Art & Design Magazine

Handi-Hour: Q&A; with Katie Crooks

By Americanart

Katie Crooks plans public programs at American Art’s Renwick Gallery. This month Katie has gotten extra crafty to present Handi-hour, a craft-themed happy hour that will feature craft works on view, craft beer tastings, craft activities, and live music. We sat down with Katie to discuss Handi-hour and her process for planning the event, which is scheduled for April 28 from 5:30–7:30 p.m.

Eye Level: Handi-hour is a new offering at the museum’s Renwick Gallery. What inspired you to "craft" the event?

Katie Crooks: I think some people have this idea that crafting is something you do when you are either in elementary school or post-retirement, but that just isn’t true! There is a DIY (Do It Yourself) movement going on out there, and I want to share that with visitors of all ages. I'm always looking for new ways to make craft more accessible to the public and to make the Renwick a destination for tourists and locals. Handi-hour seemed like just the ticket.

EL: We hear you’ll be offering art and beer pairings with Greg Engert of Churchkey/Birch and Barley. Can you give us an amuse-bouche to tide us over?

KC: Well, Greg has promised me four different American craft brews—which is fitting since we are a museum dedicated to historical and contemporary crafts and decorative arts—and we are working together to pair them with the paintings hanging in the Grand Salon. According to the legend cooked-up by Flying Dog Brewery, their Imperial IPA is brewed in honor of the Greco-Roman God of Beer, Simcoe. So it has been fun to relate it to artworks featuring figures from ancient mythology. It’s probably my favorite beer pairing thus far.

EL: In addition to having a bartender on hand to pour delicious brew, what will your craft-tenders be doling out?

KC: We have two featured crafts for the evening: an accordion organizer and a matchbook notebook. Both crafts are simple enough that the novice crafter will feel at ease, but each offers opportunities for the more seasoned crafter to really get their creative juices flowing. And for good measure, we will have a "found art object buffet," where visitors can create whatever they like out of our random selection of goodies.

EL: For many, the term “craft” conjures up visions of pipe cleaners and Elmer’s Glue. What would you say to folks who aren’t acquainted with the type of craft on display at the Renwick Gallery, and just how will you encourage guests to immerse themselves in the collection during the event?

KC: The only pipe cleaners you’ll find at the Renwick will be the ones on the "found art object buffet!" The line between fine art and craft is a very blurry one, and I personally choose not to draw it. We will have a scavenger hunt through the permanent collection galleries during Handi-hour, which will not only provide an entertaining way to experience the collection and allow visitors to make their own decisions about craft, but there are prizes involved!

EL: Sounds like a great time for all! Are you “craft-conditioning” another Handi-hour soon?

KC: I am! Churchkey has agreed to partner with us again this summer for our second Handi-hour. I’m hoping this event will develop into a recurring quarterly program. So mark your calendars for Thursday, August 18!

Handi-hour is open to those 21 and over. Admission fee is $15 (cash only) and includes 2 drink tickets; additional drink tickets may be purchased for $5 apiece. Come early, before we sell out!

  • American Craft, DIY, Beer, Renwick Gallery, American Art, Smithsonian American Art Museum

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