The #MeToo movement has had a profound effect in every corner of American life, including in the arts. One has only to read the various arts journals and professional publications; go online to arts websites; read one’s emails; or participate in conversations with colleagues, to know just how profoundly the art world has been affected.
For the most part, for the better.
My anecdotal assessment of the #MeToo reporting and discussion, in the hundreds of newsletters and websites I’ve looked at in the last couple years, and from the dozens of talks I’ve had with colleagues in the art world, suggests that the result of this desperately-needed uproar has been more coverage of women artists and their work; more exhibitions and sales of their work; and, perhaps most important, more dignity and respect accorded to these gifted artists.
Which brings me to #MeToo in the ceramics world. We, too, have been affected profoundly. And, rightly so. And we, too, have responded positively in many contexts, if not all. A positive one was the 2019 NCECA conference, fittingly held in Minnesota, home to so many great women potters.
I was honored to be asked by the NCECA Board of Directors, in the person of Rhonda Willers, Board Steward, and chaired by Holly Hanessian, as well as Josh Green, Executive Director, to convene a panel discussing #MeToo in the ceramics world, for the 2019 Chipstone Session.
As you’ll see when you view the video accompanying this introductory blogpost, the panel was a stellar one. Notably, the panelists and I were guided in our work by ceramics advocate, writer, thinker, and gallerist par excellence, Leslie Ferrin. Complementing the panel presentations was an essay I wrote for the conference program in which I delve deeply into the #MeToo matter. Here it is. I hope you’ll read and share it.
During the session, we explored the many facets of #MeToo: across the spectrum of ideas and behavior, from the personal to the professional and back again. 90 minutes later, following a series of thoughtful questions from the audience, we gathered informally to discuss what’s next.
What is next, you ask.
Well, as you read the article and view this video; share them with your colleagues and students; post; tweet; and otherwise get these materials out there−to the most diverse audience possible−consider this list of challenges as the what’s-next to-do list.
I excerpt this list from a talk I gave at the Haystack School of Crafts conference in July 2019 on preserving our craft legacy:
“So, here is my takeaway: as in so much of life’s important work, one cannot depend on others to do the hard work of:
• recognizing the heretofore unrecognized;
• recording their history for posterity;
• making sure their work is memorialized in institutions that matter;
• ensuring that they are paid equally for their work;
• hired so they can afford to make work; and, in our ceramics world,
• advocating for women artists among collectors, in art gallery circles, at conferences, and in trade and consumer media where reputations are built and opportunities created.
So, it is for us, those who care about craft generally, to care about craftswomen in particular, to:
• undertake the tasks I’ve listed above;
• buy the work of these women;
• display and use it;
• gift it to friends and family and colleagues (I do a lot of this; yes, this is a great excuse to buy ceramics, but the act of giving-away serves an important educational purpose, too);
• advocate for its exhibition and accession into museum collections; and
• support these artists with scholarships, fellowships, residencies, exhibitions, special sales opportunities, curatorial positions; in running the damn places where art happens and is shared!”