Dr. Anne-Imelda Radice
From the Executive Director
Photo: Elisa and Peter Rapaport.

June 2014

Dear members and friends,

Enthralling.

Intellectually provocative.

Works of staggering ambition.

These are just a few words that have been mentioned in regard to Self-Taught Genius: Treasures from the American Folk Art Museum.  I am pleased that the exhibition is drawing audiences from around the world and visitors are seeing the Museum’s extraordinary collection for themselves.  Many people are just beginning to learn about the expressive power of artworks by people who are self-taught; and many return again and again because, simply put, there is so much to see. The territory explored in this exhibition is new and fresh; and in a field where it is always challenging to say what has not yet been said, the themes and ideas conveyed in our galleries will be revelatory to art lovers, history buffs, and culture enthusiasts. Education in America is something many of us take for granted, and it is fascinating to consider a time when few people had access to institutional learning and many had to rely on themselves to make meaning and, so often, to make a living. These citizens—our American forebears—left behind a visual legacy that serves as the foundation of the art world we experience today. The exhibition will open your eyes; I hope you plan to see it soon.

Also eye-opening is the exhibition currently on view at MoBIA, the Museum of Biblical Art, just down the street.  The works of art in Back To Eden: Contemporary Artists Wander the Garden raise many questions about “paradise,” both spiritual and practical. The title of the exhibition suggests the idea of an idyllic and ever-flowering haven, but in the modern, industrialized world, where do people find respite and refuge?  The artists whose works are on view take very divergent paths, leading visitors on an exploration of timeless metaphysical realms and timely real-world concerns.  I urge you to visit.

It was a special pleasure to welcome Lincoln Center’s Young Patrons who mingled with our Young Folk and were treated to a curator-led tour with Stacy C. Hollander, Deputy Director for Curatorial Affairs, Chief Curator, and Director of Exhibitions. Young Folk is already a success story: this group of the Museum’s newest supporters launched in April, and they are increasing in numbers daily. Also, we have been regularly hosting alumni groups and other friends; please do let us know if you would like to arrange a special event or group visit.

Speaking of introductions, I wanted to shine a spotlight on a dedicated friend of the Museum and the newest member of the Board of Trustees, whom I had the pleasure of meeting two years ago, when I first began my work here. Peter Rapaport, whose background in finance and management rendered him eminently qualified to serve as Chairman of the Board of the Greater New York region of the American Red Cross as well as other board positions for social service organizations, has been, with his wife Elisa, a long-time supporter of the American Folk Art Museum. When we met at the Gala two years ago, Peter mentioned his interest in helping the Museum strengthen its resources at that particular time in its history. I am especially pleased to announce the creation of a new staff position, the Rapaport Archivist at the American Folk Art Museum, which is made possible by a gift from Peter and Elisa, to whom we express our gratitude. The Board of Trustees of the Museum, the staff, and I are looking forward to working with Peter; and the Rapaports inform me that they are looking forward to learning even more about art by the self-taught! It is always a privilege to work with people who, like Peter and Elisa, are sincerely committed to helping to build the Museum’s future.

On that note, I also want to send a shout out to Jonathan and Karen Fielding and acknowledge their many contributions. Karen Fielding serves on the Board of Trustees at the American Folk Art Museum and she has been tireless in her support and generous with her time. Works of art from the Fieldings’ collection are now on view at the Williams College Museum of Art in an exhibition titled Material Friction: Americana and American Art. The exhibition also includes works from the Williams College Museum and tells stories about early life in America. 

A few dates to keep in mind: a rare opportunity to meet one of the artists whose works are in the Museum’s collection will take place on Tuesday, July 29. Sharon Begley, author and Senior Health & Science Correspondent at Reuters, will moderate "Perspectives on the Work and Thoughts of George Widener," a dialogue among artist George Widener, Dr. Valérie Rousseau, Curator, Art of the Self-Taught and Art Brut, and Dr. Joy Hirsch, Professor of Psychiatry and Neurobiology, Yale School of Medicine, to discuss the scientific and artistic aspects of Widener’s creations. Widener is an artist represented in Self-Taught Genius. His works on view depict the ill-fated cruise ship Titanic and data related to its tragic voyage; however the imagery appears to be encoded. Widener has said that he envisions “a very dramatic technological future,” in which intelligent machines will be able to “read the subtleties of [his] artworks” and then fully achieve his ambitions for a more “holistic kind of environment.” I hope you will be able to attend.

And the Museum’s annual Gala will take place on Thursday, October 23rd. We hope you will save the date.

Sincerely,
Dr. Anne-Imelda Radice
Executive Director
May 2014
Dear members and friends,

Before I describe a recent amazing week, I want to say a word about our neighbors, the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) and the Museum of Biblical Art (MoBIA): these two museums are within a few short blocks of the American Folk Art Museum, and we are pleased to participate in a cultural corridor that is establishing itself in one of the city’s liveliest neighborhoods. Our missions and exhibition content share traditions and themes, and visiting these museums can only enhance and enrich your experience. You will hear more from us on this subject over the next few months. But now, I am eager to share news of a very exciting week.

Tuesday morning, May 6, at the MTA subway station on Fifth Avenue and 53rd Street, an American treasure embarked on its seven-stop national tour in the exhibition Self-Taught Genius: Treasures from the American Folk Art Museum. Titled Subway Riders, this 1950 masterpiece by artist Ralph Fasanella was on view at the station for more than two decades, and it is now on view in our galleries at 2 Lincoln Square, an outcome which would not have been possible were it not for our wonderful colleagues at Arts for Transit and Urban Design. We thank Sandra Bloodworth, Director; Amy Hausman, Deputy Director; and Katherine Meehan, Manager, for their enthusiastic support of our project and for their careful attention to sending the painting on its way. Irwin Warren, husband of Museum trustee Liz Warren, provided sage legal advice for which we are also grateful. If you’d like to know more, read the New York Times article that covered the event.

The festivities, however, began later that week at the opening of the Outsider Art Fair on Thursday, May 8. There, on the rooftop of Center 548, the Museum presented its annual Visionary Award, sponsored by Museum trustee Audrey Heckler, to the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, for their 1982 exhibition Black Folk Art in America, 1930-1980. This seminal exhibition took a giant step forward and advanced art history by focusing on Southern African American artists who had been largely overlooked by other museums. Generations of scholars, artists, museum visitors, and students continue to benefit from the wisdom of this exhibition. We were very happy that Peggy Loar, Acting Director at the Corcoran Gallery, attended the ceremony and delivered formal remarks; Corcoran trustee Henry Thaggert joined her. Dr. Regenia A. Perry, the first African American woman to receive a PhD in art history, and whose catalog essay shed light on the artistic roots of many self-taught figures including Ulysses Davis, Elijah Pierce, and Nellie Mae Rowe, also delivered an address. We recalled with respect and fondness Dr. Peter C. Marzio, whose leadership inspired the exhibition, and we made note of curators Jane Livingston and John Beardsley, who sadly were unable to attend.

It was good to see many of the Museum’s friends, colleagues, and supporters at the Fair, where, on Saturday afternoon, the annual Anne Hill Blanchard symposium took place.  Dr. Valérie Rousseau, Curator, Art of the Self-Taught and Art Brut, at the Museum led a revelatory panel discussion on the art of Henry Darger with panelists Michael Bonesteel, James Brett, Jim Elledge, and Jane Kallir. That evening, the Museum’s young patrons, called the Young Folk, held a celebratory after-party.

On Saturday evening, May 10, it was my pleasure to welcome patrons and donors to the Museum for a special preview opening of Self-Taught Genius. Margaret Boles Fitzgerald, Chairman of the Board of the Henry Luce Foundation, gave formal remarks at this event; joining her in attendance was Ellen Holtzman, the Foundation’s Program Director for American Art. It seems that the American Folk Art Museum and the Henry Luce Foundation have come full circle: the Foundation funded the Museum’s first exhibition and has now made our current exhibition possible with a national tour to no fewer than six museums across the country: Figge Art Museum in Davenport, Iowa; Mingei International Museum in San Diego; Amon Carter Museum of American Art, in Fort Worth, Texas; New Orleans Museum of Art; Saint Louis Museum of Art; and the Tampa Museum of Art.

Monday, May 12, a full-day symposium on topics related to Self-Taught Genius took place and included an enlightening keynote address by writer Adam Gopnik, and Museum members were treated to the first viewing of the exhibition that evening. Dr. Michael Gilligan, President of the Henry Luce Foundation, attended the reception and spoke about his personal experiences with art by the self-taught.

But I have saved the best for last: the art on view in Self-Taught Genius is unparalleled. Over the course of its fifty-plus year history, American Folk Art Museum patrons and donors have amassed a collection that is unrivalled in scope and breadth. A couple of my personal favorites are Flag Gate, an actual painted wooden gate by an unidentified artist that was found on a farm, dating to c. 1876, the year that Colorado achieved statehood; and a signature work by Ammi Phillips, the masterpiece Girl in Red Dress with Cat and Dog (1830–1835). One of the newest works to enter the collection is one of sixty-seven known versions of Edward Hicks’s The Peaceable Kingdom, which the artist  gave to his daughter as a wedding gift. I could easily list for you here all my favorites; there are more than one hundred other must-see works. Why not browse the website dedicated to the exhibition, or, even better: plan your visit soon.

