The independent student newspaper of Northeastern University

The Huntington News

The independent student newspaper of Northeastern University

The Huntington News

The independent student newspaper of Northeastern University

The Huntington News



Got an idea? A concern? A problem? Let The Huntington News know:

The Society of Arts and Crafts aims to mold modern vision for aspiring artists

Nick Cortese
Michelle Millar Fisher holds up a piece by Marilyn Pappas. Pappas talked about her work and its inspiration at the event.

For the first time in the organization’s storied history, the Society of Arts and Crafts, or SA+C, was welcomed at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston Feb. 1 for the third installment of CraftBoston on the Move. The title CraftBoston may feel like a throwback for longtime city residents familiar with the history of artistry in New England. New Bostonians, on the other hand, should expect to become familiar with the revamped CraftBoston and myriad additional events from the SA+C.

The SA+C first rose to prominence in 1897 by supporting crafters in the New England area. Over the next few years, it rapidly climbed to the forefront of America’s Arts and Crafts Movement. Through the 20th century, the SA+C continued to provide deserved recognition to artists nationwide. 

“We are 127 years old, and for the last 70-80 years we have been identifying up-and-coming craft artists with the potential to make enormous an impact in the field,” SA+C President Katina Leodas said. “Around this time we also had a very successful store on Newbury Street where people who appreciate fine craft can collect it and support the artists looking to sell their work.”

In the early 2000s, the SA+C broke through to the general public, as it instituted CraftBoston, a massive, high-end craft fair introducing the beauty of arts and crafts to those unaware of their magic. Events consisted of 175 booths run by jewelers, metalsmiths, woodworkers and ceramic artists who shared their designs with enjoyers of the crafts.

Marcia Young, now the interim executive director for the SA+C, was one of those onlookers who attended CraftBoston in its early stages. She reflected on her CraftBoston experiences, describing them as occurrences that took the nation’s craft community by storm. 

Marcia Young introduces the event. She later spoke about plans for more accessible events to expand the crafting community. (Nick Cortese)

“It was energizing because it catalyzed not only the fine craft community in Boston, but people from across the country who would spend the weekend to see CraftBoston,” Young said. 

For years, CraftBoston appeared to be a hit. The events attracted huge herds of witnesses, and attendees left with a greater love for the crafts, Young said. However, the experience did not always translate to recognition, and though the goal of CraftBoston was to bring attention and support to artists, there seemed to be a lack of awareness of the SA+C’s artistic advocacy. 

“The challenge for the SA+C has been expanding our identity to the people who just knew us as CraftBoston,” Young said. “As we came up with more to replace and remind people of CraftBoston, it was never a ‘we are not something,’ it’s a ‘we are also’ or a ‘yes and’ situation.”

Ultimately, the pandemic solidified what was already trending to be the case: CraftBoston needed a change. 

This past calendar year, SA+C treasurer Lynne Francis-Lunn became the missionary behind a new idea — CraftBoston on the Move. The events operate like such: The curator of the exhibitions joins the guests in person and details each piece in their gallery through a slideshow followed by a tour of the exhibition. As they break down each individual craft, they try to create a broader picture as to how the pieces they chose for their exhibit connect. Often, the curator will be accompanied by a panel of a few artists who explain the specific vision for their art. Leodas emphasized the unique experience of direct engagement with curators and galleries. 

“The chance to be immersed in the exhibits helps you learn more than you would on your own,” she said. 

At the CraftBoston on the Move event at the Museum of Fine Arts, or MFA, curator Michelle Millar Fisher assembled the exhibition named “Tender Loving Care” which “invites visitors to experience works of contemporary art that suggest many forms of care in many different ways,” Fisher said.

One of the included pieces is “Flight Suit” by Marilyn Pappas. Pappas told the SA+C while on the panel at the MFA that she began working with fabrics when she was a single mother looking to find something she could do with her children. She then created “Flight Suit” after being inspired by the embroidered vestments she saw in museums she would visit as well as the fading of color of Ancient Greek statues. 

Another piece in “Tender Loving Care” is Venetia Dale’s “Keep From Falling.” This body of work was a molded and cast ball of pewter shaped by orange peels, crackers and other remains from her children’s scrapped food. Dale revealed in an emotional telling to the SA+C that the title represents how she used craft as an activity to calm the despair she felt from pandemic isolation. 

“All I felt like I was doing was feeding my kids and cleaning up,” Dale said. “I really made this piece out of a moment to try and see myself in life.”

CraftBoston on the Move creates a stronger relationship within the craft community for both the SA+C and the artists displayed. “One of the society’s missions is trying to surface those personal narratives that the artist shares while also building the bridges from craft to the communities around us,” said Gary Roberts, SA+C board of trustees member, who is chair of strategic planning and chair of diversity, equity and inclusion. 

The SA+C is nowhere near finished when it comes to creating a more engaging outlook on fine craft, Young said. Young, who is in her seventh month as the interim director, has already implemented a multitude of activities to expand the craft community — the biggest of such was the Nature of Imperfection Call for Entry. This ongoing call allows individuals with pieces of jewelry and adornment that embrace the concept of inconsistencies to submit their pieces in hopes their work to gain more exposure and a chance at a $1,000 grant.

Possible future programs by the SA+C are a curatorial training program, a mentor program with studio artists and regional exhibits inspired by the Asparagus Valley Pottery Trail. Young said the point of these ideas is to be more accessible. 

“People will be excited when we have this new event that reminds them of CraftBoston but is a fresh new thing,” she said. 

To the trustees at the SA+C, there is a method to the madness. The organization wrote in its pamphlet handed out at the MFA that it finds continuity of purpose within promoting art because it sees a deep connection between material and artists. 

“I still feel like art is magic,” Young said. “Something about creating things that didn’t exist before and will exist long after we’re gone is fundamental.”

The magic within art drives each member of the SA+C to create a more artistic future. They hope aspiring artists can be driven by curiosity, and in turn, bring each other together through their work. 

“When you look at a new material or medium and do something totally new with it, that’s where the curiosity is,” Young said. “Those who can blow you away and bring you in with the creation of things you haven’t seen before are the artists that form the definition of craft.”

Venetia Dale explains “Keep From Falling.” She spoke about how it represented how crafting helped calm her despair from pandemic isolation. (Nick Cortese)
More to Discover