The Racine Art Museum has the largest contemporary craft collection in the United States. Over the last 10 years, RAM’s holdings have almost quadrupled, from 2,200 to close to 10,000 pieces. Over half of these pieces represent the museum’s focus on contemporary craft from internationally recognized artists—with concentrations in ceramics, fiber, glass, metals, art jewelry, polymer, and wood. Artists represented include Wendell Castle, Dale Chihuly, Lia Cook, Arline Fisch, Eleanor Moty, Joel Philip Myers, Gertrud and Otto Natzler, Albert Paley, Toshiko Takaezu, Leonore Tawney, Peter Voulkos, and several hundred more.
The other portion of RAM’s collection is a regionally significant holding of works on paper—prints, drawings, watercolor, and photography, as well as artists’ books—from the 1930s to the present. Other media, such as painting and sculpture, are represented in smaller numbers as makes sense relative to collecting goals.
Significantly, RAM’s collection is notable beyond the media represented, whether referring to the make-up of the artists whose works are included or to specialized areas of interest. For example, 41% of the artists in RAM’s collection are self-identifying women—a number that is substantially greater than the ratios calculated at other organizations with permanent collections and active exhibition programs. RAM is actively building its holdings of works by artists of color, thereby gathering the diverse voices that comprise creative expression. And, reflecting the longstanding ties to its local community, RAM collects the work of artists associated with Wisconsin. Notable concentrations of types of work include one of the largest collections of artist-made teapots in the United States, one of the largest collections of contemporary baskets in the United States, a significant number or unique or editioned artists’ books, and a concentration of artwork produced in the 1930s and 1940s through the Federal Art Project (FAP) of the Works Progress Administration (WPA).
Further distinguishing RAM is the desire to build archives with concentrations of multiple works by individual artists or concentrations of certain types of objects—such as teapots or baskets. While some institutions choose to limit their acquisitions to one or two examples per artists—except in special circumstances—RAM is often interested in representing a large cross-section of a career or body of work. This extends to developing archives that may include studio furniture, correspondence, books, and other materials that document and outline professional paths and achievements.