Sincerely,
Dr. Anne-Imelda Radice
Executive Director
April 2014
Dear members and friends,

It may come as a surprise to some of you that the history of art by the self-taught is in many respects a relatively new field of discourse. The Museum will tackle the subject of genius in art, as well as the essential role of self-education in the nation’s founding and evolution, in Self-Taught Genius: Treasures from the American Folk Art Museum, opening May 13. This exhibition will feature more than 100 works of art from the collection—100+ masterpieces—that will shed new light on what we call folk art and self-taught art. Stacy C. Hollander, Deputy Director for Curatorial Affairs, Chief Curator, and Director of Exhibitions, and Dr. Valérie Rousseau, Curator, Art of the Self-Taught and Art Brut, document a history of self-education in the United States as well as ideas about genius, while revealing that the legacy of such artists is one that is essential to an understanding of America and our national conversation—our shared past. 

Prior to the opening of this landmark exhibition, a symposium will take place on Monday, May 12, at the Time Warner Center, and it promises to be an influential and enlightening discussion. The symposium will conclude with the Members’ Opening Reception preview of Self-Taught Genius at our galleries on Monday evening. It is not too late to register or become a member of the Museum and be part of the festivities.

We are indebted to the Henry Luce Foundation, whose generous funding has made the exhibition at the American Folk Art Museum possible, as well as the national tour, as part of its 75th anniversary initiative.

Other news: the Museum’s Education Department and the founder of Art Museum Teaching hosted its first Museum Teaching Throw Down at the Museum in February. The compelling title of this lively event derives from the idiom “throw down the gauntlet” (issue a challenge). Sixty museum educators from around the city attended. A few volunteered to “make a stand,” as in: “stand up and contribute something” in a participatory program of interpretation of Folk Couture: Fashion and Folk Art geared toward strengthening connections to the content of the exhibition and to one another. The goal of a museum educator is to help visitors of all ages construct meaning from the works on view while also fostering visual literacy. The event closed with a vote (by applause) to highlight the most effective and engaging interpretation.

More great news: we have received additional funding from the Blanchette Hooker Rockefeller Foundation. Also, the magazine digitization project continues to attract ever-increasing numbers of viewers. Among the most popular issues of The Clarion and Folk Art is the Fall 2007 issue, the cover of which features the Museum’s carousel lion; this monumental carving by Brooklyn artist Marcus Charles Illions will be on view in Self-Taught Genius.

Spring would not be complete without an homage to the egg, always a potent symbol in works of art from ancient times through the present. The Museum is participating in the citywide Fabergé Big Egg Hunt, a project that ultimately supports art education. Drop by and check out the egg installed at the Museum. Artist Lucy Fradkin created a design that relates to the nature of folk art while also acknowledging Folk Couture—which, by the way, closes on April 23.

Sincerely,

The Honorable Anne-Imelda Radice, PhD
Executive Director
March 2014
Dear members and friends,

Happy spring!

Here is what is blooming at the American Folk Art Museum:

Among the most monumental of works of early American folk art are painted murals, which were once a prominent feature of many homes. Few remain intact. Soon to be on view at the Museum is a wall from the upper hallway of a Thornton, New Hampshire, house. The wall was removed in its entirety; it stands more than seven feet high and twelve feet wide. The painted imagery is uncanny: palm trees, an elephant, and soldiers. This unlikely juxtaposition is related in spirit to early nineteenth-century French scenic wallpapers, which were imported for use in American homes. We are so grateful to William Bernhard and Catherine Cahill for this historic and aesthetically important gift.

Our current exhibition, Folk Couture: Fashion and Folk Art, has been a hit with visitors and the press. Can’t make it to the Museum? You still have the ability to experience a presentation that has been compared to Project Runway and Fashion Week, and which boldly demonstrates the flourishing of creativity, on Folk Couture’s website. The exhibition provides a dramatic overview of how some of the most original talents in the field go about fashioning the couture we admire so much, whether you see it in the galleries or on the website. The exhibition was featured on WNET/Channel 13’s NYC-ARTS program on Thursday evening, March 20, in a nine-minute segment that features Deputy Director and Chief Curator Stacy C. Hollander and Guest Curator Alexis Carreño.

For more spring cheer, check out the new happenings at the Museum Shop, which is blossoming with gift ideas for yourself or a loved one. Stefanie Levinson, who now heads Retail Services, brings more than thirty years of experience to the Museum. Among her faves are Beth Mueller’s limited edition, hand-made ceramic pieces—bottles, vases, mugs, and plates—adorned with charming illustrations, which she created especially for Folk Couture. Fashion designer Koos van den Akker has made, for sale at the Museum shop only, multipatterned scarves that are infinite loops of color and texture, and Gary Graham’s blend of charm, whimsy, and elegance is evident in the scarf he created in honor of Folk Couture, which is also only available at the Museum Shop. There is a treasure trove of new jewelry and ready-to-wear, and an array of sumptuous new pillows. And here’s even more good news: from April 1 through April 6, Museum members will be able to double their regular discount on Shop purchases!

Fashion design will be the topic in upcoming programs, as well. Gary Graham will discuss his Folk Couture ensemble on April 1 at 6 pm, and this will be followed by a talk with Fabio Costa on April 10 at 6 pm. We will celebrate the close of this spectacular exhibition on April 23, when Stella Bugbee, the editorial director of The Cut—New York Magazine’s fashion and lifestyle website—will moderate a discussion on the cross-pollination and rich interplay between art and fashion. A stellar group of panelists will be there: Kathy Battista, director of contemporary art, Sotheby’s Institute of Art; Amy Fine Collins, special correspondent, Vanity Fair; Thierry-Maxime Loriot, independent curator and curator of the recent exhibition about Jean Paul Gaultier; and Lucy Sykes, fashion creative director, Rent the Runway. For more information about these programs, and for reservations, please click here.

Self-Taught Genius: Treasures from the American Folk Art Museum opens on May 13. You may know that this groundbreaking exhibition will travel across the country beginning this fall. I am so pleased to announce that the Tampa Museum of Art will be the sixth and final venue of this national tour. The exhibition will reveal the history of art by the self-taught. Whether the work is traditional early folk art or contemporary, the expressive voices of self-taught artists are essential to the American narrative, and their roles in America’s shared history are paramount. This was surely recognized by the Henry Luce Foundation when they made the decision to provide generous funding for this project as part of their 75th anniversary initiative.

Sincerely,

The Honorable Anne-Imelda Radice, PhD
Executive Director
February 2014
Dear members and friends,

Recently, the Museum acquired three beautiful works of art from Visual Grace: Important American Folk Art from the Collection of Ralph O. Esmerian, an auction that took place at Sotheby’s on January 25. I am pleased to report that a consortium of museum friends made a generous donation that, combined with American Folk Art Museum earmarked acquisition funds, facilitated the purchase of a Miniature Slipware Plate, the Running Horse Silhouette Resist Plate by Conrad Kolb Ranninger, and the rare early nineteenth-century sketch and tunebook for Daniel Steele.

What you might not know is that more than a year ago the Museum was afforded the opportunity to select fifty-three masterworks from the Esmerian collection, including William Edmondson’s Lady with Muff, a Sultana show figure attributed to the workshop of Samuel Anderson Robb, the Sallie Hathaway Needlework Picture, Situation of America, 1848, the portrait of by David and Catherine Stolp Crane by Sheldon Peck, and the schoolgirl Map of the Animal Kingdom. These are in addition to sixty-five works that he had previously given as outright gifts to the Museum. All of these artworks had been researched, exhibited, and shared by the Museum over many years. They are signature works in our collection, and many of them can be found by exploring the image gallery.

I know this will pique your curiosity: you will have the opportunity to view many of these works in person in the upcoming exhibition Self-Taught Genius: Treasures from the American Folk Art Museum, which opens at the Museum on May 13 and will then travel to six venues around the country. This exhibition and its national tour are made possible by generous funding from the Henry Luce Foundation as part of its 75th anniversary initiative.

Also, we would like to acknowledge, in particular, the leadership of Board member Elizabeth V. Warren, Chairman of the Collections Committee; Board member Lucy Danziger, who was responsible for establishing the consortium of donors who made the recent purchase possible; and Deputy Director, Chief Curator, and Director of Exhibitions Stacy C. Hollander, whose keen eye and unparalleled knowledge of the field brought these wonderful works into all of our lives.

We have even more good news. Please see News to learn about important staff changes that will benefit the Museum in immeasurable ways.

