Worcester Center for Crafts sign

WSC and Worcester Center for Crafts Pursue Alliance

May 4, 2009
By: Worcester State University News

The Worcester State College Board of Trustees voted unanimously Friday morning to form an alliance with the Worcester Center for Crafts.  “These two institutions have meant so much to the region,” said George Tetler, Chair of the Worcester State College board of Trustees. “The College, established in 1874 as the Worcester Normal School, and the Craft Center, established in 1856 as the Women’s Employment Society have both been so important to the academic, cultural and economic development of our region.  The opportunity this alliance presents is truly exciting,” he added.

The college is currently developing a new Bachelor of Arts degree in Interdisciplinary Visual and Performing Arts and awaiting approval from the Department of Higher Education.  “So this is very timely,” said Tetler. “The opportunity to leverage the strengths of both institutions to serve students of the arts and the vibrant arts community the Craft Center has nurtured is tremendous,” said Tetler. Strategic discussions between the two partners will continue in the coming months as details and plans are finalized.

All of the state’s normal schools were re-christened “teachers colleges” in 1932, and the old Normal School became Worcester State Teachers College. That same year, the College moved to its present location on Chandler Street. By 1963, the former teachers college had evolved into a liberal arts and sciences college, a transition acknowledged by the Board of Education in 1963.  Today WSC has grown to a college offering undergraduate and graduate degrees to more than 5,500 undergraduate and 1,000 graduate students each year and is recognized by the Princeton Review for its excellence.

In 1856, The Women’s Employment Society began teaching craft (specifically sewing and embroidery) to help immigrant women earn a living. By the 1930’s the organization had opened a store and began selling their members’ hand-made products nationally and internationally to great acclaim.  Post World War II, during a time of economic restructuring, the Employment Society recognized the need to create new job skills and launched the Worcester Center for Crafts at Salisbury Mansion. Specialized craft training and sales initiatives became the cornerstones of income creation both for the organization and the artists it served. By 1958, WCC had a new building, multiple studios, a gallery store and new exhibition space designed by a local architect.

Over the course of almost 50 years, the Worcester Center for Crafts added an offsite comprehensive glass studio, at its height attracted over 25,000 people a year, mounted internationally recognized exhibits and sold the work of both local and national craft artists. Its students seeded craft programs all over the country and grew influential businesses from their learning. Special grant-funded programs taught craft in the public schools and brought diverse populations into the center. It employed over 75 part-time faculty, six full time studio heads, a program manager and several administrative staff with a budget at its peak of 2.5 million dollars.

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