monthly, The Chronicle of Higher Education and a forthcoming feature article in American Craft.

Through 25,000 years of participatory history, craft has been a building block of culture and human civilization. From prayer shawls to food storage vessels the "useful" nature of craft will continue to be an instrument of social change. With an increasingly digital and technologically connected world, craft-based media has an exceptional advantage in social practice because of its inherently relational capacity.

Sarah Archer, Philadelphia Art Alliance 

Sarah Archer is a writer and curator based in Philadelphia. As the Senior Curator at the Philadelphia Art Alliance, she organized numerous exhibitions including a site-specific installation by Beijing-based artists Song Dong and Yin Xiuzhen. Previously, she was the Director of Greenwich House Pottery, and a curatorial assistant at the Museum of Arts and Design. Her articles and reviews have appeared in the Journal of Modern Craft, American Craft, Artnet, Ceramics: Art and Perception, Hand/Eye, Modern Magazine, Studio Potter, and The Huffington Post. Archer recently guest-curated “Bright Future: New Designs in Glass” at the Pratt Manhattan Gallery.

Unlike a museum staging a food-related event in a dedicated gallery space, “Heirloom” uses the existing ecosystem of the Philadelphia Art Alliance to introduce visitors and diners to ideas that are germane o craft practice in an unexpected way. Marketed as a culinary experience, Gregg Moore’s collaboration with chef Pierre Calmeis of La Cheri, the PAA’s onsite restaurant will explore food and domesticity as an example of social practice and craft.

Jen Delos Reyes, Portland State University

Jen Delos Reyes is an artist originally from Winnipeg, MB, Canada. Her research interests include the history of socially engaged art, artist-run culture, group work, band dynamics, folk music, and artists’ social roles. Jen is the founder and director of Open Engagement, an international conference on socially engaged art. She is currently an Assistant Professor at Portland State University where she teaches in the Art and Social Practice program.

What can craft learn from socially engaged art practice? How can forms of social practice benefit from current craft dialogues? Delos Reyes will discuss the need to teach social practice at a foundations level and the impact that this would have on arts education including the a re-evaluation of the role of craft and the function of design.