About Initiatives in Art and Culture

IAC's mission is to change the culture and is committed to a cross-disciplinary approach in its exploration of visual culture. Given this approach, each conference in IAC’s series is marked by a commitment to every sector from architects, curators and scholars, preservationists, collectors, and craftsmen, with game changers, disrupters, and thought-leaders from other disciplines, industries, and institutions to explore cross disciplinary approaches outside conventional industry discourse with a goal of initiating dialogue. A commitment to authenticity, to artisanry, and to materials undergirds these considerations, as does a mindfulness of sustainability and of our obligations to the planet.

Lisa Koenigsberg, IAC’s founder, has been creating conferences devoted to visual and material culture, art, and cultural patrimony for over 25 years, and IAC has welcomed over 1,000 speakers to its programs during that time. Her writings have appeared in books, journals, and magazines, and she has organized symposia and special sessions at universities, museums, and professional organizations throughout the US and abroad. She holds graduate degrees from The Johns Hopkins University and from Yale University from which she received her PhD.


IAC’s 21st Annual Arts and Crafts Conference: Chicago

Each year, IAC’s Arts and Crafts Conference visits a different city—among them such centers of the Movement as Boston, Philadelphia, Pasadena, New York and Buffaloreturns this year to Chicago. Chicago’s expressions of the Arts and Crafts Movement are extraordinary. Its architecture, interiors, art, and decorative objects of the period embody something that was completely new while at the same time thoroughly rooted in tradition. Through talks, site visits, and collections tours, we will consider how the City’s architects, artists, and artisans developed a design vocabulary specific to the region. Perhaps they felt less constrained by convention than their peers to the east, imbued with a unique sense of possibility by a boundless horizon, whether that of Lake Michigan on one side or of the frontier (however diminished) on the other.

In each city we have visited, IAC has partnered with and celebrated premier institutions, and been invited to distinguished private residences and collections, and this year will be no exception.


Highlights to be Visited: 

Frederic Clay Bartlett, Tree of Life mural in Second Presbyterian Church, 1903. Photo: Martin Cheung; courtesy, Friends of Historic Second Church.


The Gothic Revival exterior of Second Presbyterian Church was designed by architect James Renwick (1874); after a 1900 fire destroyed the sanctuary, Howard Van Doren Shaw was commissioned to redesign the interior employing an Arts and Crafts vocabulary and prominently featuring angel, grapevine, and pomegranate motifs. Frederic Clay Bartlett executed 13 murals in the pre-Raphaelite style; prominent Chicago lighting designer Willy Lau was also involved in realizing the interior which includes a light screen and numerous ornamental windows designed by Van Doren Shaw and manufactured by Giannini & Hilgart of Chicago. The Church also holds notable windows, among them examples made by William Morris & Company, Tiffany Studios, Church Glass & Decorating Company, and Louis J. Millet. 


Louis Sullivan and Dankmar Adler, The Auditorium Theatre, 1889. Photo: Nagel Photography.


Adler & Sullivan’s Auditorium Theatre is one of Chicago's architectural masterpieces, combining Dankmar Adler's engineering ingenuity with Louis Sullivan's architectural virtuosity. The project was the brainchild of Ferdinand Peck, a Chicago businessman intent on bringing the city a world-class opera house and theater. After preliminary, ornate designs, Peck accepted Sullivan's final scheme, which derived much of its character from H. H. Richardson's recently completed Marshall Field Wholesale Store, also in Chicago, which employed strong, solid massing without excessive ornament. The beauty and the design come from the structure's overall mass and the repetition of streamlined patterns which gives this large building with many uses a unified look. Sullivan's muted exterior contrasts with the interior which features elaborate, often polychrome, designs based on organic motifs.


Frank Lloyd Wright, Unity Temple interior, 1909. Photo: courtesy, Harboe Architects.