Sincerely,

The Honorable Anne-Imelda Radice, PhD
Executive Director
January 2014
Dear members and friends,

As the American Folk Art Museum launches into 2014, I want to pause to thank you for your continued support and trust and spotlight a few projects that made 2013 rewarding! We are all bombarded by “communications” of every variety—and there are all kinds of metrics that institutions use to evaluate effectiveness. However, throughout my career I have found that when a museum stays true to its mission and is transparent, open to new ideas, and respectful of its visitors and supporters, it will continue to flourish and add great value to our cultural landscape.

I also want to assure you that we have an extraordinary professional staff. Everyone has shown their value in special ways and distinguished him- or herself. We are bound together with our love of the art, the institution, and the varied audiences we serve.

With each project we also make infrastructure changes that have a lasting impact.

But now to the great news: accomplishments and goals for this year. Please let us know if you have any questions or comments. 

2013 Accomplishments

•  The Museum presented several highly regarded exhibitions:

    Artist & Visionary: William Matthew Prior Revealed (1/24–5/26) was     called “fascinating” by Ken Johnson of the New York Times. Prior (1806–    1873) “democratized” portraiture with a sliding-scale fee structure that     made them accessible to a broad cross-section of American society.

    The Museum’s presentation of the work of African American artist
    Bill Traylor (6/11–9/22) along with a companion exhibition enjoyed     record attendance and took the art world by storm. Jerry Saltz raved in
    New York Magazine, “the former slave Bill Traylor is one of the best     American artists. Ever.” In the New York Times, Roberta Smith declared     “this show firmly places Traylor’s art where it belongs, in a tradition of     abbreviated figuration that runs the length of human existence and across     all cultures.” 

    alt_quilts (10/1–1/5) featured three contemporary artists who are inspired     by the history and structure of American quilts. The artists use the     remnants, pieces, choices, and geometries of quilt techniques, modernized     by unexpected materials such as 16 mm filmstrips and used Tyvek     envelopes. Karen Rosenberg, in the New York Times, called it “quilts as     powerfully contemporary artworks . . . the point to take away from this     show is that quilt making was, and is, a highly personal art form, and that     artists should feel free to tinker with it as they see fit.”

•  The Museum reached international audiences: The Encyclopedic Palace, in the Museum’s collection, served as the inspiration and theme for the 55th installation of the international Venice Biennale. Marino Auriti (1891–1980), a self-taught Italian American artist, created the work as an architectural model for a museum in which all worldly knowledge would be documented, preserved, and exhibited. The Museum also cosponsored an exhibition of Hiroyuki Doi’s meticulous ink drawings at the Pen Station Museum at the Pilot Corporation’s headquarters, in Tokyo (10/7–12/20).

•  National partnerships included collaborations with the South Street Seaport Museum, the Museum of Biblical Art, the Boca Raton Museum of Art, and the Figge Art Museum, in Davenport, Iowa.

•  Attendance is steadily rising: 2013 attendance was nearly double from the previous year. During the Bill Traylor exhibition, the Museum had the highest number of visitors in its 50-plus year history.

•  New acquisitions: a new trust of $400,000 and donation of artwork was bequeathed from Neal A. Prince; major donations and major works will be announced soon.

•  Key staff positions have been filled: Dr. Valérie Rousseau, Curator, Art of the Self-Taught and Art Brut; Suzanne DeVegh, Manager of Adult Public Programming; Lauren Arnold, Deputy Registrar; Megan Conway, Managing Editor; Anna Hessa, Development and Events Associate; and Stefanie Levinson, Director of Retail Operations. Levinson most recently served as Divisional Merchandise Manager at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and has also held management roles at the Museum of Modern Art and the Guggenheim Museum during her 30-year career in New York museums. Levinson’s appointment coincides with the retirement of Shop Director Marie DiManno (pictured above), who was on staff of the Museum for 32 years. It is sad to say good-bye to such a longtime friend, but we are happy for Marie as she embarks on new endeavors.

•  Two new art advocacy councils were established: the Council for the Study of Art Brut and the Self-Taught and the Council for Traditional Folk Art. Please contact the Development Office if you would like more information.

•  A new, active young supporters group is gaining strength. Chaired by Abigail Stone and Maria Fillas and set to officially launch in March, Young Folk will engage folk art enthusiasts in their twenties and thirties through innovative and creative events. Stay tuned for more information in February.

•  The Board of Trustees re-established key committees such as Finance, Investment, and Collections. Other committees, Development/Marketing and Education, have been established and will gear up in 2014.

•  A generous grant from Trustee Karin Fielding and Dr. Jonathan Fielding, the Friends of Heritage Preservation, and the American Folk Art Society allowed us to digitize thirty years of the Museum’s world-class publication, Folk Art magazine (formerly The Clarion), now available online in its entirety. As I write this, 73,446 people have viewed the magazine from six continents around the world!

•  We welcomed new and additional foundation support: The Robert Lehman Foundation, the Coby Foundation, JM Kaplan Foundation, the Lily Auchincloss Foundation, and reinstated support from the New York State Council on the Arts.

•  The Ford Foundation granted the Museum $200,000 to develop an Exhibition Policy, a five-year exhibition calendar, and an evaluation system. Museum staff came together over the course of the year, assisted by Marsha Semmel, Senior Advisor at Noyce Leadership Institute and former Deputy Director of Museums and Director of Strategic Partnerships at the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). Other outside experts contributed to this process. The plan was evaluated by the Board of Trustees for formal acceptance.

•  The Museum website will be revamped by a grant of $137,000 from the IMLS, which will be used to expand and enhance our technological capacity and digital resources.

•  On the educational front, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded the Museum its prestigious Art Works grant to support our scholarly lectures and symposia, and the Museum presented several sold-out public programs. The Museum, the Critics, and the Self-Taught, moderated by Dr. Valérie Rousseau, focused on self-taught artists and their importance in the “canonical” history of art. Bill Traylor: Beyond the Figure, a full-day symposium, brought together a dozen distinctive leaders in the field—artists, curators, scholars—to explore particular facets of the artist’s work and life.

•  Dr. Valérie Rousseau participated in the Outsider Art Fair Paris, where she delivered a lecture on Bill Traylor and art brut in the United States. 

•  Stacy C. Hollander, Deputy Director for Curatorial Affairs, Chief Curator, and Director of Exhibitions, presented several public lectures in association with each of the Museum’s exhibitions, including a full-day symposium organized in association with the William Matthew Prior exhibition, and gave a talk, “Politics NOT as Usual,” on the history of political quilts by women at the Katonah Museum of Art in association with their exhibition “Beyond the Bed: The American Quilt Evolution.” Her article The Game Is Afoot, about the game board collection of Bruce and Doranna Wendel, appeared in the July/August issue of The Magazine Antiques.

•  We continued our signature Teen Docent Program, which selects students for a semester-long program that culminates in museum tours for their peers and enhances leadership and public speaking skills. For the fall semester, fifteen students were accepted from the Washington Heights Expeditionary Learning School and Talent Unlimited High School. This year, we began a Teen Docent Program blog so that students can share their experiences.

•  Our innovative K–12 educational programs reach thousands of New York City schoolchildren each year. The summer camp program welcomed over 600 campers. A new educators’ resource on quilts was published to integrate quilts into the classroom experience.

•  A two-day Professional Development Program served 140 Department of Education cultural liaisons and educators, in partnership with the organization Cool Culture.

•  In anticipation of the Museum’s forthcoming exhibition Folk Couture: Fashion and Folk Art , 100 students from the Fashion Institute of Technology researched the Museum’s collection and participated in interactive gallery tours to create their own folk art-inspired garment, which were on view at the FIT student gallery in December.

•  Folk Art Reflections, a program for individuals with Alzheimer’s and other dementias, continues to fill to capacity each month, connecting seniors and their care partners to artwork and to one another. Director of Education Rachel Rosen participated in a symposium at the New York City Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association to share information about this program. Other partnerships for adults with special needs include the Queens Museum of Art and the organization COPE NYC, to help developmentally disabled adults to participate in art making, Hearthstone Alzheimer Care, and Sunnyside Community Services.

•  Our free, first Saturday Families and Folk Art program continues to bring together intergenerational audiences by exploring exhibitions and creating their own artwork in the studio. In September, the Bill Traylor Family Day was a huge success! With the help of children’s book author Don Tate and illustrator R. Gregory Christie, dozens of families new to the museum were introduced to the iconography and themes in Traylor's work.

•  Museum docents and volunteers led weekly public tours, engaging visitors with guided gallery experiences, and reaching over 800 museum visitors in 2013.

•  The Fall Gala, the annual benefit fund-raiser held in October, honored Lucy Sykes (Fashion Consultant, Rent the Runway, and Brand Ambassador) and Dr. Valerie Steele (Director and Chief Curator of the Museum at FIT), and was hosted by Tim Gunn of “Project Runway.” Chairs Yaz and Valentín Hernández and Laura and Richard Parsons and Honorary Chair Betsy Bloomingdale ensured a fun evening as well as a successful fund-raiser for the Museum's educational programs, exceeding our goals.

Some Things to Look Forward to in 2014

•  In January 2014, we will feature original ensembles by thirteen fashion designers inspired by artworks from the Museum’s collection in Folk Couture: Fashion and Folk Art, opening January 21.

