A Look into the Past: Research on Craft Artists from the 70s in Pittsburgh

Artist William Accorsi exhibiting his toy sculptures at The Store.


A Look into the Past: Research on Craft Artists from the 70s in Pittsburgh

Museum Studies Intern at Contemporary Craft – Spring 2018

When I first heard about an opportunity interning at Contemporary Craft, I was super excited because I had volunteered there in the past (and knew this would be a great line to add to my resume).

Contemporary Craft is a nonprofit gallery in the Strip District of Pittsburgh. Part gallery, part store, they also have workshops in the basement where community members are welcome to take classes or even rent out a space and make art. Once I met my supervisor, Stephanie Sun, I was given a quick tour and introduced to the scrapbooks.

My purpose was to research the gallery’s founder, Betty Raphael, and the artists who had held exhibitions at her former art gallery also known as The Store for Arts and Crafts and People-Made Things. The story of this pioneering gallery is conveyed through scrapbooks Raphael made for a period of 7 years. I was given access to tell the story of The Store through the scrapbooks’ many artifacts -- newspaper clippings, photographs, letters, advertisements, and event flyers.

Betty Raphael was a trailblazer. She introduced the city of Pittsburgh to modern art in the 1940s, and then again in the 1970s and early 1980s. At first some rejected her. But hundreds of artists have passed through her gallery, both amateur, local, and internationally recognized. Reading through the names of the artists she supported, certain ones stood out—such as Alexander Calder, Paul Klee, and Wendell Castle.

Before taking on this internship and starting my research I was unaware of this amazing woman and the work she did for the crafts movement. It’s been an enormous pleasure to read about all of her achievements and learning about all the artists who have passed through The Store. I’ve been able to learn about artists I had never heard of before but who have made a name for themselves in their particular field and continue to make art.

Towards the end of my internship I compiled all of my research into a SCALAR storybook. The SCALAR storybook is an interactive online book that anyone can look through and where people can read more about the artists who came through The Store and contributed to this incredible movement. With my portion of the research done, I happily pass the torch to the next person who will continue sharing the story of Betty.

Explore Emily’s SCALAR storybook project here

Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

  • Academic Interns
  • Undergraduate Work
  • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh