Craft organizations, universities, and businesses are ripe with inequities, appropriation, and oppression and in producing Woman Interwoven, we are working to hold all of our partners and colleagues accountable to consistent ethical and fair practices beyond diversity statements and PR campaigns.
We spoke with the folks behind Craft Equity, a new platform "sharing personal stories from the craft field that expose its system inequities." and you can read their statement below.
Craft Equity: We are a group of craft artists who work in each of the traditional mediums (clay, glass, metals, wood, and textiles). We’re remaining anonymous partly because we want to avoid retaliation, but also because we don’t want the narrative of Craft Equity to become about us as individuals. Our focus should be on the submitters’ stories.
We started Craft Equity because while we’ve seen craft institutions address equity in recent years, we don’t think the work is going fast or far enough. Craft, like other fields, has a long history of white supremacy, misogyny, ableism, and class bias. We want to push craft to reckon with this history and to recognize the ways that these forms of discrimination are embedded in the structure of our field.
We were inspired by Instagram accounts that have provided platforms for people to tell their personal stories about mistreatment and discrimination in the arts, especially @changethemuseum. We followed their model very closely, and we’re grateful for the example they’ve given us.
We wanted an account that would specifically address craft as a field, which overlaps with art quite a bit but also has distinct histories of its own. A key difference between art and craft institutions is that craft institutions tend to be smaller. That creates difficulties for addressing inequity in a few ways.
First, craft institutions tend to get less press and are less publicly visible—that means that pressure strategies like boycotts and protests (which have in the past been used against art institutions like MoMA, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and MOCA Geffen) have not been used against craft institutions with the same effectiveness. Because craft institutions don’t have to respond to public pressure, they have been able to lag behind in DEI work without much damage to their reputations.
Secondly, the craft community is small and familiar. People have professional relationships but also personal relationships, and we don’t want to damage our friends’ reputations or our own working relationships. This disincentivizes us to speak out.
Third, craft values legacy. The apprenticeship and teaching models in craft incline us to protect our own lineage and those of our teachers. We don’t want to say bad things about them, even about influential artists of the past who are privately known to have been abusive or discriminatory.
With Craft Equity, we want to pressure craft institutions to evaluate inequities in their structures and culture. We hope that hearing stories from people who have been harmed will motivate them to do that, and we intend to hold them publicly accountable for that work.
Craft Equity can provide a space of healing and support for people who have been harmed: people who have never spoken of how they were mistreated, and people who have spoken out only to be disbelieved or dismissed.
Having this discussion is helpful for all of us, those who are witnessing and commenting as well as those who are telling their own stories, so that we can understand as a field what the equity issues in craft are.
We have already received many messages expressing gratitude for this platform from people who want to tell their stories. We want these stories to be heard, and we are listening.