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Metalsmithing Alumna Mary Lee Hu Receives SNAG Lifetime Achievement Award

June 14th, 2024

Mary Lee Hu (center) honored at SNAG x San Diego Conference in June 2024.

Earlier this year, Mary Lee Hu was announced as this year’s recipient of the SNAG Lifetime Achievement Award. She was recently honored in person at the SNAG x San Diego Conference.

Mary Lee Hu was interested in metalwork from a young age, in an oral history interview for the Smithsonian in 2009, she said she first started making jewelry at age 16. She attended the Academy during the timeframe when Bachelor’s degrees were offered, and her oral history interview describes her experience with Artist-in-Residence Richard Thomas (1948-1984) and studying in a cohort of both BFA and MFA candidates.

Hu went on to graduate study at Southern Illinois University, referred by Thomas, where she was mentored by one of the founders of SNAG and fellow Academy alum, L. Brent Kington (MFA Metalsmithing 1961). At SIU, she took a weaving course that led to her applying fiber techniques to metalsmithing, becoming a signature in her practice.

Mary Lee Hu, CHOKER #78, 1991. 18 and 22k, 30 gauge gold wire. Twined, tessellated, hammered. 6 3/8″ × 8 7/8″ × 1 1/2″. Hand-fabricated clasp. Courtesy of the artist and Mobilia Gallery.

Hu has exhibited in numerous solo and group exhibitions and her work is in the permanent collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Museum of Fine Art, Houston, Renwick Gallery, and many other US collections, and in London at Goldsmith’s Hall and the Victoria and Albert Museum.

In addition to her practice, Hu is an educator and is recognized as Professor Emeritus at the University of Washington where she taught Metal Arts from 1980 until 2006. Her nomination for the Lifetime Achievement award came from her former student, Phil Renato, an artist, designer, and educator who founded the Allesee Metals/Jewelry Design program at Kendall College of Art and Design, which is now part of its interdisciplinary Product Design program.

Renato said of Hu, “It is difficult for me to think of many people who have been more singularly dedicated to refining their own craft while simultaneously advancing the field as Mary Lee Hu…I cannot imagine our field without the example of her technical mastery, without the contribution of her mentorship to a diverse range of students and colleagues, without her leadership as one of the very earliest members of our organization.”


Learn more:

2024 SNAG Lifetime Achievement Winner, Mary Lee Hu – SNAG

Explore Mary Lee Hu’s Studio – Mobilia Gallery Newsletter

Oral history interview with Mary Lee Hu, 2009 March 18-19 – Smithsonian

Metalsmithing at Cranbrook Academy of Art