David Revere McFadden

Chief Curator and Vice President for Programs and Collections at the Museum of Arts & Design in New York City, David Revere McFadden, has made a career out of taking delight in unlikely materials. Having curated and published on everything from wine to hair, puppets to office furniture, McFadden continues his exploration of the prosaic with exhibition on everyday materials such as leather and paper

Suzanne Ramljak: In your program statement for the American Craft Museum you spoke against “creating artificial boundaries that isolate craft from the mainstream of creative activity.” This prompts the question – how do you define craft as opposed to mainstream creative activity?

David Revere McFadden: In craft, there is direct involvement and engagement throughout the entire execution of a piece. Craft to me has to become more of an active verb rather than a noun; it is not a thing, it is a process.

Ramljak:  I have heard it rumored that the American Craft Museum was considering changing its name. Is that true?

McFadden: Until a better term is arrived at, we will use it. Hopefully, through the museum’s exhibitions and programs we will redefine our understanding of the word rather than changing the word to suit a current notion.

Ramljak: What would you say is the biggest misconception about the crafts beyond the Popsicle stick and pot holder image you mentioned earlier?

McFadden: You can look at these objects from multiple points of view, not only their physical appearance and practical function, but also their social use as objects or exchange, as gifts, or as objects of commemoration.

Ramljak: That could be your slogan, “The museum of trauma-free art.”

McFadden: There really is something very humble about a pot, a piece of glass, a fiber. There is a kind of modesty that allows people to say, “I will stop and look at this.” They don’t have their defenses up. The crafts are very approachable and I don’t want to lose that.