Craft in America Awarded $100,000 Inaugural Prize for Excellence and Innovation by the Decorative Arts Trust

  • December 07, 2020 14:41

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J. Isaac Vásquez García, master weaver and dyer, is featured in the Craft in America: Borders episode. Photo by Denise Kang.

As part of the Decorative Arts Trust's dedication to nurturing academic and educational programs, Executive Director Matthew A. Thurlow announced Craft in America as the recipient of the inaugural Prize for Excellence and Innovation in a special presentation last evening. Established in 2020, the $100,000 Prize for Excellence and Innovation recognizes scholarly endeavors undertaken by a non-profit organization to advance the public's appreciation of decorative arts, fine arts, architecture, or landscape design.

In January 2020, Cincinnati Art Museum curator Amy Dehan and consultant R. Mark Adams work on the Unlocking an Art Deco Bedroom by Joseph Urban exhibition. Courtesy the Cincinnati Art Museum

"The inaugural Prize is a watershed moment for our organization," Matthew Thurlow notes. "We are proud to be one of the few organizations able to offer $100,000 in support of a decorative arts project at this critical moment in the cultural sector. In recent years, we have helped hundreds of students and young professionals make strides toward their careers in the arts, and the Prize will reinforce the value of their dedication."

The Decorative Arts Trust hosted a virtual program on December 7, attended by members, donors, and enthusiasts. Viewers were treated to a presentation that highlighted Craft in America's project and the finalists.

The Thornton Portrait Gallery inside the Huntington Art Gallery, courtesy The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens

The finalists, each expanding engagement and access to the arts, included:

  • The Cincinnati Art Museum is mounting a special exhibition in 2021-2022 that recreates a bedroom designed by prominent Modernist Joseph Urban. 
  • Craft in America is creating a free online video database of craft tools and techniques spanning all decorative arts media. 
  • The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens is planning a reinstallation of its American Art galleries. 
  • Monticello is undertaking a comprehensive reassessment of Thomas Jefferson's Tea Room in preparation for a restoration and reinterpretation project. 

Craft in America is preparing a free online video dictionary of tools, techniques, and materials spanning all decorative arts media, a project led by Craft in America Center Director Emily Zaiden. This free resource for researchers, art historians, students, and the public will serve as an evergreen and widely accessible tool to demonstrate handmade crafts production.

Thomas Jefferson's Tea Room at Monticello in Charlottesville, VA will be restored and reinterpreted. Courtesy Monticello

Each dictionary "entry" will consist of a "Craft in America will blend the contemporary with the historic by sharing the techniques of talented living craftspeople who represent a continuum of artisanship that stretches back centuries," shares Matthew Thurlow. "The project is scalable, malleable, inclusive, and accessible in a manner that will continue to draw interest in and promote the importance and artistry of objects. Craft in America has an impressive history of producing video and narrative of the highest quality. We are proud to reach across the country to support a smaller organization that will make an incredible contribution to further appreciation for the decorative arts."

Craft in America films Linda Sikora, potter and Professor of Ceramic Art/Division Head at Alfred University. Photo Denise Kang.

“This project will organically demonstrate the ongoing continuity of historic craft processes in modern life,” explains Emily Zaiden, Craft in America Center Director. “The beauty and core of this project is that it captures precisely how historic craft and decorative arts processes are very much alive in the hands of contemporary makers and craft artists. It will demonstrate our connection with the past, with the work of the hand, and our inherent connection with tactile objects and the material culture of our world. These videos will bring to life, in this modern, tech-dominated era, the age-old techniques from our craft heritage.” 

The Decorative Arts Trust has a long tradition of providing international support to the next generation of museum curators and decorative arts historians via its generous grants, scholarships, and internships. The Trust welcomes additional financial support to endow the Prize beyond this inaugural year. For more information about the Decorative Arts Trust Prize for Excellence and Innovation, visit, email, or call 610.627.4970.

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