Photo: Hinda Mandell

Photo: Hinda Mandell

Crafting Democracy: Fiber Arts and Activism

Harold Hacker Hall, Central Library of Rochester (New York) & Monroe County

Exhibit Co-Curators:
Juilee Decker, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Museum Studies Program jdgsh@rit.edu and
Hinda Mandell, Ph.D., Associate Professor, School of Communication hbmgpt@rit.edu
Rochester Institute of Technology

Crafting Democracy seeks to demonstrate the ways in which craft is employed as a tool of expression that gives voice to people who seek an active role in democracy. 

Women in the U.S. have been drawn to craft as a protest tool since the American Revolution, thereby altering the domestic purpose of their handiwork into subversive action. This exhibit emerges from a contemporary standpoint where thousands of pussyhats became the visual symbol of protest in women’s marches across the globe on January 21, 2017, the day after Donald J. Trump was inaugurated as 45th president of the United States. Crafting Democracy seeks to highlight examples of contemporary craft activism that have recently soared, placing them into conversation with their historical precedents including, for instance, local references to Rochester’s own craft and textile heritage that played a central role in the Suffragist movement through banners and sashes. Crafting Democracy seeks to demonstrate the ways in which craft is employed as a tool of expression that gives voice to people who seek an active role in democracy. 

Crafting Democracy will show how objects of material culture can provoke and engage everyday citizens, including those of marginalized identities, as productive tools in deliberative democracies; craft can also aid those wanting their voices to be amplified through the process of making. In order to draw attention between the local and the global, the work of Rochester-area residents of all ages will be on display along with that of art-activists (“craftivists”) from across the U.S. and abroad, who use the traditional tools of craft (yarn, thread, textiles) to make statements about socio-political, cultural, and economic issues that have engaged them, prompting them to turn to craft as a pathway to positive change, and a tool for enacting social justice.