Museum of Contemporary Craft Appoints Namita Gupta Wiggers Director and Chief Curator

Release date: 05/24/12

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May 23, 2012

Lisa Radon, Communications Specialist
Pacific Northwest College of Art, 971 255 5528

Becca Biggs, Director of Communications
Pacific Northwest College of Art, 971 255 5511

Museum of Contemporary Craft Appoints Namita Gupta Wiggers Director and Chief Curator

Portland, OR – May 18, 2012 – The Museum of Contemporary Craft in partnership with Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA) is pleased to announce that Namita Gupta Wiggers has been appointed Director and Chief Curator of the Museum. Wiggers was hired as Curator in 2004 specifically to raise the national and international profile of this historic institution and to develop a vision for a new kind of museum focused on craft as the Museum moved to its central location on the North Park Blocks.

As a leader in the critical reconsideration of craft in America, Wiggers brings to the position a broad, long-term vision of Museum of Contemporary Craft as a museum of influence. “Namita is a very gifted curator with a world-class reputation. She is also a thought leader on craft and design and an effective administrator with the strategic thinking skills and day-to-day savvy to realize an ambitious vision for the Museum,” says Tom Manley, President, PNCA and CEO of Museum of Contemporary Craft. “Her appointment is effective July 1 and coincides with the arrival of PNCA’s new Academic Dean, Mark Takiguchi (coming from California College of the Arts). This brings the College a new opportunity to strengthen the ties between the Museum and PNCA curricula and thus enhances curatorial studies opportunities for both graduate and undergraduate students.”

Wiggers has brought high-profile programming to the Museum ranging from exhibitions with deep Northwest roots such as Generations: Ken Shores, Laurie Herrick: Weaving Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow and Generations: Betty Feves to exhibitions with an international scope including Ai Weiwei: Dropping the Urn and this August’s Design with the Other 90%: CITIES in collaboration with Mercy Corps. This compelling programming has garnered new funding sources for the Museum, both locally and nationally, including an anonymous gift of $300,000, the largest gift for exhibitions and programs in the Museum’s history, as well as major grants from the Meyer Memorial Trust, the Collins Foundation, the James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation, and the Whiteman Foundation. Recently the Museum was awarded its first prestigious grant of $61,000 from the Institute for Museum and Library Services. The Museum enters its 76th year in a strong position, having more than doubled membership since the integration with PNCA and with a new and rapidly expanding corporate sponsors program.

“This appointment provides dynamic leadership that the Museum will use to build on its rich legacy as demonstrated by exhibitions like Betty Feves,” says John Bishop, Museum of Contemporary Craft Board of Directors President. “Namita is a visionary leader who knows how to build and inspire a strong team. She has an amazing ability for sharing her passion for the work and connecting exhibitions to audiences.”

An internationally-connected curator with a national profile, Wiggers currently serves on the Board of Trustees of the American Craft Council and is frequently called upon to serve on review panels including those for the Pew Charitable Trust, the Bush Foundation, and Oregon Art Commission. Wiggers has written extensively about craft, has authored four publications for the Museum, and has lectured at colleges and universities throughout the United States. She will be the keynote speaker for zimmerhoff, 2012 in Germany.

Wiggers has been lauded by peers for creating both cutting edge exhibitions as well as exhibitions which are engaging and invite participation. In speaking of the appointment, Garth Clark, one of craft’s most influential critics, said, “Namita Wiggers brings great intellectual rigor to the directorship of the museum and more than most has an understanding of the cutting edge issues facing craft and design.” In addition to exhibitions delving into legendary figures in Northwest craft, Wiggers has presented adventurous takes on classic craft subjects such as New Embroidery: Not Your Grandma’s Doily, Touching Warms the Art, David Shaner: Land Art, and Object Focus: The Book. Among the dozens of exhibitions she’s curated, Wiggers has for the first time brought contemporary design, installation, performance, sound, process-based, and participatory projects into the Museum.

From her first connection with the Museum in 1999 as a studio jeweler represented by the Museum’s retail Gallery, Wiggers has been committed to the community of craftspeople in the region and nationally and to telling their collective stories through the Museum.

About Namita Gupta Wiggers
Since 2004, Namita Gupta Wiggers has been curator at Museum of Contemporary Craft in partnership with Pacific Northwest College of Art, Portland, OR, where she has directed the exhibition, collection, and public programming. Her curatorial work combines her experience and training as an art historian, a museum educator, ethnographer and design researcher, teacher, writer, and studio art jeweler. Wiggers has curated dozens of exhibitions at the Museum since December, 2004, including: New Embroidery: Not Your Grandma’s Doily, Touching Warms the Art, The Academy is Full of Craft, Transference: Andy Paiko and Ethan Rose, Laurie Herrick: Weaving Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, David Shaner: Land Art, Object Focus: The Book, and several exhibitions in the ongoing Generations series.

Recent publications include Generations: Betty Feves (2012), 75 Gifts for 75 Years (2012), Ken Shores: Clay Has the Last Word (2010), and Unpacking the Collection: Selections from the Museum of Contemporary Craft (2008), the first publication to document the Museum’s collection and the institution’s connections to dramatic changes in craft-based and artistic practice over the past 70 years. Wiggers edited Garth Clark’s How Envy Killed the Crafts Movement: An Autopsy in Two Parts (2009) and contributes essays for museum catalogues, including Hand + Made: The Performative Impulse in Art and Craft (2010, Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston) and Innovation & Change: Ceramics from the Arizona State University Art Museum (2009, Ceramic Research Center, ASU).

With Elisabeth Agro, Wiggers is co-founder of Critical Craft Forum which connects artists, academics, and museum professionals through annual programs at College Art Association, an open Facebook page connected with The Journal of Modern Craft, and forthcoming publications. Wiggers currently serves on the Board of Trustees, American Craft Council, and the curatorial board of accessceramics, an online clay-focused database.

Wiggers pursued doctoral studies in art history at the University of Chicago, where she earned her MA. She holds a BA in art history and English from Rice University.

Committed to the advancement of craft since 1937, Museum of Contemporary Craft in partnership with Pacific Northwest College of Art is one of Oregon’s oldest cultural institutions. Centrally located in Portland’s Pearl District, the Museum is nationally acclaimed for its curatorial program and is a vibrant center for investigation and dialogue, expanding the definition of craft and the way audiences experience it.

Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA) has been an influential force in art and design education in the Pacific Northwest since its founding in 1909. Today PNCA continues to prepare students for a life of creative practice with more than 600 students in 15 undergraduate and graduate programs, and another 1,500 students in its continuing education programs. PNCA has become a leader in innovative educational programs that connect students to a global perspective in the visual arts and design. In addition to its 10 Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees, PNCA offers five graduate degrees under the auspices of its Ford Institute for Visual Education (FIVE): an MFA in Visual Studies, a Low-Residency MFA in Visual Studies, an MA in Critical Theory and Creative Research, an MFA in Collaborative Design, and an MFA in Applied Craft and Design developed with the Oregon College of Art and Craft, the first inter-institutional degree of its kind in the US.

PNCA is actively involved in Portland’s cultural life through exhibitions and a vibrant public program of lectures and internationally recognized visiting artists, designers and creative thinkers. Portland Monthly, in its January 2012 issue, called PNCA “a creative class crown jewel.” With the support of FIVE, the College has an operating partnership with the nationally acclaimed Museum of Contemporary Craft. For more information, visit