•  We are ramping up public programming for Folk Couture: a panel discussion, “Interplay: Art and Fashion,” a series of lectures by exhibition participants called “Designers on Art,” a fashion sketch contest, and a pattern-making workshop.

•  We will offer two technologies during Folk Couture to enhance the exhibition experience: a cell phone tour and a website/Tumblr with in-depth information on each designer, information about the creative process, behind-the-scenes photos, and interviews.

•  The project resulting from the generous grant of $1.6 million from the Henry Luce Foundation, as part of its 75th anniversary initiative, will emerge in our blockbuster exhibition Self-Taught Genius: Treasures from the American Folk Art Museum. It will open at the Museum in May and travel to six museums across the country for almost three years. Featuring more than one hundred works of art from our outstanding collection, the exhibition will share the importance of works of art by the self-taught, from the eighteenth century to artists working today, with a national audience.

•  Also in May, the Museum will present a major symposium in connection with Self-Taught Genius, which will be recorded and posted online. The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalog with new scholarship from Stacy C. Hollander and Dr. Valérie Rousseau. A dedicated website will enhance the catalog with additional scholarly material as well as interactive conversations with collectors, contemporary artists, and other scholars.

•  Additionally in May, we will partner with the Outsider Art Fair and present our annual Visionary Award to a scholar and leader in the field of art of the self-taught.

As always, I look forward to seeing you at the Museum.

Sincerely,

The Honorable Anne-Imelda Radice, PhD
Executive Director
December 2013
Dear members and friends,

On behalf of all of us at the American Folk Art Museum, I wish you all a bright holiday season.

I am pleased to report that the American Folk Art Museum is publishing more than 10,000 pages of original research and scholarship in the fields of traditional and early American folk art and the creative expressions of self-taught artists. The Museum received grants from Trustee Karin Fielding and her husband, Dr. Jonathan Fielding, which matched funding from the Friends of Heritage Preservation. These grants were spurred by a gift from the American Folk Art Society, and together they made possible the digitization and publication of original issues of The Clarion and Folk Art, magazines the Museum produced from 1971 through 2008. These 118 lavishly illustrated volumes were scanned page by page, and they are now available here, where you can also find an index of the major articles in each issue. Browsers are now able to search for terms in the text by issue. However, soon it will be possible for browsers to search by artist, title, or type of artwork, with a more detailed, overarching index of the entire body of magazines.

alt_quilts: Sabrina Gschwandtner, Luke Haynes, Stephen Sollins continues through January 5, 2014. The lively color and playful imagery of Luke Haynes’s quilts juxtaposed with Stephen Sollins’s works—all meticulously assembled from carefully charted bits of used paper—provide  interesting counterpoint and insight into the meanings and forms of quilts in our day. Stephen Sollins will lead a tour in our galleries on Thursday, December 12, at 6 p.m., discussing the traditional quilts on view in the exhibition and how they embed (no pun intended) aspects of communication by their patterns and artistic choices. This program is free, but reservations are recommended; e-mail publicprograms@folkartmuseum.org. Artist Sabrina Gschwandtner’s assemblages are made with film footage, which she found at the Fashion Institute of Technology, and which she sewed together, strip by strip. The historic film footage depicts work that, like quiltmaking, is traditionally associated with women. The multicolored hues of the aged and discolored film, some of which has been intentionally painted or scratched by the artist, also make this work an important homage to quilts. Shown on lightboxes, these works are deceptive and dramatic. I urge you to see the exhibition before it closes next month. Chief Curator Stacy C. Hollander, who organized the exhibition, will lead a tour on Thursday, December 12, at 1 p.m.—not to be missed!

Dr. Valérie Rousseau, Curator of Art of the Self-Taught and Art Brut, returned from an October trip to Paris. At the Outsider Art Fair Paris, she organized two panel discussions sponsored by the Museum, with international scholars and curators Jean-Hubert Martin, Nanette Jacomijn Snoep, Sandra Adam-Couralet, and Barbara Safarova. In addition, she delivered a lecture on Bill Traylor and art brut in the United States during a seminar led by associate professor Barbara Safarova at the Collège International de Philosophie, in collaboration with La maison rouge & abcd. Rousseau is the editor of the proceedings of the American Folk Art Museum’s recent Bill Traylor symposium, which will be published soon.

Folk Couture: Fashion and Folk Art opens on January 21, 2014. We can’t think of a better way to kick off the new year.

The Honorable Anne-Imelda Radice, PhD
Executive Director
October 2013
Dear members and friends,

The American Folk Art Museum celebrates the ingenuity and passion of an extraordinarily diverse group of artists. It is our mission to preserve this art and serve as the leader of research and scholarship in this field. Crucial to the mission is the education of new audiences, especially young people. They need to know that art is creative, innovative, and provides numerous career paths as well as spiritual and intellectual nourishment. Traditional folk art and the creative expressions of the self-taught provide a perfect avenue for young people to explore how art enriches our national life and culture.

This is our mantra, and it was invoked last Wednesday evening, October 16, as we celebrated the Museum at a fund-raising gala benefiting our educational programs. Specifically, the Folk Couture Benefit Gala spotlighted the Museum’s upcoming exhibition Folk Couture: Fashion and Folk Art. This show, which opens January 21, 2014, will feature original couture inspired by works of art from the Museum’s collection. Museum educators will work directly with the High School of Fashion, the Washington Heights Expeditionary School, and Talent Unlimited, not to mention the many other schools the Museum serves on a daily basis.

I was so glad to see so many friends, old and new, who attended the celebration honoring leaders in the fashion world: Tim Gunn, our host, and our honorees, Dr. Valerie Steele and Lucy Sykes. Event Chair Yaz Hernández, a strong voice in art and fashion, worked tirelessly with Cochair and Chairman of the Museum’s Board of Trustees Laura Parsons. 

But please don’t wait until January to visit. There are many exciting events coming up. alt_quilts: Sabrina Gschwandtner, Luke Haynes, Stephen Sollins, our current exhibition, redefines a traditional American icon, the pieced quilt. Join us on Saturday, October 26, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., for Quilt Day, an annual celebration of this extraordinary art form. Demonstrations by metropolitan-area quilt guilds will be followed by a curatorial talk (2–3 p.m.) about the works on view in the galleries. 

Artist Sabrina Gschwandtner will be discussing the political and social themes of her celluloid “quilts” following a presentation of the 28-minute, groundbreaking 1981 documentary Quilts in Women’s Lives on Wednesday, November 13, at 6 p.m. Artist Stephen Sollins will analyze aspects of communication embedded in the patterns and choices seen in quilts, and share methods of abstraction in his own work, on Thursday, December 12, at 6 p.m. Both programs are free.

The Museum Shop is preparing for the holidays by surveying the global landscape of unusual gifts. Watch for original accessories—scarves, belts, and other lovely and fashionable treats—created by a few of the designers involved with “Folk Couture.” 

Chief Curator Stacy C. Hollander led a gallery tour for visitors from the Quilt Alliance’s “Quilters Take Manhattan” weekend on September 30, and Dr. Valérie Rousseau, curator of art of the self-taught and art brut, is participating in panel discussions taking place at the Outsider Art Fair Paris this week. The Encyclopedic Palace of the World, Marino Auriti’s astounding vision for a library of all worldly knowledge, currently on view at the Venice Biennale, continues to draw audiences from around the world.

The holidays are just around the corner, and we will keep you informed of our progress, events, and new research.

Sincerely,

The Honorable Anne-Imelda Radice, PhD
Executive Director
September 2013
Dear members and friends,

We have much good news.

Bill Traylor: Drawings from the High Museum of Art and the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts and Traylor in Motion: Wonders from New York Collections, along with Recent Gifts, drew large audiences throughout the summer. There is no doubt that Bill Traylor’s artworks and life story proved especially compelling to local audiences and visitors from around the world. The exhibitions continue to elicit wonderful notices from journalists, also. I hope you will join us on Saturday, September 21, from 5 to 6 p.m., for a members-only reception and last look at these astonishing works of art before the shows close on September 22. 

The fall season will usher in an exhibition, opening October 1: alt_quilts: Sabrina Gschwandtner, Luke Haynes, Stephen Sollins.

Luke Haynes works on a large scale and usually in series. He is best known for quilt portraits of famous figures, as well as his own friends, and for the use of a technique known as anamorphic perspective that creates the illusion of three dimensions. In his latest series he photographed friends attired in clothing they believed expressed their identities. Haynes then used the same clothes to make a quilt that visually replicated the photo shoot.

In 2009 Sabrina Gschwandtner came into possession of a trove of archival industrial film footage related to the textile trades that was deaccessioned by FIT. Much of the footage features women engaged in various activities such as weaving and dyeing. Using this 16mm footage as readymade strips, the artist pieces together the filmstrips into Log Cabin and other geometric quilt patterns. The quilt is then framed and illuminated in a light box. 

