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Tennessee Craft



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

April 17, 2023

Shop Black Fest in Memphis

Join Tennessee Craft at Shop Black Fest in Memphis on Saturday, April 22, from 12:00 to 7:00 p.m. Shop Black Fest is a series of regional festivals that highlight the work of Black entrepreneurs, including independent visual artists. Lester Jones of Bartlett will be demonstrating with Tennessee Craft at the event. Lester’s raku clay art portrays the variety and creativity of expression of Black hairstyles, in the forms of both figural sculptures and masks. Lester will share his process and techniques using wire, beads and other materials to create unique hairstyles.

Tennessee Craft will have information at the booth on the remaining 2022-23 Underrepresented Populations Scholarships, as well as updates and ways to participate in the upcoming Black Craft History Project artist database and exhibitions across the state.

Shop Black Fest will take place outside the Memphis Pyramid on Bass Pro and Riverside Drives. Find out more about Shop Black Fest on the organization’s website.


February 24, 2023

Pilot Program “Artists in Schools: Craft Stories” Launches in Clay County (Celina), TN

We’re excited to announce the launch of a new pilot program, “Artists in Schools: Craft Stories.” This program aims to work with school systems, throughout Tennessee, where additional art programming is most needed.

Through “Artists in School: Craft Stories,” students will have the opportunity to work directly with Tennessee Craft fine craft artists, learning about their techniques, materials, and inspirations. The program will focus on bringing craft stories to life, emphasizing the role of craft and craft artists in preserving cultural heritage and fostering creativity.

This pilot program will have an impact on fourth and fifth graders from Celina K-8 and Hermitage Springs Elementary on Friday, February 24. The craft artist selected for this first program is Emma Levitz, whose studio is in Cookeville, TN. Levitz is a stone carver, visual artist, and member of Tennessee Craft. She will share information about her process, using primarily locally sourced natural materials–limestone and marble. Her work ranges from fine art to highly-crafted functional pieces. Bonnie Matthews, Director of Development of Tennessee Craft, will also share some relevant local history and how it connects with Levitz’s materials, as well as an overview of the types of craft contemporary artists are creating and the careers they are pursuing in Tennessee.

“We’re pleased to partner with Clay County schools to bring this long-standing goal to life,” said Matthews. “We believe that the arts are an essential part of a well-rounded education, and we’re proud to share the joy of creating with Tennessee students. We hope they will consider future careers in craft art and try out different mediums. We also want to recognize Clay County District School’s Director of Instruction, Misty Strong, who has been instrumental in this day of programming; we value her leadership and vision in working with our team to create this opportunity for students in Clay County.”

“Artists in School: Craft Stories” is being developed by Virginia Salazar Buda, Tennessee Craft’s Outreach Coordinator, based in Johnson City, and is made possible, in part, by federal award number SLFRP5534 awarded to the State of Tennessee by the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Tennessee Craft’s goal is to expand the project to at least four Tennessee counties in the 2023/24 school year, using educational data from the state of Tennessee to determine areas of greatest need.


February 8, 2023

Intro to Craft Careers Launches at TSU

Intro to Craft Careers is a pilot program launching in Spring 2023 in the Department of Art + Design at Tennessee State University in Nashville. Professional artists will introduce craft art careers and explore business skills for career success with students. We will also share real-world experiences for students to further engage these speakers (coop, maker spaces, craft fairs, gallery shows, etc.)

Each session is scheduled from 12:30-2:00pm in Space for New Media at Elliott Hall.

February 8: Marketing & Pricing with Olasubomi Aka-Bashorun and Renee Ford
March 1: Sales Opportunities with Wilson Lee, Jr. and Evan Brown
April 5: Shared Creative Spaces with Danielle McDaniel and Jackie Schlicher

Visit the Intro to Craft Careers page for more information on the participating artists and real-world engagement opportunities. Tennessee Craft’s goal is to expand this program each year to a new college art department.


October 24, 2022

Underrepresented Populations Scholarship Reopens

Tennessee Craft is excited to announce the re-opening of the Craft Artists from Underrepresented Populations Scholarship. Applicants who identify as part of an underrepresented population can request up to $500 total to be used towards advancing their personal craft art practice. This scholarship was created to provide opportunity and support to craft artists from populations who have been historically underrepresented in their field. “Underrepresented” looks different for different situations: it could indicate race, ethnicity, (dis)ability, geographic location, or another signifier.

CLICK HERE to access the application. Applications will be accepted and reviewed on a rolling basis with applicants notified in approximately 30 days. Scholarship recipients have one year to use awarded funds. Applicants who are not yet members of Tennessee Craft may apply, but membership dues for the year will be deducted from the total funds requested. Please share with artists who may be eligible for funding.


September 15, 2022

Black Craft History Project Launches this Month

For the next 12 months, Karlota Contreras-Koterbay will lead research and exploration into the work and contributions of Black craft artists in Tennessee since 1920. Karlota is Director of the Tipton and Slocumb Galleries at ETSU and an accomplished curator focusing on regional, emerging and nationally-renowned women, BIPOC, LGBTQ and Appalachian artists.

You are invited to join the project by recommending Black artists working in traditional craft mediums in Tennessee over the past century. Share your information for the project at: tennesseecraft.org/blackcraftartists, and follow our progress on this Community Engagement page, Instagram and Facebook.

Welcome, Karlota, to the Tennessee Craft community!

