African Americans have played an important role as makers since the dawn of the American experiment. As primary makers in all areas of craft during slavery, their skills and knowledge have contributed tremendously to building this nation, even while, for the most part, receiving no compensation. Since emancipation, in the nineteenth through the twenty-first centuries, African American artisans have continued to produce, often with scant recognition of their participation or equal access to the craft establishment in the United States.
The African American Craft Initiative (AACI), launched in 2020 in response to the dual pandemics of COVID-19 and institutional racism, is designed to expand the visibility of African American artisans and ensure equitable access to resources. Established through a consultative process of dialogue with African American makers and organizations, as well as the mainstream craft sector in the United States, AACI outlines concrete actions for sustainable change.
Through collaborative research, documentation, and public programming, the initiative builds upon the relationship between craft and community by amplifying and supporting efforts of African American makers to sustain their craft practice. Further, AACI facilitates networking and outreach opportunities, advocates for equitable access to markets and resources, and improves the public’s understanding of the history, cultural background, and aesthetics of African American craft.
In October 2020, craft artists, scholars, organizers, and activists gathered virtually to discuss the state of African American craft, assessing the needs of the community and discussing practical next steps to sustain and amplify their work.Learn more
In May 2021, African American leaders from craft and activist collectives, businesses, and cultural centers examined the role Black craft organizations hold in their direct connections to the maker community and the issues they face.Learn more
In July 2021, representatives from craft organizations and schools, state arts councils, and museums identified long-term goals, potential successes, and roadblocks for achieving more equitable representation for African American artists.Learn more