A Passionate Observer: A Tribute to Helen Drutt

Mar 28th - Apr 26th, 2009

The Studio is truly honored to be the host of this exhibition in honor and celebration of Helen Williams Drutt English. Helen is world renowned for her significant and continued commitment to the advancement and awareness of the Modern and Contemporary Craft Movement. As a gallerist, author, lecturer, curatorial consultant and collector, her contributions have been vast, with scholarship and education being at the heart of all of her endeavors.

Helen’s involvement in the field began in the mid-1950's first as a collector. This passion led her to be a founding member of the Philadelphia Council of Professional Craftsmen in 1967 serving as its Executive Director until 1974. In 1973, she authored the first college level syllabus on the history of modern craft. That same year, she founded the Helen Drutt Gallery, one of the first galleries in the United States committed to modern and contemporary crafts

Helen was visionary, both in the identification and selection of artists that she exhibited and in her understanding of the importance of the work she was doing and the need to document and record it. Over the years, she has exhibited the work of almost every major artist working in clay or metal. She also committed herself to building an archive and library, which through the years, has become an invaluable resource to artists, scholars, curators and institutions worldwide. This vast repository of books, catalogues, images and correspondence truly chronicles the history of the modern and contemporary crafts movement and captures an important part of American Cultural history. Additionally, Drutt has written and published extensively. Her books, catalogue essays, and articles, have contributed greatly to the scholarship of American crafts.

Helen has an incredible world-view. She has served as America’s ambassador for crafts, championing the work of American artists internationally, and placing their work in major museum collections worldwide. Conversely she introduced her American audience to the work of artists from around the world. In doing so, she broadened and deepened the audience for both.

Over her 40 plus year career, Helen has curated a number of major exhibitions. Highlights include, Ten Potters in 1971, Seattle: USA, 1971, Robert Arneson: Self-Portraits in 1979, two contemporary tureen exhibitions for the Campbell Museum, in 1976 and 1983 and Poetics of Clay: An International Perspective, in 2002, which travelled internationally. Major jewelry exhibitions include, Jewelry: 1964 – 1994, Helen Williams Drutt Collection, which was travelled to eleven museums internationally from 1984 – 1995. Ultimately Helen’s incredible jewelry collection was acquired by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. In 2007, the exhibition Ornament as Art: Avant- Garde Jewelry from the Helen Williams Drutt Collection opened at the Museum with an extensive catalogue of the complete collection. In 2004, she organized the exhibition A View From America; Contemporary Jewelry (1973-2003) for the Gold Treasury Museum in Melbourne Australia. In 2005, Drutt conceived and organized the international exhibition Challenging the Chatelaine, which opened in Finland and travelled to Belgium, Greece, Austria, The Netherlands and the United States.

Helen’s honors are numerous. In 1990 she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Arts, from the Moore College of Art and Design and in 1991 was named a Tyler Alumni Fellow by the Tyler School of Art. In 1992, she was named an Honorary Fellow of the American Craft Council and in 1993 the National Museum of Women in Washington D. C., honored her with their Lifetime Achievement in Crafts award. In 1994 she received the Fleisher Founder’s Award from the Samuel S. Fleisher Art Memorial and the Mayor’s Arts and Culture Award. From 1995-1999 Helen was appointed a Cultural Ambassador for the City of Philadelphia by the Office of Arts and Culture. In 1999 she was also named Visionary! By the Museum of Art and Design, NY and in 2001 she was awarded an honorary Doctorate from the University of the Arts. In 2002 she received the Award of Merit from the Philadelphia Art Alliance and was also named A Distinguished Daughter of Pennsylvania, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. In 2004, she was admitted to the Goldsmith’s Hall of Fame and in 2006 she received the Philadelphia Craft Medal from the Philadelphia Museum of Arts. Drutt is also a member of the International Academy of Ceramics.

Artists included in the exhibition are: Robert Arneson, Nicholas Arroyave- Portela, Chris Berti, Jill Bonovitz, Mark Burns, Nancy Carman, Anne Currier, Val Cushing, William Daley, Richard DeVore, Ruth Duckworth, Ken Ferguson, Rob Forbes, David Gilhooly, Andrea Gill, John Gill, Erik Gronberg, Wayne Higby, Jun Kaneko, Karen Karnes, Howard Kottler, Michael Lucero, Warren Mackenzie, James Makins, Kirk Mangus, Graham Marks, Judy Moonelis, Joyce Moty, Richard Notkin, Lisa Orr, Lucien Pompili, Jacquelyn Rice, Paul Soldner, Rudolf Staffel, Bill Stewart, Lizbeth Stewart, Toshiko Takaezu, Byron Temple, Kit Yin Tieng-Snyder, George Timock, Robert Turner, Peter Voulkos, Patti Warashina, Paula Winokur, Robert Winokur, Betty Woodman, Sun Koo Yuh, and Arnie Zimmerman.