History of CraftNOW

Banner image Holly Hanessian, Touch In Real Time (Greenwich House Handshake)

2015 – Masters of Craft

  • CraftNOW Philadelphia was launched in 2015 as an initiative with the mission to showcase Philadelphia as a national center of craft and making by co-founders Clara Hollander and David Seltzer. Hollander’s experience in the field of craft combined with Seltzer’s advocacy for quality of life in Philadelphia established the basis and character of the organization.
  • CraftNOW formed a steering committee of institutional directors and gathered even more curators, educators, and makers into a consortium. The University of the Arts became the organization’s fiscal sponsor.
  • CraftNOW partners designed and piloted a series of events to complement the Philadelphia Museum of Art Contemporary Craft Show, which has taken place each November since 1977.
  • The first ever CraftNOW Create, a friendly hands-on exploration of craft, was held on Saturday, November 14, at the Kimmel Center. Fourteen different stations allowed hundreds of visitors to participate in demonstrations and take home crafted objects.
  • Masters of Craft was a four-venue exhibition series branded by CraftNOW and funded by a Windgate Foundation grant. The series honored 14 Philadelphians designated by the American Craft Council as Fellows and international leaders in the field. This series gave emphasis to the fact Philadelphia is home to more ACC Fellows than any other city.
  • These exhibitions were documented in the Masters of Craft catalogue made available in print and still available for scholars worldwide online at craftnowphila.org
  • Old City Craft Night was promoted on Thursday, November 12, in partnership with the Old City District and neighborhood restaurants and retailers.
  • Spanning Generations was a CraftNOW sponsored symposium held at The University of the Arts with a reception at the Philadelphia Art Alliance paring American Craft Council Fellows with younger emerging craft artists they had once taught or mentored now working in the same medium.


2016 – Analog-Digital

  • CraftNOW leaders worked with consultants to assess the results of the 2015 program series and continue strategizing future projects. CraftNOW adopted five strategies to galvanize Philadelphia as a center for high quality craft and making:
    • Animate Philadelphia, attract tourism, and generate economic activity
    • Expand the marketplace to advance the economic wellbeing of artists and galleries
    • Support collaboration across sectors of the craft and makers community
    • Nurture the development of the next generation of craft artists/makers
    • Foster creative expression by a broad cross-section of society
  • To support 2016 activities, CraftNOW hosted a fundraiser in September at the recently opened Bok Building in South Philadelphia. Tours of studio spaces and small businesses─which included glass artists, fashion design, woodworking, millinery, and jewelry artists─were followed by a cocktail reception on the rooftop bar with a spectacular view of Center City.
  • Analog-Digital emerged as a thematic approach for unifying another multi-venue, concurrent series of exhibitions branded as part of CraftNOW. Visitors were encouraged to consider how craft practices continue to evolve in the twenty-first century. Over the days and weeks surrounding the PMA Craft Show, these were promoted by CraftNOW as complementing opportunities for residents and visitors to see high quality craft exhibitions throughout the city.
  • CraftNOW sponsored the keynote lecture and kickoff reception on Friday, October 28, for the Technicalities: Meaning in Methods symposium jointly presented by The Center for Art in Wood and The Clay Studio, with weekend lectures and workshops at Tyler School of Art.
  • The keynote by Glenn Adamson, Production Values: The Relevance of Technique in Contemporary Art and Design, was delivered at Christ Church in Old City to over 200 craftspeople, students, educators, collectors and enthusiasts as part of this second annual symposium.
  • At the end of 2016, Thaddeus Squire of Culture Works Greater Philadelphia presented a Strategic Model and Business Analysis based on the 2015 and 2016 programmatic offerings to assist in developing a sustainable organization for the coming years.


