Furniture artist receives ACC fellowship

Rosanne Somerson, professor of furniture design at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, R.I., is among this year's inductees into the American Craft Council's College of Fellows.

"It's a wonderful honor," says Somerson. "It's always a great honor when you're recognized by your peers, and it's a very strong group of peers to be recognized by. They're people who I've looked up to with great respect throughout my career."

A fellow must have demonstrated extraordinary artistic ability and worked more than 25 years in the discipline or career in which they are being recognized, according to Bernadette Boyle, director of marketing for the ACC.

Previous furniture artists inducted into the ACC's College of Fellows include Garry Knox Bennett, Wendell Castle and Somerson's husband, Alphonse Mattia.

Somerson received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Rhode Island School of Design in 1976 and joined the school's faculty in 1985. She runs her own studio where she designs one-of-a-kind commission and exhibition work. She's also a partner in a production furniture company that has produced a green line of college dormitory furniture.

Somerson plans to continue to pursue her work and try to be a role model for the next generation. She says the significance of American craft has never fully had its voice and she wants to support making that voice be heard.

"The culture at large doesn't recognize this great national resource of incredibly talented and dedicated makers who use materials with incredible expertise. Those people are often overlooked or marginalized in our society. So it's very important that in this field that these individuals continue to be recognized and celebrated because they are a treasure within our country," says Somerson.

Other 2009 fellows include enamelist Jamie Bennett, metal artist Bernard Bernstein, ceramics artist Louis Marak, glass artist Benjamin Moore and fiber artist Carol Shaw-Sutton. Collector Robert Pfannebecker was inducted as an honorary fellow. The 2009 American Craft Council Gold Medal, for consummate craftsmanship, was presented to fiber artist Katherine Westphal.

For information, visit www.craft council.org.

This article originally appeared in the December 2009 issue.