Through internships and partnerships with educational institutions,Crafting the Future has been working since 2019 to advance equity and opportunity in the arts by facilitating scholarships to craft schools and pre-college art programs, compiling directories of job opportunities and residencies, and offering an online shopping directory of "black and brown makers." Crafting the Future's website also features a link to its "Better Together" events, gatherings to celebrate and showcase the growing community of glass artists of color, the latest of which took place on January 15, 2022, at YAYA, a New Orleans educational facility whose name stands for Young Aspirations, Young Artists. Seven black glassblowers from around the U.S. traveled to YAYA, where a pop-up market for local makers had been set up, and where a week of youth programming followed the public event. Visiting artists included Jason McDonald, Tijahnni Newton, SaraBeth Post, Cedric Mitchell, Ché Rhodes, Corey Pemberton, and Nate Watson.
The colorful banner for Better Together includes the tagline "Create. Support. Empower." which could double as the initiative's mission statement. The New Orleans event was the second annual Better Together gathering after its debut at a private glass studio in El Segundo, California, in 2020. (An event planned for 2021 was canceled due to the pandemic.)
The goal of Better Together events is also to raise awareness of local makers by offering free vendor tables to market their wares, and to hold a live glassblowing event to draw a crowd. These are an opportunity to show the world the community of successful glass artists of color at different locations around the U.S. The 2023 edition of Better Together is still being planed but some potential cities in the running are Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Tulsa, and Corning, New York.
To Crafting the Future's founder and director Corey Pemberton, the YAYA Better Together was the best one to date.
"This model of pairing a workshop with the event proves to be a great way to engage with the local community in a meaningful way," Pemberton said in an email exchange. "There are already discussions of YAYA Art Center hosting more regular markets for local craftspeople and alumni at no cost to the artists. They are also discussing more regular programming with visiting artists to beef up their curriculum. YAYA has a majority BIPOC student body, but almost no BIPOC instructors. They are actively working on changing that, but now can perhaps see more clearly just how important representation is based of the students response to and engagement with the seven black professional glassblowers we brought to town. We believe that this event will serve as a model for others to follow as we all search for ways to increase diversity in the field."
To learn more about Crafting the Future, see the Fall 2020 edition (Glass #160) of the print publication.