WASHINGTON, DC.- The Smithsonian American Art Museum
has appointed Nora Atkinson as the Lloyd Herman Curator of Craft, a newly endowed position at its Renwick Gallery. Atkinson will acquire artworks for the museums permanent collection and organize exhibitions at the Renwick Gallery following a major renovation of its historic building, currently underway. She joins Nicholas R. Bell, The Fleur and Charles Bresler Senior Curator of American Craft and Decorative Art, on staff at the Renwick Gallery. Atkinson begins work at the museum March 10.
It is a real pleasure to welcome Nora Atkinson to the Renwick Gallery staff, said Robyn Kennedy, chief of the Renwick Gallery. She will provide an important voice, with new ideas, as we prepare the collections and galleries for an exciting re-opening after the renovation is complete.
Atkinson comes to the museum from the Bellevue Arts Museum in Bellevue, Wash. where she has been a curator since 2006 with a focus on art, craft and design. Recent exhibitions include Fragile Fortress: The Art of Dan Webb (2014), Making Mends (2012), Lisa Gralnick: The Gold Standard (2010) and The Book Borrowers: Contemporary Artists Transforming the Book (2009). The exhibition catalog for Fragile Fortress, to be published in March, includes an interview with Webb by Atkinson. She earned a masters degree from the University of Washington, Seattle in 2006.
Lloyd Herman, the founding director of the Renwick Gallery, offered a major challenge gift that was the catalyst for attracting matching funds from private contributors to create a $2 million endowment to support a new curator of craft position. Herman has been a leader throughout the history of the modern craft movement, and during his tenure at the Renwick Gallery from 1971 to 1986, he established the Renwick as one of the most respected venues and voices for American craft. Under Hermans leadership, the Renwick introduced to the public artists such as Dale Chihuly, Maria Martinez and Albert Paley, among countless others.
The Renwick Gallery opened as the home of the museums craft and decorative arts program in 1972. For more than 40 years, it has showcased the museums outstanding collection of contemporary studio craft, and presented special exhibitions that featured the best craft objects and decorative arts from the 19th century to the present. The Renwick Gallery attracted 175,000 visitors in fiscal year 2012. A highly praised exhibition that year called 40 under 40: Craft Futures, organized by Bell, pointed to new directions in the field of craft. The Smithsonian Channel produced a documentary that looked behind-the-scenes to capture the making of the exhibition.