Smithsonian Visionary Award

The Smithsonian Visionary Award is presented annually by the Secretary of the Smithsonian at the Smithsonian Craft Show to American artists who are deemed by experts in the field to have risen to the pinnacle of sculptural arts and design, who have works in major museums, and who have demonstrated distinction, creativity, exceptional artistry and, of course, vision in their respective medium.


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Dan Dailey


2024 Smithsonian Visionary Award Winner

World renowned glass artist Dan Dailey has been honored as one of the two recipients of the 2024 Smithsonian Visionary Award for his innovative and captivating glass sculptures. Dailey has a unique ability to fascinate with narratives of human experience and expression, inviting viewers into a world of imagination.

Dailey employs “imagery, high contrast, simplicity of form” and symbolic rather than representational elements in his artwork. He pushes the boundaries of traditional glass composition by incorporating metal into many of his sculptures. In the 2019 Dailey retrospective at the Chrysler Museum of Glass, it was stated that he is “known as one of the most unique voices within the field of contemporary glass.”

Dailey received his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the Philadelphia College of Art and received his Master of Fine Arts degree from Rhode Island School of Design.  Named Professor Emeritus at Massachusetts College of Art, Dailey founded the Glass Department there in 1973. He has had a long, inspiring teaching career at numerous institutions and has lectured and given workshops worldwide.  Dailey has been the recipient of many awards, including the Renwick Gallery Distinguished Educator Award, James Renwick Alliance Masters of the Medium Award, and ACC College Fellow of the American Craft Council. His work is included in many permanent collections including the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Corning Museum of Glass, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City.

Examples of Dan Dailey's Work
glass vase
Glass vase with blue glass tendril spiraling downwards
glass vase with wide bottom
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Judith Schaechter

Stained Glass

2024 Smithsonian Visionary Award Winner

Because of her unique creative vision and exceptional artistry, Judith Schaechter has been named one of the two recipients of the 2024 Smithsonian Visionary Award, selected in her chosen discipline of stained glass. By melding contemporary themes and techniques within an ancient tradition, Schaechter has redefined conventional stained glass.  She brings a profound sensitivity to her vivid interpretations, exploring the dichotomy of beauty and darkness.

Schaechter mixes medieval art with universal and modern imagery and symbols, creating panels that are typically provocative and complex. To produce her painstakingly detailed work, Schaechter meticulously cuts, then variously files, engraves and further treats small tiles of flash glass before assembling them in large, often multi-layered arrangements to correspond to her inventive sketches. The intense colors are not typically painted in her work but created by layering colored glass upon colored glass, often illuminated from behind in a light box. 

As a renowned educator, Schaechter is an Adjunct Professor at the University of the Arts and has taught and lectured often.  She received her Bachelor of Arts at the Rhode Island School of Design. Her talent has garnered widespread recognition with numerous grants and awards, including two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships in Crafts, The Louis Comfort Tiffany Award and The Joan Mitchell Award.  Her art is part of the permanent collections in numerous public museums, including the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Metropolitan Museum in New York, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Corning Museum of Glass and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Examples of Judith Schaechter's Work
stain glass with snowflake motif and central figure
stained glass with figures
stained glass with colorful fractured images of birds

Past Smithsonian Visionary Award Recipients

Female sits at a table, smiling with some of her jewelry in her hands
Mary Lee Hu

Metal Jewelry

2023 Smithsonian Visionary Award Winner

Known internationally as a masterful and passionate weaver of metal, Mary Lee Hu is described by ceramicist Patti Warashina, who received the Smithsonian Visionary Award in 2020, as being “in a class of her own” whose artistic talents have broadened and enriched the aesthetic of the field of contemporary studio jewelry”. Beginning in her student days, Hu developed her own technique of using textile methods – looping, wrapping, weaving and most notably twining – to create graceful wearable forms, some representational and some abstract. She works almost exclusively in gold, and her work reflects a modern sensibility while including the powerful elements of rhythm, repetition and pattern that characterize much ancient and ethnic art. Beyond making her jewelry, Mary Lee Hu has spent many years teaching contemporary art jewelry, primarily at the University of Washington, where she wrote a curriculum around the global history of body adornment. She is a past President of the Society of North American Goldsmiths and her work is found in the permanent collections of many institutions, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Goldsmiths’ Hall in London, the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum.

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Chunghi Choo

Metal Hollowware

2023 Smithsonian Visionary Award Winner

World-renowned metalsmith Chunghi Choo, an extremely versatile artist with significant work in textiles and jewelry, is best known for using electroforming to create aesthetically fluid and technically fresh metal artworks. Choo’s lyrical objects are visually compelling, organic and graceful. “I like my hollowware pieces to be used and add pleasure to daily life through heightened sensuousness and a feeling of celebration”, she says.

Born in Korea, Choo practiced contemporary art and brush calligraphy and studied history and theory of Oriental and Western art. In the U. S, she studied metalsmithing, jewelry, ceramics and weaving at Cranbrook Academy of Arts.

