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Meet Emily Zaiden of Craft in America Center in Beverly Grove

Today we’d like to introduce you to Emily Zaiden.

Emily, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
The Center was formed by Craft in America’s Executive Director, Carol Sauvion, in 2009 as a way for our PBS audience to see artworks from the episodes in person, here in Los Angeles. Los Angeles has long been an epicenter for craft and the Center was formed to continue and advance this tradition and to support and highlight the work of local and national artists in the field. The Center grew out of a location that had been part of Freehand Gallery, one of LA’s longest operating galleries, which Carol founded as an outpost for handmade craft in 1980. It is a special sensation to be in the same space as handmade objects, to view and absorb the color, depth, detail, texture, and other intricacies directly. Objects have a presence and they provide multi-sensory stimulation.

From that starting point, the Center began producing exhibitions beyond the episodes and has turned into a launching point for many careers, an incubator, and a Los Angeles platform for well-established national artists as well. In 2019, we doubled our square footage and have mounted more numerous and expansive exhibitions. We produce 6 to 8 shows annually plus additional exhibitions and programs with other venues and organizations, both in LA and in other parts of the country. Along with our exhibitions, we host a variety of public programs year-round that focus on craft within the realm of contemporary art, design and culture.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Being a small space, we are always confined as to how much artwork we can show, but it also allows us the opportunity to hone in on certain subject matter, refine our plans, and to understand our community and interact with everyone on a personal level. We are able to engage with each and every person who walks through our door, either to see an exhibition or to attend a program. It gives us the ability to really understand what they want and how we can best serve them through our programming. The scale of the space also affords the opportunity to focus on certain types of intimately-scaled objects, which we enjoy immensely.

As the organization has always produced the PBS documentary series, we found that digitizing our exhibitions and programs came very intuitively to us and we started doing so several years ago. It also gave us the chance to reach a wider audience than we could accommodate inside the space. When the pandemic forced our doors closed, the transition to online still had its challenges, and we miss our community terribly, but it was made easier by what we had been doing all along. During the pandemic, we have also utilized our storefront windows to display artworks so that passers-by can have the chance to experience art safely and securely. With all that said, we feel that there is nothing that compares with seeing the artwork live, in person and we cannot wait to reopen.

Please tell us about Craft in America Center.
We are one of the few spaces in Los Angeles, let alone the country, that focuses on the promotion of handmade work. We produce exhibitions, artists and scholarly talks, concerts, online content, publications and an educational program called Craft in Schools. For Craft in Schools, we bring LAUSD and other local, underserved k-12 students to the Center for field trips where they discuss art and exhibitions, meet the artists, and do hands-on art-making. We have a small footprint but a large impact. Over the past 11 years, we have become an anchor for craft worldwide.

If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
If we change anything, it would alter what we have become today, and I am happy with what we have grown into.

Pricing:

  • The Craft in America Center is always free and open to the public. All of our content including episodes of our PBS documentary series, artist talks and scholarly lectures, exhibition previews, 360º Virtual Tours of exhibitions, and catalogs are available on our website for free: craftinamerica.org.

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Image Credit:

Photos courtesy of Craft in America

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