Announcing the Craft Innovation Jumpstarter Awardees

Announcing the Craft Innovation Jumpstarter Awardees

Posted on Dec. 09, 2022
Massachusetts artists Caitlyn Marsh and Keysha Rivera win craft innovation grants.

The Society of Arts + Crafts announced two winners of its 2022 Craft Innovation Jumpstarter Grant – a new program inaugurated at the organization’s 125th Anniversary event last month, where the venerable craft organization also previewed ways it intends to reposition itself within the craft community. In providing mini-grants to artists looking to pursue new directions and ideas, the annual Jumpstarter Grant program is part of the Society’s larger efforts to adapt and meet the needs of modern craft artists and their supporters. The inaugural awardees Caitlyn Marsh and Keysha Rivera received seed funding to advance their innovative efforts re-envisioning the use of craft tools and materials.

Franklin, Mass. native Caitlyn Marsh earned her BFA in Fine Art Ceramics from Massachusetts College of Art and Design and worked at the Umbrella Community Arts Center in Concord before landing her current position as Ceramics Program Director at Dedham’s Mother Brook Arts and Community Center. Marsh will use her grant to innovate and elevate a ceramic tool overlooked in pottery studios – the extruder – focusing on creating new sculptural forms that push the typical boundaries of hollow forms (r., courtesy the artist). Generally seen by ceramicists as an industrial “handle maker” or a simple clay shaper, Marsh focuses on the artistic possibilities of the extruder tool and aims to change common perceptions of its functionality and use.

Multidisciplinary artist Keysha Rivera, born and raised in Holyoke, Mass., and living in nearby Chicopee, Mass., generally works with textiles and incorporates digital technologies into her chosen materials. After graduating from Holyoke Community College with a degree in Health, Rivera pivoted to focus full time on her digitally-enhanced fiber artwork. Using her Afro-Indigenous heritage as her guide, her artwork revolves around cultural preservation and exploration of family roots. Rivera creates what she calls “soft sculptures” (l., courtesy the artist) with family photos screen-printed on various textiles. The sculptures serve to archive her memories and pay homage to her Caribbean and indigenous roots. Rivera will use her grant to study new techniques that will allow her to further explore photo editing processes on fabrics.

The Society’s Executive Director Brigitte Martin says the Craft Innovation Jumpstarter program is “a new way for us to contribute to the craft community and build equity, inclusion and diversity by recognizing and highlighting innovative ideas in craft.” The Jumpstarter is part of an upcoming shift for the Society, illustrating one new way the organization plans to support artists more directly. “We want to be a champion of the larger New England craft ecosystem,” Martin continues, “our focus will be on the role the Society of Arts + Crafts can play as a convener of the regional craft world, a catalyst for artists wishing to gain access to experts, and creating a support system that allows artists to make creative leaps.

Also new: the Society’s 2022 pilot Mentor Program is a virtual education series that offers artists and the public direct access to national arts and creative business experts. Collaborations with regional arts, innovation and academic organizations – and a larger investment in educational programming – round out the Society’s new strategic framework into 2023 and beyond.