2017 – Fluid Boundaries

  • Early in 2017, CraftNOW formalized its status as an unincorporated association by designating an inaugural Board of Overseers, electing executive officers and adopting a set of bylaws.
  • The Board of Overseers organized a team of dedicated individuals in three standing committees for programming, marketing and development. An Honorary Advisory Committee was formed to include nationally recognized leaders in the field as well as other stakeholders such as academics, officials, collectors, and makers.
  • CraftNOW leadership led rebranding efforts and developed a recognizable trademark that would have multi-generational and multi-cultural appeal, and speak to both artists, makers and the general public.
  • Bill Gehrman and Chris Mullins along with Ruth and Rick Snyderman hosted an evening at the Snyderman Works Galleries in Old City with spirits, light bites and gallery talks in April 2017.
  • A friendraiser on a Sunday afternoon in May was hosted by jewelry designer and artist John Wind in his private studio in Queen Village.
  • CraftNOW organized its largest fundraising event to-date at the dazzling studio of Isaiah Zagar in South Philadelphia on September 12. Some of Philadelphia’s finest chefs contributed their talents and catering for the event led by Joncarl Lachman from Noord.
  • On November 1st CraftNOW Philadelphia held its annual kickoff event in collaboration with the City of Philadelphia’s Art in City Hall and Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy, where Mayor Jim Kenney issued a proclamation naming November as CraftMONTH in recognition of the work being done through the organization.
  • With this kickoff, CraftNOW invited participants to explore the art of the handmade and the Fluid Boundaries of contemporary craft practices with a two-week event series.
  • Abraham Thomas gave his debut lecture in Philadelphia since becoming The Fleur and Charles Bresler Curator-in-Charge of the Renwick Gallery in Washington D.C. His keynote Dissolving Boundaries: Craft in an Expansive Field was hosted in partnership with Moore College of Art & Design and The Galleries at Moore.
  • The third annual CraftNOW Create saw record attendance and was complimented by other annual programs such as Well-Crafted First Friday and marketing efforts that canvassed the region.


2018 – Making a Difference

  • Early in the year, CraftNOW conceptualized a new website with event details and new interactive features highlighting CraftMONTH while being a useful guide for visitors all year.
  • A progressive dinner at three private craft collections in Old City provided a platform for the spring fundraiser to generate programmatic resources.
  • A small friendraiser was held at the Bok Building with the jewelry artists of JV Collective including Maria Eife, Emily Cobb and Mallory Weston on a Sunday afternoon in June.
  • Patrons were invited to a special evening at Bahdeebahdu with Warren Muller and RJ Thornburg as the main fundraising event of the year in September. Once again local restaurateurs as well as Moore Brothers Wine Company and Quaker City Mercantile donated their talents and offerings for guests.
  • Partners helped launch a series of tours with studio artists promoting Philadelphia as an urban center for craft-based tourism as CraftNOW began working with the American Craft Council to help develop their 2019 annual conference in Philadelphia.
  • 2018’s thematic approach Making a Difference branded a record two dozen exhibitions across the city and included a daylong symposium with Roberto Lugo as the keynote, the fourth annual CraftNOW Create at the Kimmel Center, and a screening of I am Known as An Artist about the life and work of Wharton Esherick with director Carolyn Coal with support from Moderne Gallery.


 2019 – Craft Capital

  • The thematic approach Craft Capital, interpreted broadly to include place, economics, prominence, etc., will inform all 2019 CraftNOW programming.
  • Jodi Throckmorton led CraftNOW patrons on a tour of the Rina Banerjee: Make Me a Summary of the World exhibition at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.
  • CraftNOW hosted guests at Victor Keen’s private collection in Bethany Mission Gallery for its spring fundraising event.
  • Michelle Millar Fisher, newly named Curator of Contemporary Decorative Arts at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, was named keynote for the annual symposium.
  • The publication Craft Capital: Philadelphia’s Cultures of Making edited by Glenn Adamson had an exclusive release with Schiffer Publishing in October. The book boasts some of Philadelphia’s most important craft and contemporary art scholars.
  • CraftNOW was a hosting partner for the American Craft Council conference Present Tense in Philadelphia October 10 – 12.
  • The Society of North American Goldsmiths will be working with CraftNOW during the development of their May 2020 conference in Philadelphia From Grit to Gold.
  • CraftNOW partnered with Reading Terminal Market to offer vendor carts to local artists and makers as part of an initiative to transform Filbert Street.
  • CraftNOW commissioned Econsult Solutions to draft a study that will begin outlining the economic and social benefits of craft in Philadelphia for the organization to share and grow its vision over the next five years.
  • In the recently renovated First African Baptist Church, The Deacon was host to CraftNOW’s large fall fundraiser. Guests enjoyed the carefully preserved historical details of the architecture and creative interior spaces designed by Yowie. Craft artists donated original pieces to a large auction responding to the theme Craft Capital helping the organization raise additional funding for programs.
  • CraftMONTH in November kicked off with Craft Industry Night after galleries closed on First Friday. Co-hosted with The Center for Art in Wood, the evening included craft trivia and prizes.
  • On November 7, approximately two-dozen individuals with leadership roles in civic organizations, real estate development, higher education, craft and maker businesses met to discuss the economic impact of Philadelphia’s artisanal sector, and consider policies that could encourage further growth in the field. The meeting was jointly hosted by CraftNOW Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation, and the Arts + Business Council of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce.
  • With support from Sherry and Brian Effron, CraftNOW took guests to the WheatonArts and Cultural Center to experience an exclusive sequence of programming, which included a curator’s tour of Emanation in the Museum of American Glass, live and narrated glass blowing demonstration, and a performance by Martha McDonald and Laura Baird Phantom Frequencies, a mini opera using glass instruments.

