Craft Show Juror Q&A: Elisabeth Agro

Behind-the-scenes insight on contemporary craft continues in our Juror Q&A blog series, this time from Craft Show 2014 juror Elisabeth Agro. (See the first Craft Show Juror Q&A post featuring the Museum of Fine Arts Boston’s Yvonne Markowitz here.) As the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Associate Curator for Craft and Decorative Arts, Agro often serves on the juror panel of the Craft Show.

What's the most rewarding or challenging thing about serving as a juror?

There are two aspects that are most rewarding to serving as a juror as often as I do. First, it permits me to meet and get to know the other jurors, who range from being curators of all kinds of spaces, gallerists, established makers and academics. Secondly, it is always rewarding to see new submissions from talented artists who are pushing the boundaries of their medium and work.

I guess the challenge is to rally my fellow jurors to make the best show possible by really bringing my "A" game into the room.

What makes the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show different? 

When this show was launched in 1977, it was the first of its kind, so it has those laurels to rest upon. This show, like others, is a fundraiser for a major museum. What sets it apart from other craft shows is how not only do all the proceeds go directly to varied museum-wide activities from exhibitions to education, but a percentage goes directly in a fund that is applied to the acquisition of contemporary craft. I don't need to explain how critical that is, do I!

What do you look for when selecting artists for the Craft Show? 

I am always on the lookout for up-and-coming artists who are pushing the boundaries of their medium or practice. It is especially important, in my opinion, that their work reflects their individual and unique voice. As the museum's curator, I always enjoy watching artists grow and come into their own. The Craft Show is a great way to get your work seen, especially if you are an emerging artist or even at mid-career. All shows need an infusion of new talent; it’s what keeps them fresh and vital. So artists, never shy away from applying!

Which craft trends did you see coming through this year? 

This year there was a striking proliferation of work across all media that could be categorized as minimal but blended with a twang of the industrial. This should not be very surprising, since it seems to be the trend in many household, office settings and everyday surroundings. What is surprising is to see this trend share the stage with the application and love of ornament, whether applied on the surface or to be used structurally. I can tell you that this decorative art historian always loves to see that!

Elisabeth Agro received her B.A. in Italian Studies from Mary Washington College, Fredericksburg, VA, and an M.A. in the History of Decorative Arts from Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, Smithsonian Institution/Parsons School of Design, NY.

At the Philadelphia Museum of Art, she has executed several exhibitions: Wrought & Crafted: Jewelry and Metalwork 1900–Present, Interactions in Clay: Contemporary Explorations of the Collection, Craft Spoken Here and organized Calder Jewelry. The founding of the American Studio Craft movement is a subject of ongoing research. Agro is currently planning the second installment of At the Center: Masters of American Craft, part of a five phase installation program in the American Art galleries focusing on the Museum’s craft collection.

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