2021 Smithsonian Visionary Award Honors Artists Who Work in Wood

March 10, 2021
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Table with a floral tabletop design

Michael Hurwitz, Twelve Leaf Resin Table, 2012, Ash, wenge and epoxy resin, 16 x 40 x 40 in.

The 2021 Smithsonian Visionary Award will be presented to two wood artists, David Ellsworth for his turned wood objects, and Michael Hurwitz for his wood furniture. Their selection was announced today, March 10, by Smithsonian Women’s Committee President Nancy Newkirk.

Ellsworth and Hurwitz will receive their Award during the Smithsonian Craft Show Preview Night Benefit Wednesday, Oct. 27,at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. Established in 2014, the Smithsonian Visionary Award is given annually to American artists deemed by experts in the field to have achieved the pinnacle of sculptural arts and design in their individual medium. Wendell Castle, Albert Paley, Toots Zynsky, Dale Chihuly, Faith Ringgold, Joyce J. Scott and Patti Warashina are previous recipients.

Ellsworth is recognized for his significant contributions to the field of wood turning through his exquisite thin-walled hollow vessels, his development of new bent tools for turning and his generous and inspiring work as a teacher. A founding member of the American Association of Woodturners, Ellsworth 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.” His work is in the permanent collections of 43 museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Renwick Gallery in Washington, D.C., and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

In the forefront of the studio furniture movement for over 30 years, Hurwitz is known for his elegant design and exceptional craftsmanship. His pieces are timeless, sophisticated and respectful of the nature of the wood. According to one expert in the field, they are prized for “their adventurous use of materials and knowing enhancement of surface with color and pattern.” He is widely credited with transforming furniture-making into a new art form. Like Ellsworth, his work is represented in the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Renwick Gallery, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and in the homes of numerous private collectors across the country.

Selected objects from Ellsworth and Hurwitz will be on display during the Smithsonian Craft Show, which will take place Oct. 28–Oct. 31 at the historic National Building Museum. In addition, both artists will be represented in the annual Smithsonian Visionary Benefit Auction, which will be held live and online May 14. Produced by the Smithsonian Women’s Committee and hosted by Rago Auctions, the event raises funds to support projects and initiatives across the Smithsonian Institution.

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Heidi Austreng

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