The month of November is usually quite an active one for Philly’s own connoisseur of artists and institutions in the craft community, CraftNOW. For the past six years, the organization has hosted CraftMONTH, a series of events alongside the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show, to celebrate and showcase Philadelphia’s contemporary craft scene. However, with the pandemic still revving up — especially now during the flu season — CraftNOW has found a way to still virtually celebrate.
Expanded programs for the now digital celebration will kick off this week and will continue over consecutive Friday afternoons, on Oct. 30 and Nov. 6 and will center around two experts in their respective fields: Vashti Dubois, executive director of The Colored Girls Museum in Philadelphia, and editor, author and filmmaker Hinda Mandell. During both of these events, attendees will be challenged to think about the role of craft as a tool for provocation and exchange, especially during this pivotal election time and social unrest. Mandell will speak to audiences on Friday, Oct. 30, while Dubois will speak the following week on Friday, Nov. 6.
“This year’s two keynote speakers will bookend a presidential election amid constant societal turbulence. This will undoubtedly affect the tone for each day and each presentation,” says Leila Cartier, executive director of CraftNOW in a statement. “Having keynote speaker Hinda Mandell share her recent publication Crafting Dissent, and Vashti Dubois discuss her work with The Colored Girls Museum will remind us how important creative communities centered around object making are to cultural empowerment and unifying voices.”
The theme of this year’s symposium is dubbed Cultures of Making, and will “examine the many ways community, activism, research, and connection develop out of collaborative craft practices in the neighborhoods of Philadelphia and beyond.” The two-day symposium will include a variety of events inspired by the recent publications “Craft Capital: Philadelphia’s Cultures of Making,” edited by Glenn Adamson, and “Crafting Dissent: Handicraft as Protest from the American Revolution to the Pussyhats,” edited by Hinda Mandell. Those events influenced by the work of the speakers will also include talks and moderated discussions.
According to the release, CraftNOW was founded in 2014 by a consortium of individuals, galleries, museums, universities, retailers and civic organizations. Though diverse in background, CraftNOW institutions have been united in their desire to promote and leverage the Philadelphia region’s outstanding craft resources and highlight its continuing role in defining the future of craft. This year, organized in collaboration with Techné, the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s affinity group which explores and celebrates international craft, CraftNOW’s free annual symposium — a signature event of Philadelphia’s CraftMONTH— will be hosted virtually, giving national and international audiences unprecedented access to explore Philadelphia’s innovations in craft.
Kids can also join in on the fun forCraftNOW with CraftNOW Create as well with a few different programs including one on Saturday, Nov. 7, at 10 a.m. That day families can join the city’s “Biggest Free Art Class,” which will include a morning of live video demonstrations highlighting step-by-step directions on how to create seven crafts, including clay monster heads, wooden dragonflies and butterflies, mini mosaics, kites, puppets, Swedish holiday gnomes, and felted soaps. This particular event is ideal for children around elementary school age.
“Over the next two weeks, we will distribute 500 free take-home kits into diverse neighborhoods via community centers, schools and arts organizations all over Philadelphia,” said Leila Cartier, executive director of CraftNOW in a statement. “Even if you do not have access to pick up a kit, we will be sharing the list of simple materials needed to create these projects, in advance on our website, so every child can participate.”
In previous years, CraftNOW Create was a daylong, hands-on family-friendly experience at the Kimmel Center. This year, the leadership of CraftNOW found a creative new way to present this popular event to children and their families, the release states. Following the conclusion of the Cultures of Making Symposium, CraftNOW Create offers fun for the whole family and will include activities by the American Swedish Historical Museum, The Center for Art in Wood, The Clay Studio, Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens, University of the Arts and Wild Hand.
“The free art program CraftNOW Create has always been about investing in children because of the extensive cuts to funding and programs in schools. We know food and shelter are paramount during a crisis, but so is education and enrichment,” says Cartier in a statement. “We want to introduce young people to the joy of hands-on activities. Through craft, one can develop problem-solving skills, build confidence and discover a sense of personal agency.”
To learn more information and for a full list of events, visit craftnowphila.org