And Stephen Sollins explores ideas about domesticity, privacy, and the limits of intimacy in his work, which employs used envelopes and Tyvek packaging as a medium. Two artworks on view faithfully and meticulously reproduce masterpiece quilts from the Museum’s collection, which will also be on view. This unique exhibition explores the blurred boundaries in art while also challenging perceptions about the meaning, nature, and role of quilts. Chief Curator Stacy C. Hollander organized “alt_quilts,” and we hope you will take the opportunity of joining her for a gallery tour on December 12. Check the Museum’s calendar for more information.

Dr. Valérie Rousseau, Curator, Art of the Self-Taught and Art Brut, will participate in a series of events, meetings, and conferences at the Outsider Art Fair Paris, which takes place October 24–27.

Rousseau has organized a full-day symposium on Bill Traylor’s life, career, and artworks, which takes place on September 16. This program sold out weeks ago and we are at capacity. However, we will be able to make the proceedings available, and ultimately, we will post video from this event on our website.

Which brings me to a piece of outstanding news: the Museum is the recipient of a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), which will be used to expand and enhance our technological capacity and digital resources with emphasis on an updated web design and presence. This grant, in the amount of $137,462, will be matched by Museum funds. 

We also gratefully acknowledge the Greater Hudson Heritage Network for providing funds that will help the Museum conserve the historic Cleveland-Hendricks Crazy Quilt, shown above.

We are completing plans for this year’s Fall Gala, which takes place on October 16, and are pleased that many of you will be able to attend. This star-studded evening, which will include a sneak-preview of the Museum’s January 2014 exhibition Folk Couture: Fashion and Folk Art, will honor the very distinguished Lucy Sykes, Fashion Consultant, Rent the Runway, and Brand Ambassador, and Dr. Valerie Steele, Director and Chief Curator of the Museum at FIT. We thank our Chairs, Yaz and Valentín Hernández, and Laura and Richard Parsons, and Honorary Chair Betsy Bloomingdale. The inimitable Tim Gunn will serve as Host of the event. I am so grateful, also, to all those on our Benefit Committee, as well as to the many designers who will dazzle us with their creativity and talent. I do hope you will be able to join us. If you have not yet purchased a ticket, please consider participating. Funds raised support Museum activities and outreach.

We will have more good news in the next few weeks. I look forward to seeing you soon, at the Gala or, as always, at the Museum.

Sincerely,

The Honorable Anne-Imelda Radice, PhD
Executive Director
July 2013
Dear members and friends,

Summer began with excellent news: the Henry Luce Foundation, as part of its 75th anniversary initiative, awarded the Museum $1.6 million for a major exhibition that will open in New York in May 2014 and then travel to five museums across the country. “Self-Taught Genius: Treasures from the American Folk Art Museum” will feature more than one hundred works of art from our outstanding collection. The exhibition will underscore the importance of works of art by the self-taught, beginning in the eighteenth century. The often profound aesthetic expressions of self-taught artists are an important aspect of our national narrative, and we are especially proud to be able to share this art throughout the United States.

Currently we have three exhibitions on view at the museum: Bill Traylor: Drawings from the Collections of the High Museum of Art and the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts (accompanied by a catalog) and Traylor in Motion: Wonders from New York Collections—which include the largest gathering of Traylor drawings ever exhibited in New York City—and Recent Gifts. I urge you to visit soon, as the work is only on view for another seven weeks.

“The Museum, The Critics, and The Self-Taught,” a sold-out public program moderated by Dr. Valérie Rousseau, the museum’s Curator of Art of the Self-Taught and Art Brut, took place on June 26. This discussion focused on self-taught artists and their importance in the “canonical” history of art.

More June and July highlights: Chief Curator Stacy C. Hollander authored a feature in the Magazine Antiques about game boards, treasures from the years before they were mass-produced; Dr. Valérie Rousseau contributed two essays to the catalog accompanying the Hayward Gallery’s exhibition The Alternative Guide to the Universe; and the Museum’s Encyclopedic Palace of the World, by self-taught artist Marino Auriti, continues to enchant visitors at the Venice Biennale, some of whom are documented in our tumblr.

The Museum’s fiscal year ended on June 30, and I am pleased to announce that we exceeded our goal for a balanced budget. With the generous support of our Trustees, members, and friends, we achieved a surplus; we begin fiscal year 2014 on a very bright note.

Our audiences continue to grow and enrich the Museum with their enthusiasm, interest, and passion for folk art and art by the self-taught. School and teen programs are providing young visitors with opportunities for learning from their peers as well as providing high school students with valuable work experience, so important for their continuing education. And for the youngest visitors and their caregivers, on the first Saturday of every month the Museum offers Families and Folk Art sessions: tours and discussion followed by hands-on programs in which each child creates their own work of art while learning about such visual concepts as shapes, symbols, characters, and more. On Saturday, September 21, at 1 p.m. we will have a special Family Day program based on Bill Traylor

Amid all of the exciting developments of this summer, we were touched by sad news when we learned of the loss of our very dear friend, Sam Farber. Mr. Farber was a robust and visionary trustee, a dedicated leader, and a problem-solver whose imprint on the Museum will continue to endure for years to come. We express our sorrow at his passing, and our gratitude for all that Mr. Farber and his wife, Betsey, have contributed to the Museum.

There are so many people to thank, but I want to give a very special mention and words of appreciation to the Henry Luce Foundation, the Ford Foundation, editor-in-chief Betsy Pochoda and her staff at the Magazine Antiques; and always, and especially, Trustee Joyce B. Cowin, whose generosity continues to make possible all that we are accomplishing. 

Looking ahead: on September 16 the Museum will present Bill Traylor: Beyond the Figure, a full-day symposium that will bring together a dozen distinctive voices—artists, curators, scholars—to explore particular facets of the artist’s work and life through a variety of approaches; our fall exhibition “alt_quilts: Sabrina Gschwandtner, Luke Haynes, Stephen Sollins” is in the making and I hope to see many of you at the October 1 opening; and I am most excited to report that this year’s Fall Benefit Gala promises to be extraordinary. Our host is Project Runway’s Tim Gunn, the honorees are Dr. Valerie Steele, Director and Chief Curator of the Museum at FIT, and Lucy Sykes Rellie, Fashion Director, Rent the Runway, and brand consultant; the benefit co-chairs are Yaz and Valentin Hernández and Laura and Richard Parsons; and the honorary chair is Betsy Bloomingdale. Dinner guests will be treated to a “behind-the-scenes” look at some of New York’s most celebrated fashion design studios as they prepare to unveil couture creations for the Museum’s January 2014 exhibition, “Folk Couture: Fashion and Folk Art.” 

Thank you, friends.

Sincerely,

The Honorable Anne-Imelda Radice, PhD
Executive Director
May 2013
Dear members and friends,

I begin by sharing with you a recent post from Time Out New York

“The American Folk Art Museum is undoubtedly the single most important institution of its kind, devoted to traditional folk art as well as to outsider art, the latter being represented by arguably the single largest holdings of works anywhere by Henry Darger, Martín Ramírez, Bill Traylor and Eugene Von Bruenchenhein among many others.”

On that note, our new season of exhibitions opens on June 11.

Bill Traylor: Drawings from the Collections of the High Museum of Art and the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts will feature more than sixty works by an extraordinary African American artist. This opportunity to view works that rarely travel will be complemented by Traylor in Motion: Wonders from New York Collections. We are grateful to all of our exhibition partners, particularly for loans from the private collections of our esteemed trustee Audrey Heckler; Susan and Jerry Lauren; the Louis-Dreyfus family; Siri von Reis; Luise Ross; and a collector who wishes to remain anonymous. Together, the exhibitions comprise a comprehensive presentation of Bill Traylor’s vibrant painting and drawing. The opening Member’s Reception will take place on Tuesday, June 11; if you are not already a member of the Museum, please consider joining to be able to participate in this and other special member events.

Bill Traylor’s story is powerful. Born into slavery, he moved to Montgomery, Alabama, late in his life, and the works we know were produced there during a four-year artistic outpouring. They draw us in. Unique can be almost a cliché word, but in this case his artwork is truly unique. Interestingly, Traylor was already making his iconic works in Montgomery when “modernism” was just beginning to enter the American vocabulary. He was included in the seminal Corcoran Gallery of Art exhibition “Black Folk Art in America, 1930–1980” and countless others since then.

This year’s Venice Biennale, the world’s largest exhibition of art, will feature nearly one hundred works by self-taught artists. The centerpiece of the 55th International Exhibition is a work of art from the collection of the American Folk Art Museum: Marino Auriti’s Il Enciclopedico Palazzo del Mondo (The Encyclopedic Palace of the World). Follow the goings-on there by visiting our Tumblr. We are very proud.   

Dr. Valérie Rousseau, curator, art of the self-taught and art brut, will moderate a panel discussion about the role of self-taught artists on June 26, with G. Roger Denson, Brett Littman, Jerry Saltz, and Karen Wilkin, at 5 pm. Tickets are $10 (Museum members $5; students and artists free). Registration is recommended; tickets may be purchased online.

