American crafts are among the finest in the world. In 2004, the trustees of the Fuller Craft Museum recognized this fact and wisely decided to re-invent the museum to specialize in American crafts. Five current exhibitions at Fuller demonstrate how broadly the “crafts” concept can be stretched to include more than beautiful utilitarian objects. The exhibiting artists include both highly skilled and novice artisans. The craft materials are as diverse as aluminum sheets and a hydroponic garden. The topics of the exhibits vary widely from food distribution problems to elegant jewelry. Especially important are two exhibitions, one about the social problem of “Food Justice,” and the other, “Riotous Threads,” fiber works by people with disabilities. The exhibits demonstrate Fuller trustees’ and staff’s commitment to the human-need dimension of crafts, adventuring far beyond craft as utilitarian objects.
FOOD JUSTICE: GROWING A HEALTHIER COMMUNITY THROUGH ART
My puzzled 15-year-old granddaughter in Wisconsin asked me, “Grandma, why do you wrap up your left-over restaurant food and take it home?” “Well, I don’t like to waste food and I can make a meal out of it.” But she looked unconvinced that such behavior was needed. And why should she be? Wisconsin is one of the world’s greatest Food Baskets! Food shortage? Not enough to eat? How could such a problem exist anywhere in this incredible land of food abundance? But I’m sure that in corners of urban or rural Wisconsin or Brockton, Massachusetts, there are some hungry kids. “Food Justice: Growing a Healthier Community through Art” is a traveling exhibit that uses ceramics, glassware, a hand-made book, photography and printed paper register receipts to explore food insecurity from many viewpoints. Visually, the most dramatic element is a hydroponic bed growing Kale with a glowing dome grow light! This indeed stretches the definition of “craft!” However, I grew up on an apple farm and I question some of the social positions taken by the artists. Some of the photographs, glassware and ceramics are so beautifully crafted and organized that they undermine the harsh realities of hunger. But overall, the exhibit presents many different visual responses and questions to the problem of hunger in a land of plenty.
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