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Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, west elm, and Nest Talk Social Change at the Intersection of Craft and Commerce

The current MoMA retrospective entitled Robert Rauschenberg: Among Friends presents a window into the world of a vibrant artist and man who MoMA cites as exemplifying an “openness to the world, commitment to dialogue and collaboration, and global curiosity.” It is perhaps these traits that make the current Rauschenberg + west elm collaboration so more than the fabulously funky new furniture collection that it is.

“The collaboration is about making you stop and think about the relationship between art and objects, as well as the stories behind how objects are made,” reflects Jennifer Gootman, West Elm’s VP of Social Responsibility and Innovation. And undoubtedly, if a chair is a piece of art, we are prompted to reconsider the possibility of filling our daily lives with objects of purpose – those forged with stories and artistic expression – so that even mundane rituals would take on meaning. It is at this intersection of artistic form and functionality that artisan craft has served as a cornerstone of creative expression, cultural identity, and commerce for centuries.

The overlapping spheres of influence that bridge the non-profit and for-profit realms proved a powerful point of discussion for Nest’s Rebecca van Bergen, Robert Rauschenberg Foundation’s Director of Philanthropy, Rise Wilson, and Jennifer Gootman, who during a recent intimate talk hosted by Nest’s own Advisory Board member, Phoebe Campbell, covered everything from craft as a vehicle for social change to the need to philanthropically fund the arts as well as science.

Rise wisely warned us against false binaries, citing an unnecessary bifurcation between worlds whose common social goals can instead be worked towards in harmony. Nest’s Rebecca van Bergen noted the important ways that philanthropy and corporate responsibility have combined to help Nest’s non-profit work for artisans reach new levels of impact.

A thank you goes out to Rauschenberg Foundation, west elm, and Phoebe Campbell for surfacing a bold and beautiful conversation that left us all wanting more!