There is a debate over whether crafts are considered art. Quilting, needlepoint, knitting, photography, and pottery are some examples of handiwork that are at the heart of the debate. To some, craft is work and the creation of objects, while art expresses emotions and vision. Craft is a learned skill, where art is a merited expression. The judgment on defining what is an art vs. what is a craft is fascinating and reflects the values of the beholder. There are actually scientific charts available online to help one define something as an art or craft, if the line is blurred for you.
It is comfortably blurred for me. There seems to be a status associated with creating art that is not awarded to creating a craft, and that is the line I cannot see so clearly.
In a late-night conversation with a friend on Sunday, I was taken aback by my friend’s, “right is right and wrong is wrong” view of the world. This is one person’s perspective, but this clear-cut view has not been as simple for me.
She asked for an example where I could point out a blurred space. I gave an example from our conversation where the judgment of right and wrong was dependent on the eye of the beholder. Both parties could be judged as right and both could be wrong. My friend was able to disagree, then dissect the example and find a place of blame, therefore clearly defining what was right and what was wrong.
This conversation was born from several threads in our lives, including our personal relationships with friends, family and the unsettling shooting in Willowbrook, which cast a long shadow on the Juneteenth holiday.
Still ringing with the “right is right, wrong is wrong” discussion the night before, I caught Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson’s press conference yesterday where he highlighted the creative efforts to transform monuments in Chicago, using art and community to organize public narratives that redefine space as “oppressors who seek to dominate go after their art, history and culture.”
I envy my friend’s ability to see the world in such a dichotomy. Perhaps she sees me as a broken compass, unable to gauge at times what is right and what is wrong. Perhaps it is my conflict-avoidant personality, or maybe the act of judging itself brings conflict, or maybe it’s the judgment’s execution of “justice” that unsettles me.
What I do know and can say confidently is that being unsettled is my normal state, and art does have healing powers. I am inspired by Chicago’s community re-imagination of public monuments and efforts to re-engage public spaces and narratives. The act of creating art or a craft has the power to transform.
Back here in Forest Park, a small group of us meet at the Community Center on the third Wednesday of every month at 7 p.m. for what is informally known as “craft club.” Formally it is called Creative Collective, and is a space open to all locals who have a portable craft or art that they can work on with others. This is a group, very informal, where people bring their glue, thread, yarn, whatever medium they are working with, to share a collective creative space. Some come empty-handed with only the intent to create conversation.
This group is open to all. I formally invite you to come create and share space in our local community center, and I welcome your perspective on whether we are creating art or craft.