Other Museum news?

Recent Gifts, an exhibition also opening on June 11, will feature new additions to the Museum’s permanent collection. We are grateful to the following donors:  Gordon W. Bailey, Helen and Jack Bershad, Cynthia K. Easterling, Louise W. Floeckher, Kathryn Trotta Kane, Susan and Laurence Lerner, Leo Rabkin Ron and June Shelp, Nancy Karlins Thoman, and Mr. and Mrs. Walter L. Wolf.

The Museum has joined a consortium of destinations around the country that offer great learning experiences for families. The Wonder Collective has a number of prestigious partners. Some examples are: The Indianapolis Children’s Museum, Colonial Williamsburg, the Heard Museum, the Please Touch Museum, and the San Diego Zoo, among others, and we are proud to participate in this endeavor. We will be sharing more information later.

Works of art by Eugene Von Bruenchenhein from the Museum’s collection are included in an exhibition on view at London’s Hayward Gallery. Curator Dr. Valérie Rousseau is a contributor to the exhibition catalog. 

Sadly, we learned of the death of Kristina Barbara Johnson, who served on the Museum’s Board for four decades and led the Museum as president of the Board in the early 1970s. She donated a number of works of art related to the sea; helped establish the Museum’s quarterly journal The Clarion (later Folk Art); and exhibited extraordinary dedication to the Museum. Her family has suggested that memorial contributions may be sent to the American Folk Art Museum; please contact Elizabeth Kingman, director of development, at ekingman@folkartmuseum.org or 212. 265. 1040, ext. 346. Mrs. Johnson’s generosity was invaluable, and we were honored to have such a good friend.

Speaking of friendship: a colleague recently asked where in New York she might be able to host a small luncheon, and this inspired a lightbulb moment: the American Folk Art Museum! We are now offering the opportunity to host small, private gatherings for up to sixty people, almost any Monday when the Museum is closed to the public. Whether your preference is tea for two, or salads, soufflés, and sandwiches for sixty, please consider the Museum as the site for a lovely occasion. Surrounded by outstanding masterpieces of traditional folk and art by the self-taught, your guests might even enjoy a docent-led tour . . . before or after dessert! Please contact Hope Bodwell, manager of special events, at hbodwell@folkartmuseum.org or 212. 265. 1040, ext. 311, for more information.

There is so much taking shape at the American Folk Art Museum in the months to come: spectacular exhibitions in the planning; a September 16 symposium on Bill Traylor; our October 16 gala honoring Dr. Valerie Steele, director and chief curator of the Museum at FIT, and fashion director Lucy Sykes Rellie, and much, much more. 

I hope to see you on June 11 at the Museum.

Sincerely,

The Honorable Anne-Imelda Radice, PhD
Executive Director
April 2013
Dear members and friends,

The American Folk Art Museum continues to flower, I am happy and so proud to report.

We have carefully packed, crated, and shipped our beloved Il Enciclopedico Palazzo del Mondo (The Encyclopedic Palace of the World) off to Venice for its star turn in the 55th International Biennale—take a peek at the video at palaceonholiday.tumblr.com. And if you are making the trip to Venice, send us a photo with the Palazzo and we may post it on Tumblr as a tribute to all those in search of artist Marino Auriti’s dream, which was nothing less than the construction of a phenomenal edifice in which all worldly knowledge would reside. We look forward to seeing you in Venice!

Closer to home, more good news abounds. Fifty-three works of art selected by our curators from the Ralph Esmerian promised gift are now a permanent part of the Museum’s collection, such as the iconic Situation of America, 1848. Many of these superb works of art had been on view in Compass: Folk Art in Four Directions, which received critical acclaim during its run from June 2012 through March 2013, and we will continue to share these outstanding works as we roll out future exhibitions.

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) awarded the Museum their prestigious Art Works grant, which will support our scholarly lectures and symposia related to upcoming exhibitions. We express our gratitude to Acting Chairman Joan Shigekawa and the staff at the NEA for this recognition and support. Art Works grants support the creation of art that meets the highest standards of excellence, public engagement with diverse and excellent art, lifelong learning in the arts, and the strengthening of communities through the arts. We could not be prouder to be among this distinguished group of recipients.

On the subject of lectures and symposia, public programs at the American Folk Art Museum offer unique, enriching, and lively learning opportunities. Whether discussing traditional works (quilts, needlework, or chalkware, for example), or works of art by the self-taught (artists such as Nek Chand, Thornton Dial, or Bessie Harvey, just to name a few), the scholars and experts who lead our discussions are knowledgeable, enthusiastic, and eager to share ideas. We are planning an especially dynamic series of events beginning in June with the opening of Bill Traylor: Drawings from the Collections of the High Museum of Art and the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, and a complementary exhibition organized by curators Stacy C. Hollander and Dr. Valérie Rousseau, titled “Traylor in Motion: Wonders from New York Collections.” The latter exhibition will provide a rare opportunity to view 39 works of art from prestigious private collections, which are infrequently, if ever, exhibited.

And a very special program—truly, a “once-in-a-lifetime” event—will take place on Thursday, May 16.  Amy Herman will conduct the amazing program she developed to help people use their sense of sight in a more enriching and beneficial way. The Art of Perception is an interactive and participatory class that will include looking at works of art in the Museum’s galleries and reporting on the experience. Strengthening our powers of observation is more important than ever before, and the Museum offers perfect opportunities for honing visual acuity by looking and seeing in more attentive ways. Ms. Herman, who has been featured in Smithsonian Magazine, on CBS television, and in the Wall Street Journal and New York Times, among other news venues, has conducted her workshops with the FBI, CIA, and a wide range of civic organizations and emergency response teams. We are so pleased to be able to bring this program to our audiences, although due to its interactive format, space will be extremely limited. I encourage you to register as soon as possible.

And last but certainly not least, I want to express my sincere gratitude for the outpouring of support we are receiving as a result of recent news about the Museum’s former building. The American Folk Art Museum is alive and well on New York City’s upper west side. Artist and Visionary: William Matthew Prior Revealed and Women’s Studies remain on view through May 26, and we hope you’ll drop by for a visit soon.

Sincerely,

The Honorable Anne-Imelda Radice, PhD
Executive Director
March 2013
Dear members and friends,

I am pleased to report about all things blossoming at the American Folk Art Museum this month.

Trustee Karin Fielding and her husband, Dr. Jonathan Fielding, have generously matched a grant from the Friends of Heritage Preservation, which will enable the Museum to scan, digitize, and make freely available online the full archive of The Clarion and Folk Art magazines. The funding from the Fieldings and Friends of Heritage Preservation joined the lead donation from the American Folk Art Society. Together, these grants are sufficient to make decades of irreplaceable scholarship freely available to researchers, scholars, and the general public.

The Clarion, later called Folk Art, was for more than thirty years a preeminent forum for original research and new scholarship in the encompassing field of American folk art. The Museum published 115 issues from 1971 through 2008. Reflecting the mission of the Museum, the articles featured groundbreaking research on a wide variety of topics from the eighteenth century through the present, from traditional arts such as portraiture, schoolgirl arts, painted furniture, and pottery to original perspectives on under-recognized artists whose creative expressions defy categorization. Features and articles were written by not only American Folk Art Museum curators but also by scholars and experts in many fields. The magazines were lavishly illustrated with meticulous care, and included news about the Museum as well as exhibitions around the country, illustrated advertisements from a stellar roster of dealers and auction houses, and other related information. 

I am very grateful to the Fieldings, Friends of Heritage Preservation, and the American Folk Art Society for making this ambitious and important project possible. We anticipate that the searchable online archive will launch in early 2014. We are also planning to create a boxed set of DVDs, which too will provide full searchable access to each issue.

Also, thank you to Board President Monty Blanchard and Leslie Tcheyan for their gracious hospitality: Monty and Leslie welcomed VIP visitors from the Armory Show to their home one Saturday morning a few weeks ago, and provided an invaluable collection tour for grateful participants. I had the opportunity of meeting many collectors and enthusiasts from out of town at this invitation-only event, and we made many new friends. A few weeks later, collectors and friends gathered at Trustee Audrey Heckler’s home, and there, curator Dr. Valérie Rousseau led a discussion of plans for a strong network of professionals who focus on self-taught artists, with the goal of creating a friends group for the Museum, those who might seek to more actively share scholarship and resources.

More excellent news: The Museum is to be represented at the 2013 Venice Biennale. In fact, the inspiration for this year’s international art fair is a work from the Museum’s collection, which has been on view in many of our exhibitions. The Il Enciclopedico Palazzo del Mondo (The Encyclopedic Palace of the World) is a monumental work of art; it stands 11 feet tall and occupies a footprint of 7 feet by 7 feet. This majestic creation was merely the model for an architectural structure in which all the world’s knowledge would reside. Marino Auriti (1891–1980), the self-taught artist who envisioned and built the Palazzo, was an Italian immigrant who lived in Pennsylvania, and he used wood, plastic, glass, metal, hair combs, and model kits parts to construct his edifice. It is now the centerpiece of the 2013 Venice Biennale, and we could not be happier for this worldwide recognition.