2020 – Cultures of Making

    • Anticipating a full year of activities, CraftNOW’s programming committee borrowed the annual theme from Craft Capital: Philadelphia’s Cultures of Making, scheduled to debut in Schiffer Publishing’s Spring 2020 global portfolio. The broad theme inspired consideration for the ways community, activism, research, and connection develop out of craft practices in Philadelphia and beyond. 
    • The City of Philadelphia announced the first closure of non-essential businesses on March 16, just as CraftNOW and the Foundation for Advancement of International Medical Education and Research (FAIMER) were readying for the March 25 in-person Global Health Matters Forum.  The platform was quickly modified to become virtual and representatives from Philadelphia’s craft community brainstormed with medical educators and physicians from over twenty countries including Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, and Mexico to name a few. The forum focused on the use of creativity to overcome physical distance and isolation especially with regards to education.
    • CraftNOW became the hosting partner for The First Friday Preview in May, a new online monthly program. Although First Fridays were an Old City tradition, the virtual platform enabled participants and audiences to join the conversation from anywhere.
    • Craft Business Survey was launched over the summer having retained Andrew Dahlgren and Heather Holiday to help CraftNOW identify business services that would assist Philadelphia’s craft and maker sector. Their research included 145 survey respondents, four group discussions with 19 participants, six interviews with local branding initiatives in other major cities, ten individual artisan interviews, and ten interviews with individuals that work in Philadelphia institutions that in some way support the business of craft.
    • CraftNOW connected with the City of Philadelphia’s Department of Parks and Recreation to help enhance their Playstreets program with craft activities from partner organizations.
    • The James Renwick Alliance, headquartered in Washington DC, approached CraftNOW to partner on a new kind of virtual tour. The unique experience featured some of Philadelphia’s most important craft destinations and influencers. 
    • CraftNOW received a Drexel University Lenfest Center for Cultural Partnerships grant to hire a full-time co-op student during their Fall and Winter terms. 
    • In September, a team of master’s students from the University of Pennsylvania’s Integrated Product Design program selected CraftNOW for a research project on youth education. They were asked to imagine how CraftNOW as an umbrella organization could administer a program targeting underserved, inner-city youth and exposing them to opportunities in craft and making.
    • A favorable board vote in October confirmed CraftNOW would pursue becoming an independent 501c3.
    • CraftNOW continued the tradition of celebrating November as CraftMONTH, the citywide campaign designed to amplify the work of the PMA Craft Show, both hosted entirely online.
    • During CraftMONTH, the exhibition venues listed on craftnowphila.org were in varying stages of scheduling due to the outbreak of COVID-19. All past exhibition partners remained on the site even if without a new exhibit so visitors could learn about how museums and galleries were being impacted and remaining dedicated to their programming.
    • Flanking the United States presidential election, the annual symposium was scheduled for Friday, October 30 and Friday, November 6. This symposium was organized in collaboration with the Philadelphia Museum of Art and underwritten by Techné, the museum’s affinity group exploring and celebrating international craft. Keynote speakers Vashti DuBois, Executive Director of The Colored Girls Museum, and Hinda Mandel, editor of Crafting Dissent, spoke along with other presenters from across the country.
    • CraftNOW Create was reimagined to include 500 take-home kits filled with seven unique craft activities and an online virtual party November 7th for instructions and storytelling. Kits were made available for pick-up at sixteen unique locations, which included partner galleries, retailers, schools, and community centers.
    • CraftNOW’s fall fundraising event was hosted amid CraftMONTH celebrations and included an online auction featuring nearly 50 artists and organizations. On November 14 CraftNOW closed the auction with a virtual gathering. Glenn Adamson hosted a conversation with Dan Saal and Erika Brask of Wonderfull Design about the development of the book Craft Capital. Suzanne Peurralt and David Rago from Rago Auctions spoke to the historic quality and value of items in the auction. The program concluded with two dozen artists and curators reading original limericks to commemorate the 90th birthday of Helen Drutt.

