Tuesday January 30, 2024 | by Andrew Page

Judith Schaechter reflects on receiving the 2024 Smithsonian Visionary Award

On its website, the Smithsonian Women's Committee prominently lists its motto as: "Harnessing the Power of Women to Make a Difference."  This group of Smithsonian supporters has certainly made a difference for artists working in glass at all levels. The SWC organizes the annual high-profile Smithsonian Craft Show (as well as an autumn show of wearable crafts), and also makes direct grants to Smithsonian-affiliated institutions. Each year, the SWC also presents its Smithsonian Visionary Awards, which over the years has gone to some of the most prominent artists working in craft materials such as Dale Chihuly, David Ellsworth, Joyce J. Scott, Albert Paley, Toots Zynsky, Faith Ringgold, and Patti Warashina, among others. 

in 2024, the award was given to two artists who work primarily in glass -- Judith Schaechter and Dan Dailey

In announcing the winners, the SWC wrote about Dailey's "ability to fascinate with compelling forms, exhibiting extraordinary skill in blending elements of sculpture, painting, and often humorous storytelling into his pieces."

About Schaechter, the SWC extolled the way she has "redefined conventional stained glass."

The presentation of the awards will take place on May 1st at the 2024 Smithsonian Craft Show's Preview Night, which will be held at the National Building  Museum in Washington D.C.

In an email interview, Schaechter shared her thoughts on not only receiving the award, but also her gratitude of the recognition and affirmation she has received from multiple arms of the Smithsonian Institution at various points in her career.

"Receiving this award for visionary art is a profound honor, one that fills me with gratitude where words feel meager and inadequate," Schaecter told the Glass Quarterly Hot Sheet. "The previous winners of the award make me extremely proud to be honored in this way. Patti Warashina and Joyce Scott—wow—they are among my favorite artists!  To say I am over the moon is an understatement."

The latest award is one of the most significant she has received from the Smithsonian and its affiliates, but the institution has made major impacts at key points on Schaechter's career. In fact, she credits being included in a 1990 Renwick exhibition as a pivotal moment.

"When I was only 29, I was given an entire room to fill with my work in the "Glassworks" exhibition along with my teachers and mentors, Richard Harned, Bruce Chao and Therman Statom," writes Schaechter. "I look back at this as my 'big break'. What an experience for a young artist!"

Other Renwick exhibitions that included Schaechter: the 1992's "American Crafts: The Nation's Collection," the 2011 "History in the Making: Renwick Invitational," and the 2022 "This Present Moment: Crafting a Better World."

"The constant support of the Smithsonian Women's Committee, the Renwick, and the Renwick Alliance has enabled my continued ability to be in the studio," says Schaechter. "I am endlessly grateful!

Receiving the Visionary Award, in particular, was especially meaningful to Schaechter, who sees the word "visionary" as having the meanings of "innovative" and "imaginative". 

"In honoring my work, it could mean both," Schaechter writes. "My aim has always been to transcend the confines of convention, to push the boundaries of beauty, and to offer glimpses into realms of the unseen subconscious as well as to invigorate stained glass as an artistic medium of personal expression. In the past few years, the thought has been with me, that one of the most radical (and yes, political!) acts an artist can engage in is that of putting forth their own authentic, genuine imagination. I have striven to do that."

"For this to be recognized is both humbling and deeply validating," Schaechter writes.

Glass: The UrbanGlass Quarterly, a glossy art magazine published four times a year by UrbanGlass has provided a critical context to the most important artwork being done in the medium of glass for more than 40 years.