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21 Jan 2022

Call for Papers for the 2022 Elizabeth and Irwin Warren Folk Art Symposium | Objects of Inquiry: New Perspectives on American Folk Art

What comprises the field and study of “American folk art”? In the early twentieth century, scholars, curators, artists, and dealers developed the concept of folk art as an expansive and sometimes contradictory framework to characterize a vast array of works from paintings and sculptures to samplers, quilts, and furniture. 

This virtual symposium will be held on Sunday, May 22, 2022, and will present new research exploring the many theoretical perspectives from which scholars and researchers currently approach the study of folk art, looking in particular at historically overlooked or understudied relationships between identity, nationalism, and American folk art. Drawing inspiration from the wide-ranging MULTITUDES exhibition, talks will share new insights into specific genres and individual artworks while revealing cross-disciplinary connections and expanded conceptualizations of this field. By focusing on questions of methodology, the 2022 Warren Folk Art Symposium will explore how inquiry shapes the way we encounter and understand historic objects today. 

“Objects of Inquiry: New Perspectives on American Folk Art” is a symposium organized in honor of Elizabeth and Irwin Warren, dedicated advocates of the American Folk Art Museum (AFAM), and in connection with the exhibition MULTITUDES, which will be on view from January 21–September 5, 2022.

We invite proposals for 20-minute papers that engage creatively and critically with theories and methods of research that situate individual artworks, artists, or genres of folk art within broader artistic, cultural, socio-historical, and theoretical contexts. Topics may also engage directly with artworks from the MULTITUDES exhibition, which include extraordinary early American portraits, needlework, quilts, painted furniture and wildfowl decoys, among other objects. Submissions by emerging scholars are particularly encouraged to promote expanded scholarship in this field. A modest honorarium will be provided for accepted papers.

Please send a 250-word abstract and CV by Friday, January 21, 2022 to

Possible lines of inquiry include:

  • Folk art’s place within critical discourses of art history, public history, material culture, visual culture, anthropology and folklore, African American and American studies, museum studies, and histories of science and conservation 
  • New narratives of early American folk art and material culture
  • Curatorial practice, collecting and exhibition histories of American folk art
  • 19th-century American portraiture and the formation of individual and class identities 
  • Case studies on histories and new narratives of individual artworks or artists
  • Connections between folk art and craft
  • Cross-cultural understandings of folk art
  • Questions of folk art, memory, and archives
  • Expanded and intersectional approaches to folk art, including through the lens of queer and feminist theories and decolonial studies


“Objects of Inquiry: New Perspectives on American Folk Art” is a symposium organized by Professor William D. Moore, Associate Professor of American Material Culture, History of Art & Architecture, Boston University, Emelie Gevalt, Curatorial Chair of the Collections & Curator of Folk Art, AFAM, Rachel Rosen, Director of Learning and Engagement, AFAM, and Persephone Allen, Curator of Programs and Engagement, AFAM.