Photo credit: Katie Sheffield


July 13, 2022

Deadline Approaching: Black Craft History Request for Proposals

Enthusiasm for the upcoming Tennessee Black Craft History project is growing! Our long-range goals include public offerings like an exhibition or publication, but we eagerly anticipate this introductory phase of research will begin to uncover the rich stories of Tennessee’s Black craft artists from 1920-2020. Our inaugural researcher will have two main goals for the year starting September 30:

  1. To compile a list of 30+ Black craft artists in Tennessee between 1920 and 2020 (who they were, where they lived/worked, and what they created–with bonus points for images of their artwork), and
  2. To provide a 7,500 word narrative to consider the work of Black craftspeople in the broader context of Tennessee history, with references for further exploration.

We are excited to support the researcher through our connections across the state, from the Tennessee Arts Commission to the Tennessee State Museum, from the University of Memphis to East Tennessee State University, from Paris/Henry County Arts Council to Arrowmont School for Arts and Crafts. We don’t want this project to emerge from a vacuum—we look forward to calling upon our friends and neighbors across the state to recommend artists, working alongside the researcher as they organize this information. Along the way, we can share what we learn with the public and plan bigger engagements down the road.

If you, a colleague, a student or friend have any questions about this project and what is required, please email Bonnie Matthews at bmatthews[AT]tennesseecraft[DOT]org. Bonnie can clarify the scope of the project and the expectations of the researcher. We anticipate that most work will be completed virtually through online resources and communications, not requiring travel to archives or visits to artists in this initial year. The stipend of $5,000 will compensate the researcher for their work and should be viewed as a guiding parameter for the time commitment expected by Tennessee Craft. This project might make a good graduate thesis for an interested student or the first exploratory step in a larger individual research project.


May 17, 2022

Black Craft History Request for Proposals

Tennessee Craft seeks proposals from qualified contractors to initiate an ongoing exploration of history of Black craftspeople and Black craft-making in Tennessee since 1920. This project is the first step in a series of actions by Tennessee Craft and our partners to re-center the efforts of Black Tennesseans in the production of handmade craft throughout the state’s history. The introductory phase of our history research will contextualize the work of Black craft artists today and increase public awareness of craft produced in the past in Tennessee.

Founded in 1965, Tennessee Craft is well-known for its biannual craft fairs in Centennial Park, biennial Best of Tennessee Craft exhibition, regional chapters across the state and development opportunities for artists like mentorships, scholarships and workshops. Participation by Tennesseans of all backgrounds in the professional craft field has been uneven. This research project seeks to address the underrepresentation and/or omission of Black artists in our history and programs, in particular the historical narrative of handmade craft’s reemergence via the craft school and Studio Craft movements from the 1920s forward.

Research into the continuance and transfer of craft traditions among African Americans over the course of Tennessee’s history will be used to inform future public programming. The initial project will: 1) create a catalog of Black craft in Tennessee through the past century; 2) provide historical context for the work of modern Black craft artists; and 3) suggest topics for public presentation and further inquiry.

This history project will propel Tennessee Craft’s efforts to:
1. Tell the stories of Black craft artists publicly to address underrepresentation and omission;
2. Build resources of information on Black craft artists for current and future work by the organization and others;
3. Create public programs to share this artwork more broadly, elevating Black craft artists;
4. Supplement the organizational history of Tennessee Craft to include diverse craft artists and craft art.

Qualified candidates should have prior professional writing and research experience and interest in this topic. CLICK HERE for the full RFP with scope of work, timeline and selection criteria. The deadline for submission of proposals is Friday, July 15, 2022. The awarded contractor will be announced and work will begin in September 2022. Email bmatthews[AT]tennesseecraft[DOT]org with questions.


Above: Masks by Sammie Nicely (1947-2015), pictured on exhibit at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in 2016. Nicely grew up in Russellville, TN, and attended Morristown College, Middle Tennessee State University and Arrowmont School for Arts and Crafts. He co-founded the “From Africa to Appalachia Foundation,” to share African and African-American visual and performing arts with the people in Appalachia. Nicely produced work and was an educator in multiple media throughout his career.


May 2, 2022

Black on Buchanan Art & Craft Show

Tennessee Craft is delighted to partner with The Equity Alliance, Curb Center at Vanderbilt and Nashville Jazz Workshop to offer a new venue to celebrate the freedom and accomplishments of Tennessee’s Black visual artists through their creative expressions. The Black on Buchanan Art & Craft Show is part of the Black on Buchanan Juneteenth Block Party. The event’s goals are to inspire visitors to engage with the visual arts, encourage future artists and build patronage for Black artists. As the Juneteenth615 community aspires to become the premier Juneteenth celebration in America, we hope that the Black on Buchanan Art & Craft Show will become an annual highlight for the public to meet Black visual and craft artists and collect their artwork. Interested artists can review the eligibility requirements and apply here. Full booth spaces are $75 and Emerging Artist spaces are $25. There is no fee to apply, but applications must be submitted no later than May 30, 2022. Download the Black on Buchanan Show Flyer.



February 9, 2022

New Scholarship Announcement

Tennessee Craft is offering a new scholarship for craft artists from underrepresented populations. Applicants who identify as part of an underrepresented population can request up to $500 total to be used towards advancing their personal craft art practice. This scholarship was created to provide opportunity and support to craft artists from populations who have been historically underrepresented in their field. “Underrepresented” looks different for different situations: it could indicate race, ethnicity, (dis)ability, geographic location, or another signifier. CLICK HERE to access the application. The deadline to apply is May 1, 2022. Recipients will be notified of their application status by June 17. Scholarship recipients have until June 30, 2023 to use awarded funds.


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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