A piece titled “S.N.I.P.E.R.” by Nathan Dube, who is featured in the Tributaries portion of Crafting a Legacy. Photo courtesy of Houston Cofield

By Cillea Houghton 

MEMPHIS, TN — The Metal Museum in Memphis is commemorating its 40th anniversary in 2019 with a special exhibit devoted to the past, present and future of metalworking. Titled Crafting A Legacy: 40 Years of Collecting & Exhibiting at the Metal Museum, the exhibit combines the work of veteran artists from its Master Metalsmiths collection with the variety of pieces from up and coming artists from the Tributaries series. The exhibit, which features works including sculptures, ironwork and jewelry, sets up shop in the Gasparrini Galleries. 

“These artists represent both the heights of achievement and the promising future of the metals field,” the museum described of the 40th anniversary exhibit in a press release.

Crafting a Legacy will display roughly 78 pieces based on the work of 36 metalsmiths and 30 tributaries, with each artist contributing one piece or set of pieces. Metalsmiths honors the works of artists who’ve contributed significantly to the craft of metal working, while Tributaries highlights the creations of emerging artists who are beginning to make an impact on the art form. The museum launched its permanent exhibit of Master Metalsmiths in 1983 to showcase the most influential metal artists of its time, and has since featured more than 30 metalsmiths from around the world including Fred Fenster and Eleanor Moty, both of whom have been featured in the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Finnish-American Heikki Seppa, who’s work has been on display in the historic Renwick Gallery at the Smithsonian, and pieces created from recycled household items by Harriete Estel Berman. The museum began its Tributaries series in 2007 to showcase the works of underrepresented metal artists, inviting them for solo exhibitions and lectures, and recently featured the likes of Venetia Dale, Zachery Lechtenberg and Caitie Sellers. 

Berman, Moty, Fenster and Seppa are all included in the Master Metalsmiths portion of the 40th anniversary exhibition, along with Phillip Fike, the late L. Brent Kington, acclaimed jeweler Mary Lee Hu and many more. John Rais, Lola Brooks, Seth Gould, Marlene True and Andy Cooperman are among the artists representing the Tributaries. 

“One of the most valuable aspects of the collection is that the Museum is acquiring works by living artists, to the advantage of both the Museum and the artists,” said Sarah Perkins, one of the 2019 Master Metalsmiths artists featured in Crafting a Legacy. 

The new exhibition opens on Feb. 3 with a reception and gallery talk with the curator and select artists. The exhibit closes on May 12. The Metal Museum celebrates its 40th anniversary on Feb. 5 and admission is free to patrons who visit the museum during the anniversary week.

Founded by blacksmith James Wallace in 1979, the Metal Museum is the only one of its kind in the United States that works towards the preservation and advancement of metalwork.