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18 Dec 2017

Director's Message: December 2017

December 2017

Dear members and friends,

With great sadness I want to share with you my decision to retire from my position as executive director of the museum, effective in March 2018. I have loved this museum for many years, and, like you, was and am a member. Because of your support, a wonderful board, and an amazing professional staff, the American Folk Art Museum has been restored to its rightful place as a museum of integrity, scholarship, and financial stability. My decision is solely for personal reasons, as I will soon be moving to Washington DC. Stacy C. Hollander, deputy director for curatorial affairs at the museum, will take over as acting director when I leave. You all know Stacy from having seen her work over many years as a curator of outstanding exhibitions. The Board and I know that she will be a superb leader for us as we begin the search for a permanent executive director. I am so proud of the staff here, and I know that they will continue to work to make the American Folk Art Museum the museum of the people, showing the art of the people. I am leaving the museum in the very best of hands.

I have good news to share about the museum’s annual gala on November 16. In addition to it being a wonderfully warm, festive evening, the event raised $700,000 for the museum and its education programs. The gala honored Elizabeth and Irwin Warren, whose work for the museum as a curator and trustee (Elizabeth) and his legal expertise (Irwin) has endeared them to all of us at the American Folk Art Museum. The gala also honored the president and CEO of Joann Stores, Jill Soltau, for its initiatives in the sewing and quilting arts, and the president of LaGuardia Community College (LGCC), Dr. Gail O. Mellow, who is a national leader in the field of community college education. LGCC partners with the museum on the Museum Career Internship Program, in which a curriculum was created for education in the museum arts and students are given paid internships to work in the various departments of the museum.

The new Self-Taught Genius Gallery opened in late September in Long Island City. It shows works from the museum’s permanent collection in changing exhibitions, and it is free and open to the public Mondays through Thursdays. Due to some publicity, clever marketing, and tenacious networking by its new curator, Sarah Margolis-Pineo, the gallery is attracting a steady stream of visitors. A recent special event with author/photographer/man-of-the-moment Teju Cole had an overflow crowd. We owe a tremendous thanks to the Luce Foundation for its grant of $350,000, which allowed us to open this new exhibition space.

War and Pieced: The Annette Gero Collection of Quilts from Military Fabrics closes on January 7. If you have not seen it, you will regret it. The show is a blockbuster of great beauty and fascinating history. Coming up on January 21 is the exhibition Vestiges & Verse: Notes from the Newfangled Epic. Works by twenty-one major self-taught artists will be on view, including Aloïse Corbaz, Adolf Wölfli, and Henry Darger.

Although there is much more going on at the museum that I could report on, I want to close this letter by letting you in on more of what I am feeling. It has been an enormous pleasure to work at the American Folk Art Museum these five and a half years. I am sad, but I am also deeply proud of how much the museum has grown in that time. I have had many wonderful jobs in my career, but this one has been the best. It is because of the great staff, active board, and the museum’s devoted members and followers. I just steered the wheel.

With warm wishes for the holiday season,

Dr. Anne-Imelda Radice, Executive Director