The seed for the museum, however, was planted more than 60 years ago, when Aileen Osborn Webb, the nation’s premier craft patron and benefactor, established the American Craftsmen’s Council in 1942. Now for nearly half a century, the Museum of Arts & Design formerly known as the American Craft Museum has served as the country’s premier institution dedicated to the collection and exhibition of contemporary objects created in media such as clay, glass, wood, metal, and fiber.
The Council’s original goal was to recognize the work of American craftspeople and to make the general public aware of the vitality that contemporary craft expression could bring to an age of machine-made products. Educational programs were created and competitions that promoted technical excellence among craftspeople all to celebrated the beauty of the handmade object. The great success of these programs revealed a need for a museum dedicated to contemporary American crafts.
Under the continuing support of Mrs. Webb’s, the Museum of Contemporary Crafts opened in 1956 in a Victorian brownstone at 29 West 53rd Street. In the decades that followed, the Museum broadened its vision and expanded the scope of its exhibitions and programs. In 1986, the museum moved to a location on four floors of a new building at 40 West 53rd Street and was renamed the American Craft Museum. The Museum’s new space designed by Roche-Dinkeloo, with an interior created by Fox & Fowle Architects, doubled the size of the original quarters.
Today, the Museum celebrates materials and processes that are embraced by practitioners in the fields of craft, art, and design, as well as architecture, fashion, interior design, technology, performing arts, and art and design-driven industries. The institution’s new name, adopted in 2002, reflects this wider spectrum of interest, as well as the increasingly interdisciplinary nature of the Museum’s permanent collection and exhibition programming.
The Museum has hosted over 560 exhibitions, organizes more than 75 major public programs per year, and welcomes over 275,000 visitors annually. The Museum has built a distinguished permanent collection of more than 2,000 objects that documents the history of the field from the mid-20th century to the present.
In 2008, the Museum moved into its new home at 2 Columbus Circle in New York City. Working in collaboration with architect Brad Cloepfil of Allied Works Architecture This new design was developed to enable the institution to meet the growing public demand for its exhibitions and educational programming, and to display its rapidly expanding permanent collection. The design also will weave the Museum into the social and cultural fabric of the newly revived Columbus Circle and its surrounding neighborhoods. The design includes a new façade that features textured terracotta panels and transparent fritted glass, materials that express the Museum’s craft traditions.
Aileen Osborn Webb believed the institution should collect, display, and interpret objects that exemplify and celebrate creativity in art, craft, and design. Today the Museum has broadened its scope and places a unique emphasis on the essentials that link all of the creative arts: materials, techniques, and the artist’s engagement with the process. Through its collections, exhibitions, and educational programs, the Museum encourages awareness and appreciation of art, craft, and design in daily life.
Museum of Arts & Design
2 Columbus Circle New York, NY 10023
phone (212) 956-3535