SNAG celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2019 and is honoring its membership by highlighting different people on the SNAG website.
Please introduce yourself.
I am Lisa Koenigsberg and I’m the founder and President of Initiatives in Art and Culture (IAC). My own areas of expertise would be the history of American art and culture, with a deep commitment to contemporary jewelers and metalsmiths both here and abroad. My focus is on visual culture and all the projects we undertake have a dual commitment.
Our conferences explore visual culture and champion individuals, institutions, and organizations in varied media and materials. We bring together makers, growers, miners, retailers, journalists, financiers, regulators, and environmentalists both to trace the ties that bind individuals and communities along the continuum from extraction through fabrication to sale or investment using a cross-disciplinary approach, and to illumine the importance of each link in these remarkable chains.
Respect for materials, craft, and authentic expression are at the core for us. We’re particularly concerned with ethical practice and responsible sourcing, whether in textiles, gemstones, or precious metals, as in the annual International Gold Conference.
How did Initiatives in Art and Culture begin and how has the organization progressed or changed over the years? Can you tell our membership about what your position with the IAC entails and what the goals of the organization are?
When I was at NYU as Director of Programs in the Arts, I had developed a variety of annual multidisciplinary conferences. After watching the launch and development of a number of these programs, my then dean suggested that that this was a significant body of work which should exist as a separate organization. Fifteen years ago, I founded IAC with his help. We focus on visual culture, heritage and preservation—we bring together every sector or discipline under consideration. My goal has always been to bring together cutting-edge authorities, practitioners and artists and thought leaders to pursue fresh approaches to the world of visual culture with the ultimate goal of changing the culture.
What projects are you working on currently that really excite you?
In particular, we are working on our tenth annual gold conference. Gold is accepted as a store of value and has had the power to move people throughout history. This year we will also explore comparative case studies and approaches to challenges in the worlds of gold and diamonds from production through the creation of an object or jewel.
How has the field of metalsmithing and jewelry evolved since you began your career?
I think on the one hand there is much greater awareness of the spectrum of historical work and accomplishment, as well as acceptance of exploration into new materials and techniques. But, certain conflicts or debates between and about “design” and “craft” have resulted in the unfortunate loss of jewelry and metalsmithing programs in the US. At the same time, we can look at the revitalization of concepts like apprenticeships and educational institutions like North Bennet Street and New Approach School and professional associations like SNAG and MJSA that educate and champion the individual metalsmith. And I would like to say that the Goldsmiths Centre’s vision for insuring the future and welcoming practitioners with different background, under the leadership of founding director Peter Taylor, is truly inspiring.
What are your plans for the future? Is there anything specific that you hope to accomplish in the next year?
It is our goal to strengthen the gold conference. We want to ensure that the gold conference embraces a full spectrum of topics and ideas and is an eagerly anticipated highlight event each year. We also hope to host a second Gold Conference abroad in the coming year.
How and when did first gain a membership with SNAG?
I’ve been a member of SNAG for over 20 years! The Society of American Goldsmiths has been a beacon organization for me since I was in graduate school. The information, the access to authoritative voices and practitioners, the mentorship, the exposure to quality and, since Gwynne’s arrival as executive director, the organization has been infused with a stunning vitality. SNAG has been important my entire professional career, and I cannot imagine the future of the field without this galvanizing organization.
Learn more about Initiatives in Art and Culture.