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It’s a big week for the American Craft Council — a new director, new digs and the opening of its annual show

Chris Amundsen

Chris Amundsen

On Thursday, after a nationwide search, the American Craft Council (ACC) named a new executive director: Christopher Amundsen, a Minneapolis native and currently the chief operating officer of the Greater Twin Cities United Way, will take the helm at the national nonprofit beginning May 10.

After 29 years working in both the financial and nonprofit sectors, Amundsen will oversee the organization’s “strategic direction,” fundraising and partnerships, board and committee relations, as well as membership growth and development initiatives, public relations, and administration.

About his new position, Amundsen says: “It’s such a fabulous organization, and it’s just a great honor to be selected to be the craft council’s executive director. My wife is an artist, a number of family members are artists, and I’ve been personally very interested in the arts all my life. So, when I saw the job description for this position, I had to pinch myself – it perfectly aligns with both my professional background and my personal interests.”

Terry Evans

Terry Evans

As we reported several months ago, the American Craft Council will be relocating its headquarters from New York City to Minneapolis this summer.

About this move, Amundsen says: “My first priorities are logistical and tactical, and I really can’t overstate them – my focus, at the first, will be to oversee a smooth transition as we move the ACC facilities from New York to Minneapolis. Then we need to look at hiring staff – how many, I don’t know yet; we’re not certain who will be able to make the move from New York to Minneapolis, or who might work remotely. It will be quite challenging, and there’s a short time to get everything accomplished.”

And what about after the move? He says: “We’ll need to get the craft council established and connected here in the Minnesota arts community. I’m looking forward to working with some of the other great craft organizations we have here; I’m also interested in making connections with the fantastic philanthropic foundations in the area. The American Craft Council has been and will continue to be a national organization, but the Twin Cities has such a rich, vibrant arts culture, we’re interested in becoming established in the local arts community, too.”

On Thursday, the American Craft Council also announced the site of its future home: the historic Grain Belt Brewery building in Northeast Minneapolis, where the organization will take up residence Aug. 1. Amundsen says: “It’s not only a great space, well suited to the organization’s physical needs, it’s also a good location from which to make the council’s wonderful craft resources available to the public. The NE Minneapolis corridor is really quite a haven for artists and craftspeople; it makes great sense for us to be there.”

Tom Larson

Tom Larson

In recent years, the ACC, along with a great many other arts organizations, has struggled to cope with the downturn in the economy. Indeed, financial considerations were behind the organization’s decision to relocate from New York City to Minneapolis. As he looks to cultivating the growth of the organization’s membership and audience, Amundsen says he’s “interested in creating a big tent, in making sure that we continue to welcome a wide variety of makers, but also all those who want to collect, produce, and support craft.”

He says further: “Going forward, I just want to make sure, whatever we do, that we don’t lose the organizational history of the American Craft Council – it’s important to maintain a continuity of the knowledge and commitment that’s been part of the craft council, and to preserve the organizational memory that has made it such a valuable resource for craftspeople across the country.”

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On a related note: the eagerly anticipated annual American Craft Council show, held at St. Paul’s RiverCentre, begins today. It’s the ACC’s only Midwest craft show, and the organization expects more than 10,000 visitors to pass through the doors in the coming days.

This year’s offerings include, first and foremost, a feast of fine craft — handcrafted jewelry, fashion, furniture, textiles and fiber art, ceramics, glass creations, handmade toys and sculpture — made by more than 240 new and established artists from around the country. (More than 25 of the exhibited artists this year hail from Minnesota.)

In addition to the opportunity to browse through a rich variety of work, visitors have the welcome opportunity to meet and chat with the makers themselves. As you wander through the show, you’ll find live craft-making demonstrations and a number of special exhibits, including a new “Lawn & Garden” section, “Green Craft,” “Craft4Kids” and my favorite, “Handmade Under $100.”

The American Craft Council show, at St. Paul’s RiverCentre, will take place Friday through Sunday, April 16-18. Day-passes to the show are $10; after 5 p.m. daily, discounted tickets are available for $5. (Children 12 and under will be admitted free of charge.)

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