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.
The Honorable Anne-Imelda Radice, PhD