Craft Lives Here

The Daphne and Peter Farago Gallery is the MFA’s dedicated space for contemporary craft. Some of the works here connect to the postwar studio craft movement, which saw artists setting up individual studios and seasonal craft schools, including New England’s Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Maine, founded in 1950, and Pilchuck Glass School, founded by Dale Chihuly and Ruth Tamura in 1971. In these types of settings, they produced one-of-a-kind artworks like Martha Rising Rosson’s Delight Rocking Chair (1980). Other works in this gallery signal new directions in contemporary craft, including a vessel by Philadelphia-based ceramicist Roberto Lugo inspired by graffiti and foregrounding demands for social justice, and a large-scale fantasy funerary sculpture in the form of an eagle by Ghanaian maker Joseph Tetteh Ashong (Paa Joe).

The works on display, which change on an ongoing basis, signal that there is no one definition of craft as a practice, field, or philosophy—historically or today. Contemporary craft can be an object made by hand using techniques and ideas carefully studied in a school or studio environment, or a garment created using skills passed down over generations of family or community. It can also mean ways of engaging with the human, plant, animal, or mineral worlds around us. Craft objects come in all different shapes and sizes, and from all over the globe, in functional and conceptual iterations—and often both simultaneously.

Visitors can find contemporary craft throughout the MFA. Though the Museum’s collection of contemporary craft houses objects from all over, one special focus is on work by artists living locally in New England and nationally in the US. From the creative outputs of Indigenous artists along the Massachusetts coastline to the work of Colonial-era silversmiths and scrimshaw carvers, makers have thrived in and around Boston for centuries. Some traditions are longstanding, like woodworking, which has flourished at the Eliot School of Fine and Applied Arts since its founding in 1676. Other craft practices and centers are much newer, including the Harvard Ceramics program, which was founded in 1969.

Craft is more than just a connective thread to a preindustrial era; it is deeply and continually relevant to contemporary life. Sociologist Richard Sennett tells us that in the present day, craft is an approach to diverse tasks—from making a container to parenting to writing code—worth doing well for their own sake.

This expanded understanding of craft poses it as way of engaging with a wide range of creative and human concerns, rather than limiting it to a particular medium or historically specific movement. Contemporary craft exists in practices, people, and cultures everywhere, and its processes and results are compelling and critical lenses through which to view and shape our worlds in the 21st century.

  • Daphne and Peter Farago Gallery (Gallery 258)