New Book About Craft Art in Western New York Features Numerous RIT Artists

Book signing and panel discussion at Memorial Art Gallery on March 21

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New book about craft art features the work of numerous artists with ties to RIT

The Memorial Art Gallery has published a new book, Breaking Ground: A Century of Craft Art in Western New York, which explores the history of the craft movement within the region. Illustrated with vintage and contemporary photography, the 156-page publication surveys the work of early pioneers as well as current artists.

Breaking Ground features the work of all faculty members from RIT’s School for American Crafts, the school’s artists-in-residence and several former faculty and alumni.

The book contains original interviews with four contemporary masters including RIT artists-in-residence Wendell Castle (woodworking and furniture design) and Albert Paley (metals) and Michael Taylor (glass), retired professor from RIT’s School for American Crafts. The book concludes with 50 pages of striking art by 25 other contemporary artists who live in the region. Of those artists more than half of them have an RIT connection.

RIT School for American Crafts faculty members Andy Buck (woodworking and furniture design), Rich Tannen (woodworking and furniture design), Juan Carlos Caballero-Perez (metals/jewelry), Leonard Urso (metals/jewelry), Robin Cass (glass), Michael Rogers (glass) and Rick Hirsch (clay) are all featured.

RIT Alumni John Dodd ’77 (woodworking and furniture design), Bill Keyser ’61, ’06 (woodworking and furniture design), Nancy Jurs ’60 (clay), Concetta Mason ’85 (glass), Richard Scott Newman ’77 (woodworking and furniture design) and Concetta Mason ’85 (glass) are also among the artists.

At 2:30 p.m. March 21, the Memorial Art Gallery hosts a panel discussion “Craft Art: Looking Back, Looking Forward,” with Albert Castle, ceramics artist Wayne Higby, RIT professors Robin Cass and Leonard Urso, ceramics artist Linda Sikora and Paul Smith, director emeritus of the American Craft Museum. Suzanne Ramljak, editor of Metalsmith magazine will serve as moderator. A book signing will follow the panel discussion.

“New York City may be the cultural center of the state, but it was in the small towns of western New York that a craft movement took root, producing some of the most important schools and artists in the nationwide studio craft movement,” says journalist, author and Rochester native Barbara Lovenheim, who initiated the book. Lovenheim edited the book with Smith and Ramljak. Xerox Corp. underwrote the printing of Breaking Ground. Editorial and design were underwritten by the BIL Charitable Trust; the Gallery’s Mabel Fenner Lyon Fund provided additional support.

The book is $30 for softcover and $45 for hardcover and may be purchased at the Memorial Art Gallery Store or by contacting Colleen Griffin-Underhill, Memorial Art Gallery, at 585-276-9012.