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Tennessee Craft

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Community Engagement

Community Engagement

In the Summer of 2020, Tennessee Craft began assessing its efforts toward diversity, equity and inclusion. On September 12, 2020, we published a statement in support of Black Lives Matter below to our homepage. Since then, we have developed and adopted a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Statement and rebooted our Community Engagement Committee, with many new voices and perspectives spearheading these initiatives. Please visit this page often for current information on these works in progress and to get involved.

Community News

June 19, 2021

Today, we recognize and celebrate Juneteenth, the day in 1865 when – two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation – enslaved Black people in Galveston, Texas learned that they had been freed. We acknowledge, however, that freedom from enslavement did not equal freedom from racism or from the oppression of Black people. William Edmondson reminds us that there have continuously been craft artists of color in Tennessee, yet for most of our state’s history, they could not access formal art opportunities. While creativity, skill, and inspiration may be universal, Black artists have been relatively invisible in the public sphere and art marketplace, with Edmondson dubbed an “outsider artist.” We celebrate his individual acclaim as a Tennessee artist while we are also sobered by our history of sidelining Black craft artists. The work of recognizing the struggles and achievements of the Black community, especially in the field of their contributions to craft art, is ongoing and evolving.

Pictured at right: American sculptor William Edmondson working on a sculpture in 1937. 
(Silver gelatin print by Louise Dahl-Wolfe – Archives of American Art, Public Domain, More details)


September 12, 2020

Tennessee Craft proudly supports Black Lives Matter.

As a community of artists, we believe that the arts have an unparalleled capacity to change hearts and minds, and, when necessary, speak truth to power. Change, however, must start from within, and it is for this reason that Tennessee Craft both reaffirms its longstanding commitment to diversity in all its forms and looks forward to being part of an ongoing conversation about how we can best contribute to the essential work of making diversity and inclusion a cornerstone of who we are and what we do as an organization.

What We Do:

  • Welcome artists, jurors, volunteers, and food vendors from all cultures to all our events. Jurors are carefully selected based on their artistic knowledge, and artists’ work is evaluated by the jurors based on the creative quality. Spring and fall fair signage noting each artists’ spoken language(s) is displayed at each artist booth.
  • Offer events and programs throughout the year free of charge to provide accessibility to fine craft regardless of socio-economic background.
  • Concentrate on all types of diversity and inclusion, including regional representation within Tennessee, as an integral component of our Master Artist/Apprentice Program and Best of Tennessee Craft exhibitions.
  • Interface with and serve groups from all cultures and ethnicities through internal member activities and public programming supported by the work of our Community Engagement Committee.
  • Consistently meet the grant criteria of Metro Arts initiative for racial equity in the arts.
  • Abide by ADA Accessibility guidelines. To increase accessibility to our Spring and Fall Fairs, we provide accessible parking, shuttles, handicapped accessible port-a-lets, and assistance to persons with disabilities.
  • Extend membership within our organization to everyone.
  • Provide an environment that is free from discrimination in employment and opportunity due to race, color, ethnicity, religion, creed, national origin, ancestry, disability, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, or age. A Title VI program is in place which includes a process to receive, address and log formal Title VI complaints that have been made to the organization.

What We’re Doing:

  • Gathering resources and self-educating. Hiring experts to teach the staff and board how to have meaningful and productive discussions about diversity, equity, and inclusion to foster open communication within our community. This workshop is scheduled to occur over the next few months.
  • Recharging our Community Engagement committee to assess our current practices and policies to ensure we are welcoming to all and exercising best practices in diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  • Working to engage new presenters in our Kids Tent at our upcoming Fall Fair and through public education to better reflect the diversity of our greater community and celebrate the wealth of our craft-making traditions.
  • Researching the continuance and transfer of craft traditions among African Americans over the course of Tennessee’s history, including during the time of enslavement and following emancipation. We anticipate applying for a humanities grant that will facilitate a written history, photographic essay, and exhibition focused on the long history of Black craft making in our state.

What We Will Do:

  • Define diversity, equity, and inclusion in context of the mission of Tennessee Craft in the upcoming strategic planning process.
  • Thoroughly review our artistic standards to see if they reflect bias.
  • Evaluate our language across all platforms to better acknowledge and represent our state’s rich and diverse craft heritage.
  • Create opportunities for emerging artists from marginalized communities to explore and develop thriving craft careers by listening to feedback on barriers to accessibility and making necessary changes to operations.
  • Actively work towards greater diversity at Tennessee Craft as an organization in terms of both board leadership and general membership.
  • Cultivate relationships with arts organizations serving underrepresented communities to learn about their needs and collaborate on initiatives.

Change is neither easy nor a short-term project, but together we can and will make Tennessee Craft a catalyst for change in our community. We welcome your ideas, suggestions, and support. Contact us at info[AT]tennesseecraft[DOT]org.

Let’s Craft change together.

Updated 09/12/2020 – 12:40PM


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