Strength in Community: Craft ACT Annual General Meeting

As we edge towards our 50th anniversary in 2021, we are delighted to note that Craft ACT is one of the longest continuous running visual arts membership organisations in Australia. Today, Craft ACT is a thriving community of individual makers, designers and craft practitioners across all craft mediums. Each maker’s unique expression bonds us as a richer community, as it has since the organisation was established in 1971. Our strength in community and unwavering commitment to our members helps us to sustain the practice of craft - locally, nationally and internationally.

Craft ACT celebrates and promotes excellence in craft and design across our artistic programs (exhibitions, residencies, professional development), public programs (DESIGN Canberra, workshops, talks), business development (retail and online sales), partnerships and membership. We support makers at every stage of their careers from graduates to emerging makers, mid-career and established craft practitioners.

Craft ACT is relevant to and valued by the community we serve: Craft ACT membership increased 53.03% in the past 3 years (2016-2018) across all financial membership categories (compared to 1.64% decrease in the three years prior (2013-15). Craft ACT now represents over 300 members at all stages of practice including the acclaimed and peer-reviewed Accredited Professional Members who have achieved national and international recognition in collection acquisitions, residencies and exhibitions.

APM membership grew 5.15% over past 3 years (2016-2018) (compared to a 14.55% decrease between 2013-2015).

Over the past 3 years, we have worked to better define the membership benefits and requirements for each category. The membership assessment process now has articulated selection criteria and a committee of Accredited Professional Members representing each craft medium and a designer reviews APM applications.

As a result of deepened and expanded membership, Craft ACT’s annual members show (featuring APMs and AMs) has improved in quality and representation. In 2018 it was described as “an impressive roll call of artists who live and work in the Canberra region. If you want to know who the artists to watch are as well as what is happening in contemporary object-based practice, then this is the exhibition to visit” (Kerry-Anne Cousins, The Canberra Times).

Craft ACT supports its membership through professional development programs to build capacity, new skills and provide access to professional services. As well as facilitating studio sessions with a professional photographer and hosting a writing workshop, Craft ACT mentored emerging designer-makers and presented their work at Australia's leading contemporary design trade fair, Denfair. Craft ACT also presented the Ready Set Market program for budding production makers, though a series of intensive workshops and step by step support in a small group over five months.

Craft ACT encourages acquisitions of members work by collecting institutions across Australia and abroad. Highlights since 2016 include the Corning Museum's purchase of Mark Elliot's work commissioned for Craft ACT's History Repeated; the National Museum of Australia's purchase of several works by textiles artist Julie Ryder including a series of glass slides and cyanotypes; and the Canberra Museum and Gallery's acquisition of Sharon People's and Gail Nichols' textiles.

Through its agility Craft ACT supports entrepreneurship and enterprise development in the craft and design economy to address the ever present economic precarity which underpins the sector. The 2017 Throsby report found that craft practitioners’ annual median gross income from their practice was just $7000. That’s the average – so many craft practitioners supplement their income with teaching, arts management, hospitality and other work. The same report, found that 81% of craft practitioners received income from the sale of artworks – more than any other practicing professional artists. In last year’s DESIGN Canberra, over 3 weeks, artists generated over $170,000 directly over just 20 days. Across all Craft ACT activity (including gallery and retail sales and the festival) a total of $255,291 income was generated for artists. Craft ACT is supporting artists to make an income in innovative and ethical ways. This is one of the defining characteristics of craft practice.

Through the DESIGN Canberra program, Craft ACT gained national and international media coverage to promote contemporary craft and design to broader audiences achieving a record $2 million value of media coverage (using Advertising Space Rate) which reached 4.6 million people through media coverage including national newspapers and magazine features including Vogue Australia, House & Garden. Archdaily, designboom (Italy). Members featured in this media include: Chelsea Lemon, Phoebe Porter, Richard Whiteley, Angela Bakker, Ruby Berry, Marilou Chagnaud, Richilde Flavell, Anne Masters, Hiroshi Yamaguchi, F!NK, Jeremy Lepisto, Sarah Murphy and more.

Craft ACT continues to negotiate discounts and improve the benefits for its members, including:

  • waived gallery hire fee for members presenting exhibitions in the Craft ACT gallery
  • opportunity to apply for the artist in residence program
  • free participation in Open Studios and DESIGN Canberra competitions
  • 10% discount at the Craft ACT shop
  • inclusion of work in the Craft ACT shop and associated market feedback
  • the Undercurrent market stall fee (10% discount)
  • reciprocal 10% discount in participating ACDC shops (Australian Design Centre, JamFactory, Design Tasmania, Craft Victoria)
  • APMs and AM can feature work in the annual Craft ACT members exhibition
  • APMs and AMs receive a personalised members page on the Craft ACT website +++


 Photo: 5 Foot Photography