Masters of Fiber, Clay and Glass at the PAA
Philadelphia Art Alliance
In 1915, philanthropist and theater aficionado Christine Wetherill Stevenson established the PAA with the goal of uniting the arts by presenting music, theater, fine arts, craft and design, and literary events in a single venue. In 1917, through the generosity of Christine’s father, Samuel Price Wetherill (1846–1926), the Art Alliance moved to a new headquarters at 1823–25 Walnut Street on Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia. At this site, there were club rooms, galleries, and a restaurant for the 830 members of the organization; and studios in which artists lived and taught. In 1920 the Art Alliance purchased the adjoining property at 1827 Walnut Street, expanding its galleries and studio space. At that time, the PAA’s committees numbered eleven: Architecture, Crafts, Drama, Extension, Literary Arts, Music, Oil Paintings, Prints, Sculpture, Watercolor and Drawing and Illustration.
As an education major at Kutztown University, Knauss was first exposed to textiles when fulfilling a general requirement for graduation. Attracted to the material properties of yarn, Knauss decided to take a weaving class, which forever changed his career path. In the late 1960s, many artists were exploring the tensions within the field of craft, often questioning the need for crafts to be defined by functionality and opting to focus on process and materiality for its own sake. His exposure to contemporary weaving and textiles was reinforced through his study at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts and subsequently at Tyler School of Art, Temple University where he received his Master’s degree.
Schaechter (b. 1961, Gainesville, FL) began her artistic career as a painter, receiving a BFA degree from Rhode Island School of Design in 1983. During this time, she was introduced to glassblowing and in a matter of weeks, she realized the expressive potential of the medium. Schaechter turned to stained glass, rejecting contemporary explorations of the material’s form and function. She researched its origins in Europe from the 12th century until the Protestant Reformation, and its resurfacing during the late 19th century Arts and Craft movement.
An equal interest for Seelig to the very materiality of the woven textile is building up form and the relationship of weaving to basic architectural principles. Seelig was born in Abington, PA, in 1946. His formal training began with Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science, followed by a master’s degree in fine art at the Cranbrook Academy of Art. He became interested in the writings of Bauhaus textile artist Anni Albers and the work included in the groundbreaking 1972 craft exhibition, Objects USA, held at what is now the Museum of Arts and Design in New York.