Today we feature the Library Salon Series at the American Craft Council Library, submitted by librarian Jessica Shaykett.  It’s worth noting that the American Craft Council (ACC) just launched a brand new website, where visitors can read articles from American Craft magazine, find artist information, view the ACC Library Digital Collections which contain more 4,000 images, and more.  We recommend checking it out! 

 

The American Craft Council (ACC) is a national, nonprofit educational organization founded in 1943 by Aileen Osborn Webb.  The mission of the Council is to champion craft through programs, which include the ACC Library, a comprehensive collection of print and visual materials on American craft with an emphasis on the period since 1940.  The ACC Library is open to the public and also hosts tours, classes and lectures, including the recently launched Library Salon Series.

Entrance to the ACC Library and offices during the May 2012 Library Salon Series event. 

How did the Library Salon Series start?

The American Craft Council Salon Series started in the summer of 2007 at the ACC’s former headquarters in New York City. In 2010, the ACC relocated to Minneapolis and in the spring of 2012 we renamed and re-launched Salon Series as Library Salon Series in our new space.  There was a real need for us to engage with our local community here in the Twin Cities, as well as a desire to promote the unique resources contained in our Library. On the part of our education department, there also was the desire to facilitate conversations on the topics of craft, making and art. The Library Salon Series fulfilled all of these needs.

How was the program developed? 

In 2012 we received a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board to support the ACC’s educational initiatives within the state, one of which was the Library Salon Series. A small planning committee, consisting of myself (Jessica Shaykett, librarian), education coordinator Jordan McDonald and assistant editor for American Craft magazine, Andrew Zoellner, was formed to develop the Salon program. Our goal was to attract new audiences, particularly folks who are not familiar with the library or even the ACC. We wanted to present interdisciplinary sessions that would connect craft to the greater art and design world and provide an environment that would foster thoughtful discussion. In addition, we sought to incorporate programming that reflected historically on the contemporary craft movement through resources in the library collection.

Jennifer Komar Olivarez, Associate Curator at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and Monica Moses, Editor-in-Chief of American Craft magazine discuss the MIA exhibit, Craft and the Hand at the ACC Library Salon Series in March 2012.

After we established our goals for the Library Salon Series, the committee came up with a list of possible topics and presenters. We focused on local artists, scholars and curators who were known in the community and could attract an audience, as well as those who had current exhibitions or published research on the topics selected. We provided each speaker with an honorarium, depending on the level of involvement, of $75-200. Additional costs included the purchase of a sound/microphone system, projector and screen, and food/beverages to serve at each event.

As an additional tie-in and promotion for the ACC Library, we also made sure prior to each Salon that we had a selection of books and resources on the topics being presented to in order to create a book display near the audience seating area.

How do you promote the Salon?

Even with the grant, our budget for the Salon was fairly small. In order to attract new audiences, Jordan designed posters and flyers that we distributed at local artist studios, art schools, museums, craft organizations and coffee shops. We also used a variety of social media and electronic communication tools to promote the Salons. We wrote blog and Facebook posts, tweeted and re-tweeted, and sent e-blasts to all local members, donors, and anyone who paid a visit to the library in the last year. In a survey we gave attendees of the Salons, word-of-mouth seemed to be a popular way people learned about us and our programs.

Please describe the actual event. 

Audience taking in the April 2012 ACC Library Salon Series.

For our kick-off Salon this spring (the first in a series of four), we invited a curator from the Minneapolis Institute of Arts to have a conversation with the editor-in-chief of our magazine about an exhibition of craft objects currently on view at the Institute. In addition to identifying the objects, the conversation focused on the meaning behind the exhibition, why each object was selected and what characteristics set the object apart as “craft”. One attendee said that the presentation outside of the museum space helped him to focus on the context, and brought greater appreciation for the work when he later saw the exhibition in-person.

The second salon featured a panel made up of a sociologist, an art history professor and an artist, all discussing the art of curation and collecting. Bringing together experts with varied backgrounds and perspectives was decidedly successful for us because it drew an audience with a similar mix of interests. The question and answer portion of this event went for over 20 minutes, which is always a good sign!

In May we had our third Salon, the only event in which we brought in someone from outside the local community. We chose this individual because of his skills and knowledge on the topic and because, while not from the Twin Cities, he did have a strong local following. For this Salon the speaker and the librarian worked together to select videos from the library and archival collections, as well as from popular sitcoms and movies. The goal was to highlight the ACC Library’s video collection, as well as demonstrate how craft is used in popular culture. During this Salon we also hosted an exhibition of our local ACC member artists’ work in the library space. We had over 75 people at this event, and many seemed to enjoy the videos, commentary, and the objects on display in the space.

Garth Johnson introduces his next selection of film clips from the ACC archive during the May 2012 Library Salon Series.

Our next and final Salon for this series will take place on June 21st.  It will be in the format of Give & Take, a program created by a local design studio, Works Progress, who we hired to co-present the Salon with us. For at least one Salon, we wanted to partner with an organization, like Works Progress, that had experience planning arts events in the Twin Cities and could help us create a program that would appeal to a broader audience.

The concept for Give & Take is loosely based on two questions: What do you know? What do you want to know? Give & Take uses these two simple questions to launch an interactive evening of presentations, performances, and participatory games. Whether exploring knot-tying techniques, natural history dioramas, or the cultural importance of the cup, Give & Take taps the unique passions and perspectives of participants, sparking unexpected conversations and connections.  As this Salon is the last in our first series in Minneapolis, we also decided to host a social hour and live performance from a local choir. This Salon will take place on the roof deck of our building, but the library will still be a core part of the presentation, with an introduction before the program about the library and a looping video with images from and information about the collection playing during the event.

What were the results? Did the library do anything to extend or expand it?

Prior to the launch of Salon Series staff at the ACC were often asked how we were supporting craft makers and patrons in the Twin Cities. While the American Craft Council is a national organization, we still have responsibilities as a member of the local arts community. The Library Salon Series has allowed us to make connections with other organizations, artists, scholars and enthusiasts in our own backyard. Through the planning process, we have learned so much about the craft scene in Minneapolis, and in return we feel that the community has learned more about the library and the work we do at the ACC. Additionally, because we are a national organization, we’ve been working to place recordings of the Salons on our website, so folks outside the Twin Cities can also have access to the material being presented.

ACC Library Salon Series attendees peruse the stacks following the May 2012 event.

Due to the success of our first series (we’ve had over 150 attendees so far), we have been given the green light to launch another round of Salons in September 2012!

What was the response from the community?

A common thread between all the Library Salons is the number of people commenting on the library as a resource in the community.  Several attendees have said they will come back and use the library in the future, and a few have already stopped by.  Our library is small and, while located in a lovely historic facility, is surrounded by office spaces.  Therefore, having community members come to the Salons and then just “stop by” and use the library has been a tremendous outcome of the program!

Minneapolis/St. Paul is a vibrant arts metropolis, with a lot happening at museums, galleries, artists’ studios and the likes on a daily basis.  The attendance, repeat attendance and positive feedback we gathered from the Library Salon Series has so far demonstrated that we are filling a need and doing something unique that contributes to the already outstanding programming in our city.

All photos by Elizabeth Ryan.

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