Friday, March 24, 2006

White House Collection of American Craft

While browsing The Strand Bookstore last week, I came upon a book titled White House Collection of American Craft. From tea pots and vases to clocks and quilts, the book is filled with pictures of fine works by 70+ artisans from around the country. It struck me as just absolutely perfect, inspired even, that The White House should collect American craft to fill its stately rooms and grand hallways.

The book was 11 years old, but I figured the program must still be going on, and I resolved to find out about it, maybe even let the White House know of the fine artisans represented at Greenjeans. Like the New York Lottery ad says, hey, you never know.

Well, today I googled about the matter, and learned that, sadly, the program is no longer active. The site says that the idea was hatched by Hillary Clinton back in 1993, and ended when the White House changed hands. [3/25/06: But Mary Anne Davis pointed out yesterday (see comment) that Joan Mondale was the one who got the White House involved in collecting craft, and indeed significantly helped raise the profile of American craft back during the Carter administration.] I have no idea why the collections wasn't continued -- what, is American craft too lefty or something? But anyway I wanted to let folks know about what I think was a great program. (It appears the collection is now stewarded by the Renwick Gallery, part of the Smithsonian.)

If you check out the website about the collection, you will be able to take a pretty interesting virtual tour of the White House as it was in the 90s when the collection was on view. The work looks quite striking in such a fancy setting. The picture here is an example. There are also video clips with Clinton and others from whom you may learn more about the program.

I'm not ready to endorse Clinton or anyone else for the next President, but I do have to give her high marks for championing American craft as First Lady. Seems rather enlightened, no?

1 comment:

Mad said...

Joan Mondale, (wife of former VP, Walter Mondale, under Jimmy Carter) actually got the ball rolling in the 70's. Joan Mondale has spent her life focused on advancing crafts world wide. I met her in 1979 when she came to an opening of the ceramics department at Cranbrook. Not to take anything away from Hillary, but I think the credit for the White House Colection belongs to Joan Mondale, an avid and early collector and advocate.

Thanks for posting this and the telling shift away from crafts in today's White House.