Dear Members and Friends,
Greetings from the American Folk Art Museum! It is an honor to write my first message to you as director of the museum that has inspired and educated me in self-taught art throughout my career. Through engaging exhibitions and exceptional collections, AFAM continues to be a thought leader for appreciating self-taught art across time and place, all of which we will further celebrate toward the thirtieth anniversary of our Lincoln Square location next year and the sixtieth anniversary of the museum in 2021.
Several years ago when I was deputy director at the Saint Louis Art Museum, I helped to shepherd the Self-Taught Genius exhibition, which was an opportunity to see the extraordinary talent and tireless dedication of the AFAM team. I believe that it takes a team to achieve success. I am deeply impressed by what my colleagues have accomplished together under the leadership of my predecessor Anne Radice and Deputy Director for Curatorial Affairs Stacy C. Hollander, both of whom I have long respected for their wisdom and indefatigable commitment to the future of the American Folk Art Museum.
The important programs and exhibitions at the museum are accomplished by many hands, and the work of my colleagues is being recognized on a national stage. The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation recently awarded the museum a $315,000 grant for its groundbreaking Museum Careers Internship Program. Working collaboratively with our Queens neighbor LaGuardia Community College, this program provides classes and practical museum experiences for eight students annually, while continuing AFAM’s commitment to increasing diversity in the next generation of the museum workplace. The Ford Foundation has also generously provided a $200,000 grant in support of museum education initiatives for the next two years. The current exhibition at Lincoln Square, Charting the Divine Plan: The Art of Orra White Hitchcock, has received accolades in the press, including The New York Times, Washington Post, New York Magazine, and Scientific American, with a highly anticipated review in Artforum in November. At the Self-Taught Genius Gallery in Long Island City, Handstitched Worlds: The Cartography of Quilts has been very popular with visitors, who are able to sew their favorite places in Queens on an ever-changing textile map that will have a legacy at the Queens Public Library.
Looking forward, two concurrent exhibitions organized by Valérie Rousseau, Curator of Self-Taught Art and Art Brut, will open at Lincoln Square on October 30th. John Dunkley: Neither Day Nor Night is the first major exhibition outside of the artist’s native Jamaica, and an evocative contemplation on life in the Caribbean country in the last years of colonialism. In Paa Joe: Gates of No Return, Ghanaian artist Paa Joe will exhibit sculptures of the castles used to house enslaved people prior to their transport to the Americas. Both exhibitions are sensitive and poignant reminders of a difficult past, and will be complemented by a series of programs. At the Self-Taught Genius Gallery, Assistant Curator Sarah Margolis-Pineo will organize Roadside Attraction, a vivid display of curiosities from the museum’s collection that examines the relationship between curiosity and entertainment.
The museum is readying for its Fall Benefit Gala on October 2. This year, AFAM honors Elyse and Lawrence B. Benenson, longtime museum benefactors; The Wunsch Americana Foundation, a leader in the promotion of American decorative arts; and Raf Simons, chief creative officer at Calvin Klein, Inc. who has introduced the importance of quilts into the famous brand. I hope that you’ll join us at the Ziegfeld Ballroom for what promises to be an entertaining and exciting evening.
Most importantly, I would like to state that it is a privilege to be working with all of you in supporting a museum that continues to be in the forefront of self-taught art. I enjoyed meeting some of you at our Members’ Evening last week, and I greatly look forward to getting to know all of you at future events, and to learning about the museum from your experiences and perspectives. I hope that you will reach out to me when at the museum at Lincoln Square and the Collections and Education Center in Long Island City.
With warm wishes,