Here's How ASU Art Museum Is Bringing More Contemporary Craft to Arizona

Installation view of the 2013 "Crafting a Continuum: Rethinking Contemporary Craft" exhibition at ASU Art Museum.EXPAND
Installation view of the 2013 "Crafting a Continuum: Rethinking Contemporary Craft" exhibition at ASU Art Museum.
Craig Smith

ASU Art Museum has big plans for increasing its contemporary craft offerings. That’s because a $330,000 grant will help fund a series of new acquisitions and craft-related programs.

It’s a significant gift relative to the museum’s overall budget. That runs about $2 million each year, says Heather Sealy Lineberry, senior curator and interim director for ASU Art Museum.

The grant is coming from the Arkansas-based Windgate Foundation, which supports causes that include educational programs in the visual arts, arts and crafts, and art history preservation efforts.

ASU Art Museum was formally notified about the two-year grant in November 2016. It announced receiving the grant on Tuesday, March 28. Funding will be used to support a new Windgate Contemporary Craft Initiative at the museum.

The initiative will help the museum make sustained and substantial contributions to the country’s contemporary craft scene, Lineberry says.

And that’s a big deal.

“It’s unusual for contemporary art museums to focus on collecting and researching contemporary craft,” Lineberry says.

Contemporary craft has long been a focus for the museum, she says.

ASU Art Museum was founded during the 1950s, and soon acquired its first ceramic pieces. Its contemporary craft collection comprises primarily ceramic, wood, and fiber art works — including sculptural fiber forms.

The museum has a Ceramics Research Center located at the ASU Brickyard, which presents several exhibitions and hosts an annual self-guided tour of ceramic studios in metro Phoenix.

Headed by ceramics curator Garth Johnson, the center is currently showing works by 33 artists working in different pottery regions across China.

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After prints, ceramics comprise the largest part of the museum’s collection. “We have nearly 4,000 ceramic works,” Lineberry says.

“This gift will impact artists, scholars, students, and the community,” Lineberry says of the Windgate Foundation grant.

Specific elements of the initiative include a fellows program that brings curators, scholars, and practitioners to ASU for research, writing, teaching, curating, and public programs.

The initiative will also fund providing contemporary craft artists with space and support for developing new bodies of work, through the ASU International Artist Residency Program.

In terms of its collection, says Lineberry, the museum will focus during the initiative’s first year on conservation, and on new acquisitions during the second.

This isn’t the first time the Windgate Foundation has supported ASU Art Museum’s work.

For more than two decades, the foundation has provided various types of support, such as funding exhibitions, paid curatorial internships, and a symposium on contemporary craft.

"We're excited about continuing to explore contemporary craft as part of the broader contemporary art world," Lineberry says.

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