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State of Craft Interview

Ellen McCulloch-Lovell

Executive Director of the Vermont Arts Council 1975-1983, current president of Marlboro College
Dates Active: 1970 - 1983

This grass roots thing started to build up and the State Craft Center idea was essentially part of that. It was part of working with other agencies and looking at these maps that people got and saying how are people going to find their way to buy crafts? And then partly the idea of wouldn't it be neat since, you know, there's a State arts agency, State-designated arts agency, why couldn't there be State-designated craft centers that would give them no money, unfortunately, but visibility?

That whole idea of interagency collaboration to promote the crafts and all of the arts as part of the State's identity, that momentum got lost.

In some ways it may say something about what happens with different leadership and different boards, but also, remember, the State people changed and so the people who...were really intrigued with these ideas and helped make them happen turned over, too. You know, we won a lot of friends and made a lot of converts, but there is this kind of constant turnover and people want to make their mark and take things in their own directions.

I think we're up against a couple of things; one is the diminishment of arts education in schools. Arts education, whether it was superficial: here's some clay, make a pinch pot; or sophisticated, you know, printmaking; whatever, you know; whatever kind of making it is, it's making. It's understanding the connection between idea and hand. And that those aren't different things and that they come together, especially, in the crafts.

Even in something where someone repeats the making, the actual making over and over again, there are objects that are alive and there are objects that are inert. And I'm kind of intrigued with how does the artist know when that's happening and how does the viewer or the user know that? And can we teach people that and then can we teach them to value something because of that?

(There was) a wonderful convergence of people at the Arts Council holding the beliefs that we held, trying to carry things out with the intentionality that we did, and Peter Wendland and D'Ann Fago and Michael Boylen and Dorothy Olson, also, and many, many other people...Something very energetic was going on and...I think all of that could get recreated, in a different way with different people--the potential is still there.