The Center for Craft is an iconic regional institution dedicated to connecting the public with crafters and their work, and the Center’s Engagement Studio embodies that mission by acting as a space where visitors can explore and interact with craft research. “The Engagement Studio is meant to serve the community and offer a unique experience as visitors learn about craft histories, craft research and the Center’s impact on craft,” says Mellanee Goodman, Center for Craft grant program manager–research and ideas. “All ages are welcome to browse a vast genre of publications such as exhibition catalogs, books on studio craft movements, craft and culinary, and design, in addition to a desktop computer and printer.”
Part library, part exhibition space, part making space, the Engagement Studio houses a variety of materials including archival items and scholarship like the Craft Research Fund (CRF) Study Collection, which includes dissertations, journals, catalogs and books from more than 148 CRF awardees. Not only can visitors read and view these materials but they are invited to actively engage with them through various hands-on activities: make zines and collages using Xerox machines, glue and scissors, or curate personalized bookstacks and post them with a collective hashtag.
Deirdre Visser was a recipient of a 2019 CRF Exhibition Grant for her book Joinery, Joists, and Gender: A History of Woodworking for the 21st Century, which can be found in the Engagement Studio. “Innovation in every field comes through challenging what’s already been done,” Visser says of the Engagement Studio. “Nothing interesting remains static. I hope that folks challenge, expand on, argue with my book. But you cannot create meaningful change without knowledge of its precedents.”
Visser says that craft impacts our daily lives in tangible ways, whether we are aware of it or not. The Engagement Studio encourages us to notice this daily interaction with craft, which in turn impacts our buying decisions and general appreciation for items we use every day.
“The greater our public knowledge is of craft and craft history,” she says, “the more informed we are regarding the choices we make as consumers regarding everything from design to sustainability to the environment.”
The Center for Craft is located at 67 Broadway Street, Asheville. The Engagement Studio is free to visit and open to the public Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Learn more at CenterforCraft.org.