Practicing Citizenship in Craft: A Canadian Perspective
A dramatic change is on the horizon for Canadian Craft - one that will amplify the narrative of craft and champion our intrinsic connection to making. It is rooted in the idea of Heritage – not the scholarly considerations of the term rooted in theory – but the popular appeal of Heritage as a cornerstone for national and cultural identity, and a tool for driving economic development. In this presentation I will focus on how the new national Citizens of Craft campaign utilizes Heritage as a key concept to both market craft and to push craft’s relationship with tradition. Over the course of its pioneering 12-months, Citizens of Craft developed the tools to effectively redefine the notion of craft, creating a space for those who respect the original, the personal, and the authentic to declare themselves, to share and grow the practices of the craft communities, and to find likeminded audiences and makers throughout the country. I will speak about the launch of our dynamic online manifesto that acts as a rallying call for a greater appreciation and understanding of craft. Through Citizens of Craft we have created both a branding strategy and a digital platform upon which craft can be properly recognized as a historically, socially, culturally and economically unifying element of Canada’s diverse culture. In deploying this manifesto, we envision Citizens of Craft building an environment in which craft is valued and understood as an indispensable facet of the national profile. I will also address the relationships between Citizens of Craft, Heritage Canada and Craft Ontario. These organizations have long supported craft, however aligning craft with Heritage was previously seen as a dangerous thing as it removed the economic feasibility from the craft sector. It is indicative of the new energy behind concepts of Heritage that Citizens of Craft is using this as a platform for economic and trade development. The necessity of Citizens of Craft’s large-scale engagement goals was established as a result of a number of community consultations, which revealed a misunderstanding of the term ‘craft’ which was gravely damaging to the growth of the sector. These consultations demonstrated that the potential for increased appreciation of craft as both an integral element of fine arts practices and of the gross national product was closely tied to increased awareness and education in opposition to the mass-marketed adoption of the term as a strategic sales pitch. I demonstrate how Citizens of Craft seeks to both address misconceptions surrounding craft and engage audiences through education. I will also discuss how Heritage becomes an essential marketing tool in this exercise, introducing the audience to the fully branded movement – its social media campaign, website, directory tool and the range of promotional materials that we hope will encourage sales, consumption, recognition and promotion for both makers and their products. It is intended that the development of the national understanding of craft will lead to cultural and economic growth within the arts sector and the country as a whole.