Polymer Art in Public Collections

What came to be called the Polymer Collection Project began with Elise Winters’ desire to gather together a body of polymer art representing both historical progression and fine artistry.  Her larger intention was to interest museums in the acquisition of polymer art for their permanent collections.  By the end of this intensive process, which involved over 2000 pieces, six American museums had added polymer art to their holdings.  The largest body of work went to the Racine Art Museum, which subsequently presented a major exhibition devoted to polymer art.  The original goals of the polymer collection project have been met, but the PAA continues to endorse the idea of polymer art being acquired into the permanent collections of museums and incorporated into applicable exhibitions.

A more detailed summary of how the process unfolded:
The Origins of the Polymer Collection Project
About The Collection: Part 1
About The Collection: Part 2


Here is a brief summary of museums that have polymer art in their collections:

Racine Art Museum, Racine Wisconsin 

RAM has the most significant collection of polymer art of any American museum.  With all the “big” names represented more than than 40 artists are part of the RAM collection.  In 2011 RAM debuted their polymer collection with the first major exhibition of polymer artwork, “Terra Nova: Polymer Art at the Crossroads”.  RAM published a companion volume and sponsored a symposium on polymer art in conjunction with the exhibition.  The museum also established a polymer study center for the purposes of historical documentation and further study.  Director Bruce Pepich and curator Lena Vigna continue to be strong advocates for polymer art.  A second symposium, “Polymer 2.0: The Field at the Beginning of the 21st Century”,  was held in October 2014. 

For more about RAM’s extensive involvement and activities to promote polymer art, please see:
2011 Events at RAM
RAM Collection


Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts 

MFA-B Curator of Jewelry, Yvonne Markowitz helped to establish one of the finest museum collections of jewelry in the country.  While Yvonne Markowitz will retire in December of 2014, Emily Banis Stoehrer will succeed her as the new Curator of Jewelry.  Polymer artists included in the Boston collection are:  Kathleen Dustin, Rachel Carren, Jeffrey Lloyd Dever, Lindly Haunani, Tory Hughes, Nan Roche, Sarah Shriver, Cynthia Toops, Pier Voulkos and Elise Winters

Read this book review of Artful Adornments which puts polymer in the context of the museum’s extensive jewelry collection.


Museum of Art and Design, New York, New York 

An established name in the world of craft, MAD has polymer jewelry within their extensive art jewelry collection.  Among the artists represented are: Ford/Forlano (formerly known as City Zen Cane), Tory Hughes, Cynthia Toops, Pier Voulkos and Elise Winters.

Visit MAD For Polymer to see images of all the works acquired by MAD


Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 

PMA has a strong collection of craft and jewelry.  Under the curatorial guidance of Elizabeth Agro, the PMA has expanded their holdings of polymer art.  A major commission of 2008 was awarded to Ford/Forlano who created a major necklace in memory of former director, Anne d’Harnoncourt.  Other polymer work acquired by the PMA is by:  Rachel Carren, City Zen Cane- earlier name of Ford/Forlano, Deborah DeWolfe, Jeffrey Lloyd Dever, Kathleen Dustin, Lindly Haunani, Sandra McCaw, Wendy Malinow, and Elise Winters.


Newark Museum, Newark, New Jersey 

Another stellar collection of jewelry is to be found at the Newark Museum.  Chief curator Ulysses Dietz’s interests in a wide range of jewelry from historic to contemporary have guided this well respected collection.  Polymer jewelry is now represented there by at least 18 different artists.

Newark Museum continues to add polymer to its world-class jewelry collection


Mingei International Museum, San Diego, California 

Director Rob Sidner has been aware of polymer for many years and absorbed many examples of polymer art from the dissolution of the Arizona Bead Museum.  This basic collection, comprised of historic examples of very early polymer beads as well as some standout examples of early work by well known artists, was expanded by the addition of 50 + pieces from the Polymer Collection Project.  These works enabled the museum to acquire more recent polymer artwork by a range of artists.

Visit “New Jewelry in a New Medium” and “Mingei Artist Details” for more information


The Polymer Collection Project anticipates that over time polymer art will become, if it is not already, a part of other museums’ permanent collections.