Cups by Cynthia Bringle

In the Vanguard: Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, 1950-1969

Founded in 1950, Haystack Mountain School of Crafts played a Central role in the development of American art and craft.

Weaving instructor Trude Guermonprez 1956
Weaving instructor Trude Guermonprez 1956

The artists of the school’s early years—Anni Albers, Dale Chihuly, Robert Ebendorf, Jack Lenor Larsen, M.C. Richards, and Toshiko Takaezu—contributed to a dynamic community of craftspeople who broke new ground across a wide range of media. In the Vanguard is the first major museum exhibition focused solely on this school, as well as the Portland Museum of Art’s first exhibition to be supported by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Its insights will revise the narrative of midcentury art and craft in America.

Organized by co-curators Rachael Arauz and Diana Greenwold, the exhibition features more than 90 works of art, including textiles, ceramics, glass, metalwork, paintings, and prints, as well as newly discovered correspondence, photographs, brochures, posters, and magazine articles from the Haystack archive. In the Vanguard presents the most comprehensive exhibition to date about one of the country’s most influential and lasting art institutions. It is a vital, compelling, and inspiring story about the pivotal imprint one small school in Maine has left on midcentury American culture.

Fisch, Arline Portable Shrine 1968
Fisch, Arline Portable Shrine 1968

The experimental nature of the Haystack experience, the effect of communal living within the natural landscape, and the powerful forces of the post-war art world all shaped Haystack’s teachers and students in profound ways. Textiles, ceramics, glass, metalwork, paintings, and prints on view will exemplify the breadth of innovative work that the Haystack experience made possible.

Works by artists Ka Kwong, Olga De Amaral and Dorian Zachai

In the Vanguard: Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, 1950-1969, which opens at the PMA on May 24 before traveling to the Cranbrook Art Museum in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, in fall 2019, includes artworks that demonstrate the innovative and collaborative nature of the Haystack experience. Groupings of diverse media demonstrate how artists informed and critiqued one another at Haystack and reveal unique instances of exchange fostered by the school’s environment. With seminal works of art by leaders of the midcentury studio craft movement, the exhibition asserts Haystack’s central role in national debates about the boundaries between art, craft, and design.

Archival Images
Archival Images

Additionally, archival material such as original correspondence, photographs, brochures, posters, and magazine articles will enrich the narrative of Haystack’s growth and transformation. Much of this material has never been published and is included in the first ever scholarly catalogue about the school,In the Vanguard: Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, 1950-1969.

Works by artists Carol Summers and Olaf Skoogfers

Through this wide array of art and archival material, In the Vanguard: Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, 1950-1969 tells the incredible story of this Maine institution and its pivotal imprint on art and craft practice in the United States.

For more information visit the Portland Museum of Art’s website

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