    2021 – Environmental Effects

      • Early in the year with guidance from Duane Morris attorneys Eric Hague and Barry Small, CraftNOW filed its application to become an independent 501(c)(3) organization. This filing encouraged several internal goals including the adoption of a new strategic plan and the introduction of two new committees of the board – Governance and Finance. Moreover, careful attention was given to composing a DEIA (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Access) and Non-Discrimination policy to inform the services we offer and our interactions with the community-at-large.
      • Introduced at the start of the pandemic in 2020, our First Friday Previews continued in 2021 bringing together many notable curators and artists promoting new exhibitions and projects. This casual program provided a virtual industry night and drew participation from beyond Philadelphia.
      • Together with Philadelphia’s Department of Parks and Recreation, CraftNOW Create expanded to their summer camps. Our partner organizations coordinated their efforts to ensure we could offer an in-person craft workshop at all of the 120 summer camps across the city in neighborhood recreation centers. This program delivered approximately 6,000 hours of craft instruction and reached up to 3,000 campers. In addition, the Philadelphia Museum of Art provided take-home kits with art supplies and free passes to the museum for each student and up to five more members of their family.
      • Also new in 2021, we officially launched CraftECON, a comprehensive series of programs focused on economic opportunity through craft. These programs unite creative businesses, increase the economic impact of the artisanal sector, and support policies that encourage investment in the field. As part of this process, CraftNOW in collaboration with the Creative Business Accelerator and Pennsylvania Council on the Arts launched the Keystone Alliance for Creative Economies (KACE, formerly KACEE). It is the first-of-its-kind statewide initiative that will share systems and best practices among organizations throughout Pennsylvania working to support artisanal businesses.
      • A significant accomplishment resulting from the CraftECON initiative was adding the new Directory of Artists and Makers to the website. Sorted according to eleven categories, the ongoing list serves to inform collectors, curators, and the general public about the significant number of artists and makers that contribute to Philadelphia’s thriving contemporary craft scene.
      • On Thursday, July 8, CraftNOW hosted a walking tour in Old City in collaboration with the City of Philadelphia’s Arts and Culture Recovery Week (ACRW). The Clay Studio, Pentimenti Gallery, Claudia Mills Studio, and The Center for Art in Wood participated in the program.
      • On Friday, November 5, CraftNOW hosted its first ever hybrid symposium with impressive technical support from The Center for Architecture, allowing attendees and presenters to join either in person or by Zoom. Emphasizing this year’s theme Environmental Effects, presentations included large-scale craft installations and sustainability issues from many artisans and artists whose work is influencing the paradigm of contemporary craft. Longer presentations were complemented by shorter “Pecha Kucha”-style talks. Dr. Kelli Morgan was the keynote speaker, having contributed the chapter “Crafting Diversity” in our recent publication Craft Capital: Philadelphia’s Cultures of Making.
      • CraftNOW invited exhibition venues throughout the city and region of Philadelphia to stage materials-based shows for us to feature in our annual portfolio of November events. Participants were invited to contribute to a marketing campaign that included social media takeovers, press releases, and other promotions encouraging gallery-going, event attendance, in-depth study, and art collecting.
      • Smith Memorial Playground invited us to host CraftNOW Create on their beautiful campus Saturday, November 6. Demonstrations and take-home kits were set up on their wrap-around porch and immediately in front of the Playhouse.
      • A highpoint in our 2021 portfolio included working on stories with several prominent news outlets, including WHYY, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Metro Philadelphia, Keystone Edge, Philadelphia Weekly, Marilyn Russel’s Remarkable Women podcast series, and PHL17 News. These are among the 36 total features we secured in the news, on air, and online.
      • CraftNOW’s fall fundraiser was held again during the annual celebration of CraftMONTH in November. The newly opened NextFab facility on North American Street and its tenant, The Neon Museum of Philadelphia, hosted in-person tours for guests. Our second online auction opened November 1 and closed November 17 immediately following the tours. Select auction items were on view during this event.
      • During the last quarter of 2021, Drexel University’s School of Public Health was invited to conduct in-depth research related to our community engagement and craft education in Philadelphia. This project was guided by Tariem Burroughs, the department’s Director of Experiential Learning and Career Services, whose goal is to provide master’s students with an opportunity to gain practical experience in addressing critical public health challenges. Their research focused on youth arts programs as they relate to mental health, socioeconomic status, and education.