Unlike any other house of worship before, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Unity Temple (1909) is characterized by bold simplicity of design and unconventional use of materials, namely poured-in-place reinforced concrete. To reduce the noise from the busy street, windows were eliminated at street level, and instead, stained glass skylights and clerestories provided light to the space in green, yellow and brown tones evoking the colors of nature. Conceived of as a perfect square, the commission called for two different spaces, one for worship and one for socializing; these are connected by a low, central entrance hall. For its use of a single material—reinforced concrete—Unity Temple is considered by many to be the first modern building in the world. Wright remarked: “Unity Temple makes an entirely new architecture—and is the first expression of it. That is my contribution to modern architecture.” 


Frank Lloyd Wright, Robie House,1910. Photo: James Caulfield; courtesy, Harboe Architects.


Frank Lloyd Wright's Robie House (1910) is viewed by many to be the greatest example of Prairie School, the first architectural style considered uniquely American. The projecting cantilevered roof eaves, continuous bands of art-glass windows, and the use of Roman brick emphasize the horizontal, which had rich associations for Wright, reminding him of the American prairie and serving as a line of repose and shelter, appropriate for a house. Steel beams in the ceilings and floors carry most of the building's weight to piers at the east and west ends, allowing the exterior walls, which have little structural function, to be filled with doors and windows. The house is an airy space that appears larger than it is, accenting the open plan Wright favored and which was, for Wright, a metaphor for the openness of American political and social life. Wright designed not only the house, but all the interiors, the windows, lighting, rugs, furniture and textiles, and windows containing 174 art glass panels in 29 different designs observing  in 1910, "it is quite impossible to consider the building one thing and its furnishings another... They are all mere structural details of its character and completeness.”


Edgar Miller, Entry Foyer to the R. W. Glasner Studio. Photo: Alexander Vertikoff; courtesy, Edgar Miller Legacy.


Rudolph Glasner Studio epitomizes the work of late artist, designer and craftsman Edgar Miller (1899-1993). Miller’s timeless work which spans movements such as Arts & Crafts, Art Deco, Modernism, Medievalism, and Primitivism, while finding expressive outlets through a large variety of mediums among them painting, sculpture, woodwork, metal, tile, and stained glass. Inspiring in his designs and his reuse of “scavenged materials,” Miller was “a one-of-a-kind artist who defied labels and what most of us consider the ceiling of one human’s capacity for breadth of knowledge and output," according to Edgar Miller Legacy executive Director Zac Bleicher.


Selected Speakers:

Zac Bleicher, Edgar Miller Legacy Founder and Executive Director 

Kathleen Cummings, architectural historian specializes in the work of Prairie School architect George Maher

Gunny Harboe, FAIA, architect and founder, Harboe Architects, a firm specializing in historic preservation and sustainable design. Recent projects include: Frank Lloyd Wight’s Robie House and Unity Temple both National Historic Landmarks and both of which have been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List

Lisa Koenigsberg, President, Initiatives in Art and Culture

Nate Lielasus, Northworks Architects + Planning Board of Directors, Friends of Historic Second Church History of the Art and Architecture of Second Presbyterian Church

Heidi Ruehle-May, Executive Director, Unity Temple Restoration Foundation

Robert Sharoff, architectural critic and historian; co-author John Vinci: Life and Landmarks

Tori Simms, Board President, Glessner House

William Tyre, Curator & Program Director, Glessner House; Board of Directors, Friends of Historic Second Church

John Vinci, preservationist and architect

Richard Guy Wilson, Commonwealth Professor of Architectural History, University of Virginia

William Zbaren, photographer; co-author: John Vinci: Life and Landmarks




Event Information:

Date: September 19-22, 2019

Contact: 646-485-1952 or info@artinitiatives.com


Social Media:


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Twitter: @Artinitiatives_


Conference hashtags

#iacartsandcraftsconference #iacartsandcrafts2019 #iacchicago2019 #iacconferenceseries


Register for Conference

Use promo code FREEMANS to register for $550 (normally $650)