Marcy Friessen, HalfBreed | Photo: Susan Stewart Photography

Alberta Craft Council

By Meghan Power

Since 1980, the Alberta Craft Council (ACC) has been supporting contemporary and heritage crafts as significant art forms that contribute to Alberta’s culture. Part of the ACC’s mission is to support and develop a craft sector of creative, skilled, viable, and sustainable craftspeople, studios, businesses, and networks. Executive Director Jenna Stanton has been with the ACC for 20 years. “Support from Calgary Arts Development (CADA), by way of operating grants and other funding, has been essential to our success in mission and vision and growing our community in Calgary.”

Based in Edmonton and Calgary, the ACC organizes between 15 to 20 exhibits a year; alongside their social enterprise retail galleries, as well as offering craft artists professional development opportunities, and one-on-one support. In 2017, ACC opened a second location in Calgary, to better serve its membership: with 50% of their artist members located in the greater Calgary area, it was important to the ACC to have a permanent physical presence there.


In 2022, with new investment from CADA, the ACC was able to significantly increase their programing with monthly craft tours, hands on workshops, cKids camps in collaboration with our cultural hub neighbours at cSpace, along with free Make and Take events at cSpace. They also were able to pay artists to deliver this exciting hands-on programming. It has also helped create awareness and unique creative experiences for the public to connect directly with artists and contemporary Craft culture.


The funding received from CADA for their 2021-22 fiscal year helped fund several public-facing exhibits, including: Alberta Craft Excellence celebrating ACC’s 40th anniversary, Democracy of Jewellery, and Coming Up Next: A National Emerging Craft Exhibition


“Our 40th anniversary exhibit was a celebration of excellence in contemporary and traditional Alberta fine craft,” explains Stanton. “Members from across the province were invited to apply. Final selections were made by our jury: Natali Rodrigues, associate professor at Alberta University of the Arts (AU Arts); Sharon Rose Kootenay, a Metis artist from Treaty 6 and founding member of the Aboriginal Arts Council of Alberta; and finally, Professor Emerita of Art and Craft Histories at AU Arts, Jennifer Salahub.” 


Democracy of Jewellery was curated by Canmore member Kari Woo. “This exhibit explored how accessibility to materials is being affected by generalization and globalization of the marketplace and how that, in turn, impacts independent craft makers, particularly those making handmade jewellery.” Participating artists included: Sarah Alford, Devon Clark, Jamie Kroeger, Louise Perron, and Lyndsay Rice.


Coming Up Next is an important biennial exhibition,” says Stanton. “It celebrates the creativity, innovation and skill of emerging, Canadian craft artists. The exhibition in 2022 featured 14 artists who participated in a physical exhibit and an on-line discussion about their craft. This exhibition also helps emerging artists connect with peers, mentors, collectors, and helps them build confidence.”


In her decades with ACC, Stanton has seen a resurgence of interest among people looking to connect to their creativity, especially during these past pandemic years. “The funding from CADA is helping us to connect with these new communities of makers and help them connect with the broader Alberta craft community, which ultimately helps everyone grow.”