Wares from the White House

Miki Johnson and Miki Johnson

A giant patchwork glass bowl with bright green highlighting its undulating lip. Three stylized teapots in French blue, fire red and jet black.

Although these might not be what come to mind when most people hear the word “crafts,” they are all part of “The White House Collection of American Crafts,” the Block Museum of Art’s first summer exhibition since its 2000 move to its current location.

“This is the first of what I hope will be a yearly summer show,” said Corinne Granof, the Block Museum’s assistant curator. “And I hope there will be new people who come because this show is kind of fun, a little lighter than other shows.”

The collection was assembled under the auspices of former President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton in 1993, the year former President George Bush declared the “Year of American Craft.”

The more than 70 pieces in the exhibition will be unveiled tonight at an opening night reception sponsored by The Auxiliary of Evanston Northwestern Healthcare.

Christine Rob, a member of the auxiliary and chairwoman of the Block Museum’s board of advisors, said ever since she cofounded the American Craft Exposition in 1985 she has been waiting for the opportunity to bring a craft exhibition to the Block Museum.

The exposition will draw 150 leading American artisans (including 12 featured in the White House collection) to NU’s Sports Pavilion and Aquatic Center starting Aug. 22 and ending Aug. 24, the same day the White House collection leaves the Block Museum.

“This is a great opportunity to unite the whole Evanston community around one cause,” Rob said.

Proceeds from the $50 tickets to tonight’s reception will benefit the auxiliary, which is currently raising funds for research of macular degeneration as well as breast and ovarian cancer.

While they walk through the museum, the approximately 350 community members who purchased tickets to the event will be able to enjoy refreshments, jazz music and videos displaying the techniques a few of the artists used to create their craft pieces.

“What I find really interesting about craft is that it’s really involved with the medium to an extent most fine art isn’t,” said Granof, who said she modified some of the exhibition’s texts to emphasize the process of creation.

The night will begin with a speech at 6:40 p.m by the collection’s original curator, Michael Monroe, who also will be training guides to lead the museum’s tours.

At 7 p.m. Christie’s will auction off a piece donated by Dale Chihuly, who also created the large glass bowl. Those proceeds will also benefit the auxiliary.