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.
The Honorable Anne-Imelda Radice, PhD