Christina Dietz likes Jell-O. Not for its wobbly, indescribable texture or fruity taste, but for its potential as a creative medium.
“I get a mischievous glee when working with unconventional materials like bouillon powder or Jell-O,” says Dietz, an artist from central Pennsylvania. “Though commonplace in somebody’s lunch, [it creates] pause when brought into the studio.”
Dietz is one of 10 graduating college seniors recognized as 2017 Windgate Fellows last year. Sponsored by The Center for Craft, Creativity and Design, the Windgate Fellowship honors the next generation of makers by awarding $15,000 to students culled from a national network of 104 university art programs. The award is one of the largest of its kind, and “provides critical financial support as a bridge between college and graduate school or life as a working artist,” says Stephanie Moore, the Center for Craft’s executive director.
For Dietz, who grew up surrounded by food factories like Hershey’s and Utz, the money has afforded trips abroad to learn about traditional foods like Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, Spanish olives, Parma ham and balsamic vinegar. Her piece, “Home II (Eggshell Wallpaper),” follows suit by manipulating eggs to speak on her own vulnerabilities after graduating from college. The piece will be up for auction on Thursday, Aug. 9, during the Center for Craft’s third annual Craft After Dark.
Described as a “big party” by Lauren Pelletier, marketing and development coordinator at the center, Craft After Dark celebrates the Windgate fellows while raising cash for programming and operations. In years past, the night has generated $75,000 to $95,000 — and even more in artistic curiosity, says Pelletier.
“The event allows a time for our local and national supporters as well as new friends to come together, celebrate and network while supporting a cause they care about,” she continues. “The fellows also get to showcase work made during their fellowship at our silent auction and spend time with craft makers, collectors and enthusiasts.”
This year’s silent auction items run the gamut from “Generated Jacquard: Exploration I,” a cotton thread textile designed by Harvard student Christina Glover, to a hematite and brass necklace created by Rachel Chalik, an artist dedicated to wearable, emotionally expressive pieces.
Missouri-born ceramicist Audrey An will be introducing “Ode to the Lovebirds,” a porcelain work that speaks on her transcultural experience as a Korean-American growing up in Seoul, South Korea. Much like her other collections, “Ode to Lovebirds” explores cultural collision, locational identity and belonging. “Since birds are associated with travel and movement, the idea of incorporating birds [into my art] has always been on my mind,” says An. “Whimsical thoughts on how some birds huddle to warm themselves led me to create porcelain slip-casts to initiate a dialogue about individuals forming a community.”
The result is brooding, yet light. Hopeful, even.
Intrigued by the cross-cultural nature of ceramics, An used her fellowship money to travel to what she calls the “porcelain mecca,” Jingdezhen, China. There, she delved into China’s 1,700-year-old porcelain tile industry, visiting and investigating factories where makers use traditional processes to operate on a large scale.
At this year’s Craft After Dark event, An will be joined by six other fellows, Dietz included. Entertainment will feature the Confluence Trio during the VIP reception (5:30-7 p.m.) and DJ Marley Carroll during the main event. Brian Fleetwood, a 2012 Windgate Fellow based in Santa Fe, N.M., will also provide a make-your-own wearable brooch station. The craft kits are sponsored by Fleur S. Bresler.
In addition to piloting its new Fellows Connect initiative, a two-day series designed to bring the newest class of students together for professional development, the Center for Craft will be celebrating the fellowship program’s 13th year. Pelletier says the benefits of early support are already beginning to emerge: Today, fellows hold full-time faculty positions, are accepted into nationally renowned graduate schools, mount solo shows and establish successful studios. Plus, more than half have earned a Master of Fine Arts degree.
“Our mission is to advance the understanding of craft by encouraging research, critical dialogue and professional development,” says Pelletier. “Supporting the next generation is one of the Center for Craft’s main focus areas.”
Moore echoes that sentiment, noting, “The fellowship instills confidence and fosters bravery to take risks and the chance to seek and engage in career-enhancing opportunities.”
WHAT: Craft After Dark
WHERE: The Center for Craft, Creativity and Design, 67 Broadway, craftafterdark.com
WHEN: Thursday, Aug. 9, 7-10 p.m. VIP reception 5:30-7 p.m. $65-$250