I am also happy to report that plans are underway for our October gala. Building on the success of last year’s Glitter Gala, we are planning an even more star-studded, spectacular Fall Benefit event. Please save the date: Wednesday, October 16. I will have more to say about this in upcoming messages.

Let me take this opportunity to inform you about two programs that in my view are not to be missed. The Museum, in collaboration with Reel Lives, a non-profit youth media organization based in New York City, will be presenting three documentaries, followed by discussions with the young adults who made the films. Each of the films explores the experience of immigration, and each is an autobiographical portrait—a young woman who questions the rituals and faith of Brooklyn’s Lubavitch community; a young man from the Dominican Republic who wants to pursue a career in dance despite his family’s feelings about his passion; and a young man who envisions a free Tibet, which had been the homeland of his parents. This film screening, which takes place on Thursday, April 18, from 6 to 7 pm, and which is free, is organized in celebration of the city’s tenth annual Immigrant Heritage Week, an initiative of the NYC Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs.

And May 16th—mark your calendars—a very special program will explore The Art of Perception. This participatory, interactive program is the brainchild of Amy E. Herman, who developed techniques for strengthening visual recognition and communication skills by viewing works of art. Ms. Herman has conducted this workshop across the country for a wide range of organizations, including the NYPD, the FBI, the CIA, and many hospitals, medical schools, and first-responder teams. Seating will be limited because of the interactive gallery session, so I urge you to reserve early.

As always, I hope to see you soon at the Museum.

Sincerely,

The Honorable Anne-Imelda Radice, PhD
Executive Director
February 2013
Dear members and friends,

We have been happy to see so many of you over the past few weeks, at symposia, programs, and the recent art fairs. I’m also grateful to our partners and the participants who bring their expertise and enthusiasm to our audiences.

We welcomed colleagues from the Fenimore Art Museum, and others, to celebrate Artist and Visionary: William Matthew Prior Revealed with a scholarly symposium. Paul D’Ambrosio, president of the New York State Historical Association, introduced the audience to the world in which Prior painted: life in nineteenth-century New England, America before and after the Civil War, spiritual beliefs of the day, and families in pre-modern times. Carol Crown, professor of art history at the University of Memphis, spoke about prophecy art in America. And from the Museum, Stacy C. Hollander, chief curator, and Lee Kogan, curator emerita, spoke about the Prior-Hamblin school and ornamental painting, respectively. The art critic Ken Johnson, in his review of the show in the New York Times, calls it “fascinating . . . brings to light a professional artist of extraordinary versatility, resourcefulness and democratic sensibility.”

William Matthew Prior is credited with “democratizing” portraiture, in that he made such paintings available to middle-class patrons through his sliding scale of fees. His portraits tell us much about the lives of Americans of the era. Seemingly an accurate record of an individual, each Prior portrait reveals something about the sitter—his or her role or profession, perhaps an accomplishment, their economic status, or signature values, such as achieving an education or the ability to read. Prior was an abolitionist, and his many paintings of African Americans are among his most enduring and important legacies. His portrait of Nancy Lawson portrays a fashionable, educated, and well-to-do young woman; in the painting of her husband, we see this gentleman’s position as a successful and proud businessman: he wears a gold watch and watch fob and sports a cigar. The Lawson paintings are considered Prior’s masterpieces, and the artist’s evident signature (and date) on the paintings was a daring move in 1843 America. 

Prior’s portraits of children are especially riveting. Rachel Rosen, the Museum’s director of education, reports that schoolchildren are fascinated to see their forebears in these paintings. The gazes of the young faces now immortalized by Prior are open and trusting, and clues to their gender can be found in the small toys or props they hold, in the way their hair is parted, or sometimes in their clothing. Also engaging is the frequent inclusion of a family dog, who received as much of the painter’s attention as the children portrayed in these canvasses.

Other approaches to portraiture are evident in Women’s Studies, our other show currently on view. Paul D. Humphrey’s “Sleeping Beauties” hint at the many different motivations underlying the making of a portrait, as do Eugene Von Bruenchenhein’s photographs of his wife, Marie. Nellie Mae Rowe’s lush and color-saturated depictions of women are paired with Inez Nathaniel Walker’s drawings; these two artists’ works reflect the internal world rather than record their external world. Both “Artist and Visionary: William Matthew Prior” and “Women’s Studies” teach us about the many different and complex interactions between artists and their subjects. 

Our Winter Symposium on Prior coincided with the opening of the Metro Show, in late January, where we introduced ourselves to new audiences and reintroduced the Museum to many members and supporters. Ten days later, the Museum’s Uncommon Artists XXI, the annual Anne Hill Blanchard Symposium, featured cameo talks by scholars Edward Puchner (on artist Minnie Evans), Lyle Rexer (on Gayleen Aiken), Cara Zimmerman (on George Widener), and Jenny Moore (on Rosemarie Trockel). These incisive discussions were in celebration of the  Outsider Art Fair, which we co-sponsored. At the preview of the Outsider Art Fair we hit another high note with the return of our Visionary Award. It was my honor to introduce Trustee Audrey B. Heckler, who presented the award this year to Lee Kogan.

Please remember that Compass: Folk Art in Four Directions remains on view until March 31 at the South Street Seaport Museum. “Compass” is a truly remarkable exhibition. Featuring outstanding works of art from the Museum’s collection, it sheds light on the ways in which our environments shape our lives, whether natural or built. Seaport life was dominated by wind, weather, and water, and the ways in which human activity evolved there are explored through our collection.

Important works of art from the Museum’s collection are also featured in an exhibition at the Museum of Biblical Art, which explores the complex role of the Bible in the life and art of African Americans. In programming organized jointly with our neighboring institution in honor of Black History Month, my colleague Dr. Patricia C. Pongracz, acting director of MoBIA, provided a gallery tour of this exhibition earlier this month, and Lee Kogan will discuss the exhibition in an illustrated talk on February 28.

Sincerely,

The Honorable Anne-Imelda Radice, PhD
Executive Director
January 2013
Dear members and friends,

January brings a fresh infusion of energy and ambition for the new year, and we are experiencing that at the American Folk Art Museum! We were so pleased to be the cosponsor of A Fisherman’s Dream: Folk Art by Mario Sanchez at the South Street Seaport Museum. There, we joined New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg; New York City Cultural Affairs Commissioner Kate D. Levin; our great partner, Susan Henshaw Jones, the Director of the South Street Seaport Museum and Museum of the City of New York; and so many others (more than 800 in fact) in celebration of the triumphant reopening of the South Street Seaport Museum. Our wonderful exhibition Compass: Folk Art in Four Directions, called “a trip to visual heaven” by New York Magazine art critic Jerry Saltz, remains on view through March 31, 2013. 

More good news: Dr. Valérie Rousseau, a scholar who has worked most recently as an independent curator, has joined the staff of the American Folk Art Museum. Born in Saint-Jean-Port-Joli (Québec), Canada, Rousseau has conducted several studies and projects in the art field, both in North America and abroad, in collaboration with many organizations and museums. Please join us in welcoming her as the Curator of 20th-Century and Contemporary Art; she begins her work with the Museum (officially) on February 14.

Following on the heels of the jubilant evening at the Seaport Museum, we celebrated the opening of Artist and Visionary: William Matthew Prior Revealed and Women’s Studies at the Museum on January 22.  Feasting on artisanal, hand-crafted breads and cheeses (works of art in themselves made by Nina and Jonathan White), we welcomed colleagues from the Fenimore Art Museum, the organizer of the Prior exhibition, and our own treasured members and friends.

Prior’s portraits become all the more poignant with the knowledge that these were probably the only reminders of family members and friends in the years before photography. They invite so much curiosity. Prior, like other painters, introduced props and objects that provide information we hunger for: a favorite toy, a cherished book. The realization that the people in Prior’s portraits so strongly resemble people we know—or even ourselves—can be astonishing. But isn’t that the purpose of visiting a museum: to be amazed, to be surprised, to really open your eyes? 

More surprises can be found in “Women’s Studies.” Eugene Von Bruenchenhein’s photographs of his wife, Marie, provide perhaps the starkest contrast to Prior’s portraits.

What do they say about the collective culture of their times, and ours? Chief Curator Stacy C. Hollander gives us a view of women “from both sides now,”  literally: on opposite walls of one gallery. The Von Bruenchenhein photographs, which make voyeurs of all who view them, are accompanied by the “Sleeping Beauties” of Paul D. Humphrey. Across from these works are drawings by Nellie Mae Rowe and Inez Nathaniel Walker, colorful and often exuberant portraits with secrets of their own. The questions posed in these pictures relate to gender, identity, and self-identity. The female faces in “Women’s Studies” colorfully and powerfully contrast the Prior portraits. Seen together, the exhibitions provide provocative and rewarding perspectives on identity, portraiture, and art. We hope you’ll stop by soon.

