The White House Collection of American Crafts was commissioned by First Lady Hillary Clinton and President Bill Clinton in 1993 as part of the “Year of American Craft: A Celebration of the Creative Work of the Hand.” The collection includes 73 works of glass, metal, ceramic, fiber, and wood, created by seventy-seven of America’s foremost artists. This 25th anniversary exhibit opened at the Clinton Presidential Center on September 17, 2018 and runs through March 31, 2019. (NOTE: During the government shutdown, the exhibits in the Clinton Center are closed, though the restaurant and museum store remain open.)
The Clintons thought of the White House as the American people’s house and a 200-year-old living museum of American art and history. As First Lady, Hillary Clinton promoted the arts and culture through many initiatives. One of those, The White House Collection of American Crafts, presented a wonderful opportunity to display contemporary American crafts in the formal public rooms of the White House.
The pieces within the collection illustrate the skill, imagination, and vitality
characteristic of craft in the 1990s. Using glass, wood, clay, fiber and metal, these
artisans reveal their ability to manipulate materials in inventive ways, expressing their
creative vision in objects of striking beauty. Despite the increasing emergence of
computer technology and industrial design at the time, the collection displays the
intimate and physical qualities of handmade objects.
The collection features work by 78 artists, ranging from established to emerging in
their mediums in the 1990s, including Dale Chihuly, Cliff Lee, Sam Maloof, and Joan
Mondale, among others. Six Arkansas artisans are part of the collection, including
Michael Haley and Susy Siegele; Robyn Horn; Leon Niehues and Sharon Niehues;
and Ed Pennebaker.
“Mrs. Clinton took her role as First Lady and temporary custodian of America’s house
very seriously,” said Stephanie S. Streett, executive director of the Clinton
Foundation. “She worked tirelessly to make the White House a showplace for the very
best of American artistry. With this exhibition, she hoped to elevate the role and
visibility of American Craft and its artisans. Mrs. Clinton has always believed in the
power of art to uplift and inspire, and I’m thrilled that visitors of all ages will have the
opportunity to see this beautiful collection in its entirety.”