She is named Distinguished Professor Emerita at the University of Iowa, where she established an internationally prominent metals program, with many of her students going on to achieve critical acclaim. She considers this successful endeavor as her most cherished accomplishment. She has received many awards, among which are the national Distinguished Educator Award from the James Renwick Alliance.

Choo’s work can be found in the permanent collections of many institutions, including the Musee des Arts Decoratifs in Paris, the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Cooper-Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum in NYC, and the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

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David Ellsworth


2021 Smithsonian Visionary Award Winner

David Ellsworth, master woodturner, describes his primary influences as “the energy and beauty of Native American ceramics, the architecture of the American Southwest with its textures, tones and monumentality, and the natural beauty of the material of wood – what I refer to as the most perfectly imperfect material to work with.” He is considered one of the most prominent woodturners in the world, famous for developing his elegant thin-walled hollow forms which may be as thin as 1/16th of an inch. Additionally, he created and marketed the bent turning tools needed to produce this vessel-like form. Ellsworth is also known for advancing the discipline of woodturning as a legitimate craft art form. The work of David Ellsworth is included in the permanent collection of over 43 museums internationally, including the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. He is celebrated for his generous sharing of knowledge with students in workshops, symposia, craft schools, and in his own School of Wood Turning in the mountains of North Carolina. David Ellsworth was a founding member of the American Association of Woodturners in 1985, dedicated to advancing the art and craft of woodturning worldwide through education.  

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Michael Hurwitz

Studio Furniture

2021 Smithsonian Visionary Award Winner

Michael Hurwitz has been in the forefront of the studio furniture movement for over forty years.  His work shows the intrinsic qualities of elegance, seamless design and exceptional craftsmanship.  It is foretelling that this Smithsonian Visionary experienced a life-changing event at the Smithsonian in 1972, viewing Woodenworks:  Furniture Objects by Five Contemporary Craftsmen.  The exhibit profoundly affected Hurwitz and solidified a future in studio furniture. Hurwitz pieces are in countless permanent collections, including the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, as well as homes of private collectors across the country.  Having studied both in the Dominican Republic and Japan in residency, Hurwitz brings a unique sensibility to his designs.  In Japan, his studies generated an aesthetic of seemingly simple beauty through a deliberate and careful practice, leaving nothing to chance.  Michael Hurwitz likes the parameter of furniture . . .that you use it . . .that it gets passed down from generation to generation, and that it enriches people’s daily lives. Recently, Hurwitz collaborated with the notable furniture maker, Martin Puryear, to create seating for Glenstone, the renowned contemporary art museum in Potomac, Maryland. It proved to be a true collaboration, which Puryear called “a deeply satisfying experience,” adding that “the project owed its success to (Michael’s) knowledge and his high standards.”  

Female with black and grey hair and tortoiseshell round glasses is behind a table holding her Visionary glass trophey
Patti Warashina

Ceramic Sculpture

2020 Smithsonian Visionary Award Winner

2020 Smithsonian Visionary Award winner is honored for more than 50 years of ground-breaking work in ceramic sculpture. This Seattle artist is described as “a defining figure in the West Coast Funk Art movement during the 1960s and 1970s,” and one “who has been known throughout her long career for her mischievous figurative sculptures and tableaux” by Nora Atkinson, the Fleur and Charles Bresler Curator-in-Charge for the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Atkinson goes on to say that the artist uses humor and poignant social commentary “to address serious personal, political, and social subjects, from feminist critiques of the art world, to the internment of the Japanese during World War II, to the absurdity of contemporary social media“. Warashina, whose art is ever evolving, has pushed the boundaries of ceramics well beyond function and, as one of the rare women in the field, she has paved the way for an entire new cadre of women artists. Professor Emerita at the University of Washington, Patti dedicated decades to teaching ceramics, considered by some to be the most difficult and challenging of all art media. Her work is featured in the permanent collections of museums worldwide, including the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Renwick Gallery. Because of the pandemic, Warashina received her Award from Smithsonian Secretary Lonnie R. Bunch III in a virtual ceremony. The program featured a video celebrating the wit and wisdom found in Patti’s work throughout the decades. For more information on Patti Warashina, please see links below:

African American female wearing a black hat with a colorful earring, necklace and wrap
Joyce J. Scott


2019 Smithsonian Visionary Award Winner

Joyce J. Scott is the 2019 recipient of the Smithsonian Visionary Award, honored for her work in jewelry.  Scott is an African-American artist best known for her depictions of racially and politically charged subjects, crafted from bead work. Scott’s works are influenced by a variety of cultures, including Native American and African. “I believe in messing with stereotypes. It’s important for me to use art in a manner that incites people to look and then carry something home—even if it’s subliminal.” Scott’s works are held in the collections of the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, as well as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Art and Design in New York, the Philadelphia Art Museum, the Baltimore Museum, the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

