Dear members and friends,
Please share my pride in the American Folk Art Museum as I begin my third year as Executive Director. The Museum has made many great strides: important exhibitions have continued to roll out at 2 Lincoln Square (Columbus Avenue between 65th and 66th Streets); Self-Taught Genius: Treasures from the American Folk Art Museum, made possible in New York and at six venues nationwide by the Henry Luce Foundation, is on tour; visitors are flocking to the museum and attendance has increased dramatically; public program content has been reimagined and reinvigorated; alterations to the Shop have resulted in increased sales and revenues; membership grows; school programs have increased and will continue to grow. The History Channel has joined the Museum as a major sponsor of the upcoming exhibition A Shared Legacy: Folk Art in America. And the New York Times review of our two current exhibitions, Ralph Fasanella: Lest We Forget and Willem Van Genk: Mind Traffic, kicked off this fall’s art season with a glowing tribute to art by the self-taught.
I could tell you more about these two remarkable exhibitions, but I would rather share comments from two distinguished “bold-faced names” who were not able to join us at the opening receptions. Instead, they sent word from afar:
It is an honor to welcome everyone to the American Folk Art Museum’s opening reception in honor of the exhibit, Ralph Fasanella: Lest We Forget. Our great city is renowned as a global cultural hub and the American Folk Art Museum has been one of its key institutions from more than 50 years. Showcasing works from the 18th century to the present by self-taught artists from all backgrounds and walks of life, its exhibits reflect our nation’s—and city’s—extraordinary history and diversity. I am delighted that the Museum continues to preserve and share our resident’s stories with an inclusive and creative spirit. Tonight’s exhibit is a testament to its significance: the son of immigrants raised in the Bronx, Ralph Fasanella reminds us to celebrate our multiculturalism and progressive roots. My team and I recognize the powerful role art plays in moving our city forward, and we are grateful for organizations like the American Folk Art Museum as we broaden access to the arts for all New Yorkers.
On behalf of the City of New York, please accept my best wishes for a wonderful evening and continued success.
Bill de Blasio
I was delighted to learn about the American Folk Art Museum’s exhibit of the works of Dutch artist Willem van Genk, who lived with schizophrenia. Events like yours are crucial in raising awareness of mental illnesses and reducing the stigma associated with them. The van Genk showing is a powerful reminder that mental illnesses do not discriminate and may take a toll on even the most talented and celebrated among us. I applaud the Museum for shining a light on one artist’s experience of living with a mental illness while maintaining a meaningful career.
With best wishes for the success of this and future exhibits,
Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter’s note expresses an idea that is central to many of the exhibitions organized by the American Folk Art Museum: despite unrelenting challenges, so many are able to lead lives that are ceaselessly productive and we, as audience members, benefit from their views of the world. This aspect of art will be addressed in a public program on October 16: top neuroscientists will discuss the mysteries of the creative impulse. They will present findings on genetics and the science of the brain, focusing on mental health and, in particular, schizophrenia and autism, both of which were part of van Genk’s life and art.
Lest we forget: artist Pablo Helguera, art professor Barrie Cline, and Fasanella expert Paul D’ambrosio will join Elizabeth Broun, the the Margaret and Terry Stent Director at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, for a discussion on October 28th. They will explore social practice in relation to Fasanella’s work and how social-conscious art not only continues into the present day but also seems to be flourishing.
These programs will enable participants to gain deeper appreciation and insight into the lives and careers of two twentieth-century artists who taught themselves to draw and paint. The urge to create and need to express resulted in works that mesmerize us with their artistic power. It is an honor to present the exhibitions and celebrate these unparalleled achievements.
None would be possible without the dedication and abiding commitment demonstrated by trustee Joyce B. Cowin, whose invaluable gifts to the museum have enabled us to thrive. Not only did she identify and secure our space at 2 Lincoln Square (many years ago), but her belief in the museum, her stewardship of its treasures, and her continuous dedication have had a profound impact with a ripple effect that emanates out around the world. I hope you will join us for our Fall Benefit Gala in a stunning tribute to our wonderful trustee on Thursday, October 23, at the Pierre Hotel. Joining Joyce as honorees will be Margaret Boles Fitzgerald, Board Chair of the Henry Luce Foundation, and Richard Walker, General Counsel, Deutsche Bank. The evening promises to be elegant, entertaining, and joyful. I hope you will come out in support of the Museum we all so dearly treasure. And if you would like to congratulate Joyce personally, she can usually be found, on many Wednesdays, enjoying the museum’s free afternoon jazz program.
One last note: on September 17, Museum trustee Barbara L. Gordon and her husband W. Stephen Cannon hosted a cocktail reception at their home in Bethesda, Maryland. The evening was a bon voyage for her collection before it embarks on a journey across the United States in a touring exhibition, A Shared Legacy: Folk Art in America, organized by Art Services International. The event honored Mrs. Wilhelmina Cole Holladay, founder and Board Chair of the National Museum of Women in the Arts. Mrs. Holladay is the recipient of the Royal Norwegian Order of Merit, Norway, the National Medal of Arts, United States, and the Légion d’honneur, France, in addition to her inclusion in Who’s Who of American Women. A Shared Legacy will open at the museum on December 14, 2014, thanks to major support from HISTORY®. Just in time for the holidays!
Dr. Anne-Imelda Radice
Image: (from left, in foreground): Monty Blanchard, Museum President; Dr. Anne-Imelda Radice, Executive Director; and Mrs. Wilhelmina Cole Holladay.