Plan for Program Closure

March 31, 2022

Warren Wilson College has announced its plan to close its Master of Arts in Critical Craft Studies program. The program, launched in 2017, was created to offer the first low-residency model for graduate studies in critical craft theory and history. In announcing the planned closure, Provost Jay Roberts stated, “this was a very difficult decision for us to make. The program has been groundbreaking since its inception, and we were fortunate enough to have an internationally recognized scholar in the field to serve as the founding Director in Namita Gupta Wiggers. Namita, the program faculty, and the students have and will continue to contribute cutting edge scholarship that is shaping a newly developing field of Craft Studies. However, the pandemic and the economic slowdown combined with shifts in the graduate school market have made it increasingly difficult to meet our enrollment goals. While we regret losing this innovative graduate program, Warren Wilson will refocus our Craft and Craft Studies efforts at the undergraduate level, and we remain excited about the opportunities for Craft through ongoing efforts in the Art department to integrate craft into the curriculum.” The College will continue to support all students currently enrolled in the program toward completion.

Academic Program

The MA in Critical Craft Studies is a low-residency graduate program in craft history and theory. This full-time, four-semester/ five-residency program is the first of its kind in the US. Students and faculty meet for two weeks of lectures, workshops, seminars, readings, project work, and individual conferences each July and January. The two-year continuous program begins in July; all July residencies are held on the Warren Wilson campus, and January residencies are held in downtown Asheville with classes at The Center for Craft. Students return to campus for a fifth and final residency to present their final projects in a public colloquium, co-organized by Warren Wilson College and The Center for Craft. Students work individually and collaboratively during residencies the following semester terms. Each student spends 20-25 hours per week on readings, writing and research assignments, meetings with mentors in their place of residence or online, online faculty sessions, and group meetings. Coursework builds critical thinking, research methods, and experience with formats ranging from writing and podcasts to exhibitions and curriculum development. Final projects demonstrate applied knowledge in craft histories and theories, and may include: a journal-article length thesis; an exhibition with essays, programs and texts; curricular development with lectures; a scholarly conference with publication; a podcast series; online exhibition or research website; or a collected series of short critical essays.

Faculty include leading theorists, historians, scholars and artists in the field of craft studies, art history, art, material culture, anthropology and other connected disciplines from the US and abroad; faculty work with students during residencies and online during the semester. Mentors meet in person or online with students each semester, and offer additional connections to the field and ways to connect curriculum and communities. Faculty present their work in public programs during residencies; these are free and open to the public.

Undergraduates at Warren Wilson College connect with graduate students and faculty through programs and visits to classes, craft history courses, and work through the blacksmithing, fiber, and fine woodworking studios.


The Residency

Residency instruction includes a combination of lectures, discussions, readings, field trips, workshops, hands-on material labs, studio visits, as well as a mixture of individual and group work. Students explore craft histories and theories from around the globe and a range of disciplines through readings and interaction with experts within and outside of craft studies. Coursework, concepts and research methods for each semester are introduced in the residencies and further explored through independent study, project assignments, online group discussions, and monthly meetings with individual mentors.

Research Methods and Materials Labs are designed to engage the Swannanoa/Asheville area as case studies. To complete Labs, students apply methods and approaches learned in their own hometowns. While the program includes a Materials Lab, the emphasis is not on the acquisition and development of skills. Instead, students work on understanding materials and processes to improve their understanding of how things are made, to connect their own making knowledge and experiences with program curriculum, to cultivate direct ways of investigating craft that brings process together with theory, history, and finished work.

All research findings are shared and engaged collectively to expand the field through collective exchange and knowledge building.

Explore Classes in This Program

CRFT 5130

History and Theory I

Foundational survey that introduces students through an integrated approach to histories and theories of craft from a variety of disciplines, theoretical frameworks, and cultural arenas. Students are introduced to historical texts and theoretical concepts during the residency, and continue their examination of materials during the independent study portion of the semester with scheduled meetings with core faculty and mentors. Content is delivered through lectures, workshops, discussion, seminars, texts, object analysis and recordings. Project work may include weekly critical writing, analytical texts, and research papers.

CRFT 5150

Research Methods Lab I

Team taught by a variety of faculty members, this Lab explores research methods from a variety of disciplines. Methods connect with semesters themes: research strategies, craft in public spaces, craft and communication, and craft and teaching.

CRFT 5140

Materials Lab I

Material knowledge and the physical labor of working with tools is the purview of craft. During each residency, students study a range of craft processes, methods and materials. Team taught by a variety of faculty members, readings and assignments for this Lab address ways in which materiality, theories about making, and ways in which the physical connection between the body, the mind, and materials are considered, critically examined, and communicated.

CRFT 5160

Practicum Project I

The Practicum Project course offers guided space to conduct, develop, and complete a comprehensive research project. Practicum Project I focuses on different forms through which research is communicated, and offers students a chance to experiment with potential final projects. Practicum Project meets every semester, offering students active support and engagement as they propose, develop, and refine their final project, which may include a publication, nonfiction journalistic article, series of collection of exhibition reviews, an online or in situ exhibition, an educational  website, a set of podcasts, or some other form.