African American female with short hair and decorative earrings is looking straight at the camera
Faith Ringgold

Fiber Artist

2017 Smithsonian Visionary Award Winner

Faith Ringgold is best known for her narrative quilts (i.e., paintings that she quilts), which represent the development of craft into fine art. She is a master of many media, including sculpture and books.  Her first book, Tar Beach, was based on a quilt with the same title.  Written for children of all ages, this book has won over 30 awards including the coveted Caldecott Honor and the Coretta Scott King award.  She has been an art educator both in public schools and in higher education.  Her work weaves compelling, powerful stories of American life as seen through the lens of the African American female experience. Ringgold’s work has been exhibited in museums and galleries around the world including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts Boston and the Smithsonian American Art Museum.  She is the recipient of more than 75 awards, notably the National Endowment of the Arts award for sculpture, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation fellowship for painting and the National Endowment of the Arts Award for painting.

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Dale Chihuly

American Glass Artist

2016 Smithsonian Visionary Award Winner

Born in 1941 in Tacoma, Washington, Dale Chihuly was introduced to glass while studying interior design at the University of Washington.  After graduation in 1965, Chihuly enrolled in the first glass program in the country at the University of Wisconsin.  He continued his studies at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), where he later established the glass program and taught for more than a decade. In 1968, after receiving a Fulbright Fellowship, he went to work at the Venini glass factory in Venice.  There he observed the team approach to blowing glass, which is critical to the way he works today.  In 1971, Chihuly cofounded Pilchuck Glass School in Washington State.  With this international glass center, Chihuly has led the avant-garde in the development of glass as a fine art. His work is included in more than 215 museum collections worldwide.  He has been the recipient of many awards, including twelve honorary doctorates and two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts. Chihuly has created more than a dozen well-known series of works, among them, Cylinders and Baskets in the 1970s; Seaforms, Macchia, Vemetoams and Persions in the 1980s; Niijima Floats and Chandeliers in the 1990s; and Fiori in the 2000s.  Baskets and Cylinders:  Recent Glass by Dale Chihuly was his first solo Smithsonian exhibition in 1978.  Slate Green and Amber Tipped Chandelier, 1994, can be seen in the newly renovated Renwick Gallery.  His recent exhibits in 2016 include the Atlanta Botanical Garden and Chihuly at the Royal Ontario Museum.

Female with brown shoulder length hair and  glasses
Toots Zynsky

Visionary in Glass

2015 Smithsonian Visionary Award Winner

Toots Zynsky was born and raised in Massachusetts and is a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design.  Her quest for understanding and testing the limits of glass-making has continued for more than 40 years and has fanned several continents.  Her signature heat-formed file de verre (glass thread) vessels are widely cherished and considered to be unique in the world of glass art.  Her pieces inhabit a region all their own, interweaving the traditions of painting, sculpture, and the decorative arts.  She spent 16 years abroad living in Europe and West Africa.  Her extraordinary glass art is collected by major museums, including the deYoung Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY; Musee des Arts Decoratifs du Louvre, Paris, France; Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Renwick Gallery; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands; Victoria and Albert Museum, London, Entland, among many in an extensive list throughout the world.  Her work was recently featured in an exhibition at the Palazzo Loredan of the Instituto Veneto di Sciencze, Lettere ed Arti, in Venice, Italy.

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Wendell Castle (1932- 2018)

Art Furniture Movement

2014 Smithsonian Visionary Award Winner

Lauded as the father of the art furniture movement, celebrated American artist Wendell Castle was a sculptor, designer and educator for over five decades.  From the outset of his career, Castle pushed furniture into the realm of art more than any designer had before.  To view his work is to witness an erasure of the lines between art, craft and design.  He is renowned for his superb craftsmanship, whimsically organic forms and original techniques for stack-laminating wood. Mr. Castles’s work can be found in the permanent collections of over 50 museums worldwide including the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.  He has received numerous awards, grants and honors for his accomplishments.

Portrait of a man with his hair tied back and a mustache in a button up shirt sits at a table
Albert Paley

Metal Sculptor

2014 Smithsonian Visionary Award Winner

Albert Paley is the first metal sculptor to receive the coveted Institute Honors awarded by the American Institute of Architects.  The allure of Paley’s art comes through its intrinsic sense of integration of art and architecture. Mr. Paley began his career as a jewelry artist when, in 1974, he won a commission to fabricate Portal Gates for the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery.  It changed his life.  He has since competed in more than 50 site-specific monumental works.  Recent works include three sculptures for National Harbor outside DC, a long archway for the St. Louis Zoo, and a gate for the Cleveland Botanical Gardens.  He was the featured artist for the summer 2013 exhibition on Park Avenue for which he produced 13 monumental steel sculptures. Albert Paley’s work can be found in the permanent collections of many major museums.  He holds an endowed chair at the Rochester Institute of Technology.