With my best wishes for the year ahead,

Sincerely,

The Honorable Anne-Imelda Radice, PhD
Executive Director
December 2012
Dear members and friends,

The year 2012 is drawing quickly to a close, as is my third month with the American Folk Art Museum. Thank you for your warm welcome and support! Here is an update of our activities.

A monumental artwork in the American Folk Art Museum collection is the inspiration for the next Venice Biennale. The 55th installation of the international contemporary art exhibition, which takes place June 1–November 24, 2013, is titled “The Encyclopedic Palace” after the 1950s eleven-foot-high architectural model of the same name by Marino Auriti (1891–1980). The self-taught Italian American artist envisioned (and patented) his Encyclopedic Palace as a museum in which all worldly knowledge would be documented, preserved, and exhibited. We are thrilled to be at the center of the Biennale (anticipated attendance: 400,000) and honored by Artistic Director Massimiliano Gioni’s recognition of the Museum and all that we have to offer.

In other news on the international front, an upcoming exhibition at the Haifa Museum of Art, in Haifa, Israel, will feature major loans from our collection (January–June 2013), and the Museum is cosponsoring an exhibition of Hiroyuki Doi’s meticulous ink drawings at the Pen Station Museum at the Pilot Corporation’s headquarters, in Tokyo (October 7–December 20, 2013). These new drawings were created as a response to the devastation of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

Here in the United States, we have two traveling exhibitions of quilts from the collection on the road. Politics NOT As Usual: Quilts with Something to Say, which explores the role of quiltmaking as a medium for both art and social change, is down south at the Boca Raton Museum of Art, in Florida (through January 13, 2013). And the Figge Art Museum, in Davenport, Iowa, is presenting Quilts: Masterworks from the American Folk Art Museum (through February 3, 2013), a sampling of the best of the best, quilts that represent the finest examples in a variety of techniques, time periods, and regions.

In New York, the Museum once again played a major role at the annual Lincoln Square neighborhood Winter’s Eve event, a seasonal celebration that attracts thousands of people. The Museum Shop was responsible for the glittery, sparkly ornaments on the Christmas tree at Dante Park opposite Lincoln Center, and we were featured on prime-time television news (WABC-TV) that evening. The inspiration for this year’s ornaments was our current exhibitions Foiled: Tinsel Painting in America and Ooh, Shiny! Curator Lee Kogan can be seen giving an illuminating tour of “Foiled” on the PBS show NYC-ARTS; a catalog of the exhibition will be available later this winter.

Downtown, our sister organization the South Street Seaport Museum, which flooded during Hurricane Sandy, will re-open on December 14, and we look forward to the same robust attendance for our exhibition Compass: Folk Art in Four Directions that we saw prior to the storm. As you already know, none of our artworks were damaged; however, the Seaport Museum buildings took a blow. We are very happy to see that they will soon be up and running again, and we thank those of you who contributed to that effort. If you haven’t seen “Compass,” called “a trip to visual heaven” by New York magazine art critic Jerry Saltz, I encourage you to visit. See the exhibition soon, because it closes on February 3, 2013. 

Later this winter the American Folk Art Museum will present the exhibition Artist & Visionary: William Matthew Prior Revealed, organized by the Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown, New York. Prior  (1806–1873) “democratized” portraiture by devising a sliding-scale fee structure that made such visual documents available to a broad cross-section of American society. He adjusted his painting style accordingly, offering flat portraits “without shade” for less money than fully modeled depictions. This also allowed him to compete with the growing popularity of photography that was threatening to replace the painted portrait. Prior was a fierce abolitionist, and his legacy includes a significant number of portraits of free African Americans in the pre–Civil War era. He was also deeply involved with the Adventist Movement started by prophet William Miller, who predicted the second coming of Christ in 1844; Prior painted leading members of this movement as well as Miller himself. Today, Prior is celebrated for the freshness and spontaneity of his portraits, particularly those that relied less on academic conventions. A rich history of America can be found in this fascinating exhibition, which will be on view January 24–May 26, 2013. As a companion to this show the Museum will present Women’s Studies, a selection from the collection of drawings and photographs of women by four self-taught artists from the 1940s through the late twentieth century, two male, two female. Eugene Von Bruenchenhein, Paul D. Humphrey, Nellie Mae Rowe, and Inez Nathaniel Walker offer four very different approaches that raise questions of intent, portrayal, and self-identity.

Recently I had the incredible experience of traveling across the country on behalf of the Museum. I have met with trustees, patrons, potential donors, and a number of museum directors. I am pleased to report that we have many partners moving forward. 

I will be giving a talk at the Museum on Wednesday, December 19, at 6 p.m., entitled Masterpieces—Who Says? as part of our ongoing Masterworks series, which examines art and artists in the Museum’s exhibitions and collection from multiple perspectives. I invite you to join me in the galleries.

And, if I am not able to greet you in person, on behalf of all of us at the American Folk Art Museum, I wish you a happy, healthy, and peaceful holiday season. And all best in 2013!

Sincerely,

The Honorable Anne-Imelda Radice, PhD
Executive Director
November 2012
Dear members and friends,

We are grateful for the concern many of you have expressed about our collection currently on view at the South Street Seaport Museum. I am happy to report that the museum’s exhibition floors sustained no damage during Hurricane Sandy. However, its various historic buildings did suffer extensive flooding, and the Seaport Museum urgently needs your financial support. If you can help with a gift in any amount, I highly encourage you to visit this page of their website. I also encourage you to visit the South Street Seaport Museum, which should reopen this week, and view our exhibition Compass: Folk Art in Four Directions, which has been extended through February 3; extra admission-fee revenue will also help our partner institution at this critical time.

New York City’s government website features numerous ways to aid various city-wide relief efforts in support of New Yorkers in need following Hurricane Sandy. If you would like to donate or volunteer, see nycservice.org. WNYC radio also has a helpful list of ways to help in New York City, Long Island, Westchester, and New Jersey on their website.

If you have artworks that sustained damage as a result of the hurricane, the Museum of Modern Art has posted guidelines for conserving flood-damaged artworks, libraries, and archives on their home page.

On behalf of the American Folk Art Museum's board of trustees and staff, I express my heartfelt concern and support for those impacted by Hurricane Sandy and its aftermath.

Sincerely,

The Honorable Anne-Imelda Radice, PhD
Executive Director
September 2012
Dear members and friends,

The American Folk Art Museum is the premier institution devoted to the aesthetic appreciation of traditional folk art and creative expressions of contemporary self-taught artists from the United States and abroad. The museum preserves, conserves, and interprets a comprehensive collection of the highest quality, with objects dating from the eighteenth century to the present.

The mission of the American Folk Art Museum—our task, and our passion—is to engage you in the process of looking at works of art. The American Folk Art Museum provides opportunities for you to discover not only the meaning of what you are looking at but also the power.

Many of the artists whose works are shown at the American Folk Art Museum are anonymous—unnamed, but prolific and skillful and nearly divinely inspired to make aesthetic objects: a metal box that’s more special than any other, which is why it has survived for centuries; or a coverlet for a cold night, meticulously stitched by hand to surround a loved one in the warmth of an entire family or community. The decorative tin box is meant to suggest a wonderful secret within—a prized recipe or exotic spice, a love letter or lock of hair. Its contents, at one time, were a treasure to be discovered or preserved. In so carefully trying to designate the essential role of an otherwise ordinary metal container, the hand-painted tin box became itself a work of art, a kind of masterpiece. As did the quilt, and the weathervane, the whirligig, and the hundreds of other works of art brought into being by necessity, transformed by an imaginative, or entrepreneurial, or sentimental, or especially skillful soul into an aesthetic object imbued with such fanciful or ferocious expression that it was treasured over time and preserved.

The Museum also champions—in every sense of that word—works of art made by those who found that they could not help but express themselves through visual means. The material world speaks to them, sometimes, they believe, literally; or they are compelled to bring into the world a manifestation of what they’re told, or what they see, dream, fear most, or desire. Call them “self-taught,” or “visionary,” or “outsider.” Or call it what avant-garde artist Jean Dubuffet (1901–1985) termed art brut, which encompasses many different kinds and types of objects (calligraphies, needlework, sculpture, paintings, drawings, even large-scale environments). 

But I digress. What we seek most of all is to create engagement with you, and we hope that engagement is maximal. 

I am thrilled about the opportunity to lead this Museum at this particular point in its history. Our superb collection—called by New York Times art critic Roberta Smith “one of New York City’s great treasures”—is intact, and even more: it’s on the road here and here. I am enormously grateful to the board of trustees and others who held fast to the promise of the Museum, supported the Museum, and protected its most essential assets: the outstanding works of art, the hard-working staff members, and the enthusiasm to present exhibitions, public programs, and other special events over the past many months. To the members who maintained their dedication to the Museum, and to our visitors: I look forward to meeting you.   

We have a lot of work to do. No doubt about that. Today is Day Six for me. I’ll get back to you in about a month. I will have lots to report.

Sincerely,

The Honorable Anne-Imelda Radice, PhD
Executive Director