The MFAH Has Appointed Elizabeth Essner the Windgate Foundation Associate Curator of Craft

An independent curator, researcher, and writer, Essner will work to expand exhibitions and acquisitions within the area of international craft

HOUSTON—FEBRUARY 4, 2022The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, today announced the appointment of Elizabeth Essner as Associate Curator in the Department of Decorative Arts, Craft, and Design. Essner, who joined the MFAH this week, will work with Cindi Strauss, the Sara and Bill Morgan Curator, to expand MFAH collections, exhibitions, and programs in the area of international craft.

Strauss commented, “I am thrilled that Elizabeth Essner has joined the staff of the Museum at this auspicious time in its history. With the first-ever galleries devoted to craft having opened in 2021 in the Nancy and Rich Kinder Building, and the opportunities there for interdisciplinary installations involving craft objects, Elizabeth’s expertise and compelling vision will enhance every aspect of our craft program—from exhibitions to acquisitions to scholarship.”

Previously a Brooklyn-based independent curator, researcher, and writer, and regular contributor to Metalsmith magazine, Essner earned a B.A. in American studies as well as a B.A. in history from Boston University, and an M.A. in design and decorative arts history from the Bard Graduate Center in New York.

Essner’s recent curated exhibitions include Graffiti & Ornament (2019) at the Woodlands in Philadelphia, where a 19th-century carved “graffiti” inscription discovered at the estate’s Neoclassical mansion served as a point of departure for site-specific ceramics by Roberto Lugo and glass by Leo Tecosky; Handheld (2018) at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield, Connecticut, exploring how small, handheld objects became a lens to examine the contemporary relationship to touch in a digital age of looking; and Shari Mendelson: Glasslike (2018) at UrbanGlass in Brooklyn, linking the artist’s contemporary interpretations of ancient glass, rendered in throwaway plastic bottles, with their inspiration in late Roman and early Islamic examples. Essner also co-curated the 2017 traveling exhibition The Good Making of Good Things: Craft Horizons Magazine, 1941–1979, originated by the Center of Craft in Asheville, North Carolina, which paired articles from this watershed publication with objects by the makers they featured to shed light on key themes and histories within the studio-craft movement.

“As a field, craft has the unique potential to meet this cultural moment where so many artistic and cultural legacies have been hiding in plain sight,” Essner commented. “At the MFAH, this presents significant opportunities to continue to foster cross-disciplinary dialogue and illuminate histories that enrich our understanding of the present moment.”

About the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Spanning 14 acres in the heart of Houston’s Museum District, the main campus comprises the Audrey Jones Beck Building, the Caroline Wiess Law Building, the Lillie and Hugh Roy Cullen Sculpture Garden, and the Nancy and Rich Kinder Building for modern and contemporary art. Nearby, two house museums—Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens, and Rienzi—present collections of American and European decorative arts. The MFAH is also home to the Glassell School of Art, with its Core Residency Program and Junior and Studio schools; and the International Center for the Arts of the Americas (ICAA), a leading research institute for 20th-century Latin American and Latino art. Additional resources include a repertory cinema; two significant research libraries, the Hirsch Library and the Powell Library and Study Center at Bayou Bend; public archives; and a conservation facility.

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