This has been an extraordinary season for the American Folk Art Museum. Our current exhibitions Eugene Von Bruenchenhein and Quilts: Masterworks from the American Folk Art Museum have received widespread critical acclaim. Our “Perspectives” series, now in its second installment, is serving record numbers of schoolchildren with innovative, collection-based learning programs. And just a few weeks ago we welcomed more than 25,000 people to the Park Avenue Armory for a free exhibition of 651 red-and-white quilts, the largest quilt exhibition ever held in the city. The museum’s impact and the quality of our programming have never been greater.
However, this also remains a time of considerable financial challenge for the museum. Efforts to balance our budget and bring meaningful fiscal stability to the museum’s annual operations have been effective, but we have made little progress in raising the substantial funds necessary to satisfy the bond on our West 53rd Street building. The constant burden of servicing and paying down this debt imperils the institution and distracts the museum’s board and staff from our pursuit of programmatic excellence.
We believe that responsible stewardship of our collection, prudent financial management, and outstanding service to the public are of paramount importance. After a lengthy and thorough review of our situation, consultation with professional advisors, and much soul-searching, the board has therefore decided to sell our building in order to eliminate the bond debt entirely and focus on these fundamental priorities. The Museum of Modern Art, which has right of first refusal on the property, has agreed to acquire the building from us. We can now concentrate on building a new future for the American Folk Art Museum.
We will reestablish our Lincoln Square space—which for more than twenty years has been a lively venue for the museum’s exhibitions and programs—as our home and primary base of operations. We are also exploring strategic partnerships with other cultural and educational organizations, traveling exhibitions based on our collection, and an enhanced online presence. While we remain flexible in examining these possibilities, we are firm in our commitment to maintaining the museum’s collection and to presenting the exhibitions and public programs for which the museum is justly renowned.
We thank you for your continued assistance and support as we shape a new identity and a new operational model for the American Folk Art Museum. We look forward to welcoming each of you to our reinvigorated home at Lincoln Square.
Laura Parsons, President
Image: Untitled, Eugene Von Bruenchenhein (1910–1983), Milwaukee, c. 1940s–mid-1950s, hand-tinted gelatin silver print, 7 x 5″, American Folk Art Museum, gift of Lewis and Jean Greenblatt, 2001.23.5. Photo by Gavin Ashworth.