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American Story Told Through Art

Artists at the Smithsonian Craft Show weave the essence of America into their work

Thick, woven spheres are handcrafted from recycled street sweeper bristles by mixed media artist and repurposing advocate Aaron Kramer of Santa Monica, California.
Thick, woven spheres are handcrafted from recycled street sweeper bristles by mixed media artist and repurposing advocate Aaron Kramer of Santa Monica, California.

The Smithsonian Craft Show is one of the most respected craft shows in the United States and one of the hardest for an artist to take part in.

Wayne Clough, secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, believes the annual show "tells America’s story through the art of craft."

It’s held in the National Building Museum, a grand space in the nation’s capital, with enormous Greek columns each rising almost 23 meters. Now in its 29th year, the show featured 120 artists, including 54 new exhibitors who were selected from more than 1,300 applicants. The Smithsonian Women’s Committee organizes the show.

Artists from across the country came to market their work in booths set up in the exhibition hall. Their inventive pieces were done in wood, glass, metal, fiber, ceramics and mixed media.

Mark Perry, a sculptor from Rhode Island, showcased large sculptures of animals and humans that he made primarily out of wood.

Sculptor Mark Perry sells works such as his hand-carved peacock for $25,000.
Sculptor Mark Perry sells works such as his hand-carved peacock for $25,000.

His trademark peacock, which he custom builds for clients across the country, was inspired by a 19th century weathervane. The tail is made of hand-carved disks suspended by wires which move when the piece is touched. The peacock has a price tag of about $25,000.

But you can also find less expensive pieces at the show, ones that cost a few hundred dollars or less.

Christine Adcock came all the way from California to sell her elaborate baskets. “Nature is my primary inspiration,” she says.

Heidi Austreng, program coordinator for the Women’s Committee, says thousands came to the four-day show this year, despite heavy rains. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice were among the visitors.

The Smithsonian Craft show at the National Building Museum featured works by 120 artists.
The Smithsonian Craft show at the National Building Museum featured works by 120 artists.

“For the exhibitor, it is really an honor to be in the Smithsonian Craft Show,” says Austreng, who adds it is also an experience to be “in the historic and magnificent venue of the National Building Museum.”

Proceeds from ticket sales and donations fund education, outreach and research at the Smithsonian Institution.

Organizers are already at work on special plans for the show’s 30th anniversary to be held next April.

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