Craft collaboration

Leila Cartier, executive director of CraftNOW, said one of her goals has been to see craft activities in the city’s neighborhood rec centers. Image | John Carlano

CraftNOW and Philadelphia Parks & Recreation have joined forces to bring the excitement and imagination of hands-on craft into Philadelphia’s neighborhood rec centers. Through its CraftNOW Create program, CraftNOW is coordinating with partner organizations to deliver over 6,000 hours of craft instruction to 3,000 children across 120 locations. Through Aug. 13, children ages 6 to 12 will participate in camps throughout the city.

In addition to in-person activities, CraftNOW has collaborated with the Philadelphia Museum of Art to provide take-home kits with art supplies along with free admission passes to the museum for each camper and up to five members of their family. Crafting kits will be distributed to campers at participating recreation centers. 

“It has always been a goal of mine to see craft activities in Philadelphia’s neighborhood rec centers,” said Leila Cartier, executive director of CraftNOW. “These centers are found in every corner of the city and can provide neighborhoods with a sense of unity, access to much-needed resources, and a safe place for recreation. It is important that young people are introduced to hands-on activity for a multitude of reasons. Children can be educated through craft activities, discover a unique career path, and find joy and pride in making something themselves.” 

Thanks to the CraftNOW Create program, this year’s summer camps offer a variety of craft activities provided by Al-Bustan Seeds of Learning, American Swedish Historical Museum, Asian Arts Initiative, The  Clay Studio, Fabric Workshop and Museum, Fleisher Art Memorial, The Handwork Studio, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens, Tyler School of Art and Architecture, and University of the Arts. 

CraftNOW is a Philadelphia-based nonprofit arts organization launched in 2015 by a consortium of individuals, galleries, museums, universities, retailers, and civic organizations. Though diverse in background, CraftNOW has been united in its desire to capitalize upon Philadelphia’s outstanding craft resources and highlight the city’s continuing role in defining the future of craft. 

Additionally, CraftNOW celebrates and showcases Philadelphia’s contemporary craft scene throughout CraftMONTH, a series of events in November alongside the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show. CraftNOW’s free annual symposium – a signature event of CraftMONTH – provides a platform for critical discourse in contemporary craft and is set to take place on Nov. 5. 

PW recently caught up with Cartier to talk about the program.

Talk a little about how the partnership with the city’s Parks and Recreation Department came about and what CraftNOW Create participants will experience this summer.

It has always been a goal of mine to see craft activities in Philadelphia’s neighborhood rec centers. When I first spoke with [Parks & Recreation’s] Bill Salvatore this winter, he didn’t think campers would have an opportunity to take field trips. Something important we learned from the pandemic was that hosting a free event in Center City did not mean it was accessible. This collaboration brings the museums and galleries directly to the campers where they are. Over 10 of our partner organizations, including Al Bustan Seeds of Culture, Asian Arts Initiative and Fabric Workshop and Museum, will teach how to make mosaics, create journals, and work with clay, among many other craft activities.

Why do you think it’s important to have craft activities in the city’s neighborhood rec centers?

Rec Centers can be found in every corner of the city and provide neighborhoods with a sense of unity, access to much-needed resources, and a safe place for recreation. We will be in neighborhoods hit hardest economically by the pandemic, where gun violence is surging, and the opioid epidemic rages on. I see arts programs like this as part of an emergency response and a critical form of early intervention. The importance of handmade activity was lifesaving and life-altering for many people throughout 2020. Craft could be turned to for protection, community, respite, education, entertainment, therapy, income, activism, and purpose. We want to make sure it is accessible for those who need it. 

CraftNOW was launched in 2015. How has it evolved over the years? What have been some of its more popular programs and events?

The origin of CraftNOW’s mission centers around the Philadelphia Museum of Art Contemporary Craft Show held each November. We unite museums and galleries to generate an itinerary of events and collaborative marketing portfolio for the days and weeks surrounding this historic event. Our annual symposium has hosted some of the most important scholars in contemporary craft. We also target young audiences through CraftNOW Create, where they learn about our partners’ year-round educational programs during a daylong event filled with make-and-take activities at the Kimmel Center. Last year, we distributed 500 take-home kits with art supplies and hosted virtual instruction. We are still figuring out what a hybrid model looks like for these events this year.  

What’s new for Craft NOW, both in 2021 and in future years?

In addition to this new focus on youth education, we are also putting more energy into uniting artists and makers just as we have done with the institutions and galleries around the city. We are partnering with the Creative Business Accelerator in Pittsburgh to launch CraftECON, our suite of programs focused on economic opportunity through craft and KACEE, the Keystone Alliance for Creative Economies and Entrepreneurship, the first of its kind statewide program. We have created an online directory of some of the city’s greatest talents, we are connecting artists to business support services, capital and funding, as well as peer support and networks. More on these programs can be found on our website at

How can someone get involved or stay up-to-date with what CraftNOW is doing?LC: The best thing to do is follow us on social media @CraftNOWPHL! You can sign up for our newsletters on our website,, and anyone wanting to get involved can check out

  • Eugene Zenyatta was raised on old-time Memphis 'rasslin' and strongly prefers the company of dogs to people. His greatest heartbreak came in the 2010 Breeders' Cup Classic.

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