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19 Oct 2016

Fall 2016

Dear members and friends,

The museum has just received a wonderful distinction: it was given four stars—the highest ranking possible—from Charity Navigator, the country’s largest independent charity evaluator. The ranking is based on the fiscal accountability and good governance of an institution. AFAM is one of only six art museums in New York to attain this top ranking.

The fall/winter exhibition that just opened is Securing the Shadow: Posthumous Portraiture in America. Chief Curator Stacy C. Hollander had been developing this show since 2012, and the years of research and scholarship are in vivid evidence in this collection of paintings, gravestone sculptures, and early daguerreotypes that depict subjects who are deceased. As The New York Times (October 2, 2016) pointed out, “Securing the Shadow… is one of the first to delve into the traditions of self-taught artists who honed their craft in the service of death, creating a body of work as powerful and strange as the darkest Surrealist could imagine.” It is a must-see.

Securing the Shadow is partly supported by a grant from the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, which was established by the noted photographer to further the recognition of photography as an art form of the same importance as painting and sculpture. Additional support came from the American Folk Art Society, Joyce Berger Cowin, the David Davies and Jack Weeden Fund for Exhibitions, the Ford Foundation, the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, the Leir Charitable Foundations, and public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

On September 14 we celebrated our annual Visionary Award with this year’s recipient, the Souls Grown Deep Foundation. Established in 2008, the Visionary Award honors those who have made unique and distinctive contributions to the field of self-taught and vernacular art. The Visionary Award is chaired by Audrey B. Heckler and sponsored by the Foundation to Promote Self-Taught Art. The Souls Grown Deep Foundation is changing the way we think about American art and culture by increasing awareness about the visual arts of the African American South. The foundation’s efforts will ensure the long-term survival of artworks by the more than 150 artists in their holdings, including works by Thornton Dial, Lonnie Holley, Ronald Lockett, the quiltmakers of Gee’s Bend, Joe Minter, Nellie Mae Rowe, and many more. Accepting the Visionary Award was William S. Arnett, a trustee of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation. Veteran museum director Maxwell Anderson, president of the foundation, eloquently noted that with the work Souls Grown Deep has done, “we can alter the canon of American art history.”

For our friends in California I want to urge you to visit The Huntington Library, Art Collection, and Botanical Gardens to see beautiful pieces of folk art from the Jonathan and Karin Fielding Collection of Early American Art. This permanent exhibition opens on October 22.

I am pleased to announce that the museum has received a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) for $128,934. The funds will go towards the stewardship of the museum’s collection.

We want to congratulate our colleague Betsy Broun, Director of the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, on the reinstallation of The Galleries for Folk and Self-taught Art. The galleries will open to the public in late October.

Our annual Fall Benefit Gala is coming up on Wednesday, October 26, at Gotham Hall. The honorees this year are Lucy and Mike Danziger, The Ford Foundation (to be accepted by its president, Darren Walker), and Thornton Dial, in memoriam. The Gala provides a primary source of funding for the museum, so please plan to attend if you can.

We are pleased to welcome Andreane Balconi to our staff as our first-ever Digital Asset Manager. She will lead the museum’s initiative to digitize the collection and make all of it available online, an effort supported by a generous grant from the Leir Charitable Foundations.

There are two exhibitions that currently are traveling: Self-Taught Genius: Treasures from the American Folk Art Museum is at the Tampa Museum of Art now through January 8, 2017, and the Cummer Museum in Jacksonville is exhibiting Folk Couture: Fashion and Folk Art through January 7, 2017. Also, the exhibition that started its tour at AFAM, Fever Within: The Art of Ronald Lockett, is now at the High Museum in Atlanta.

Right now the Museum Shop is brimming with items that are ideal for holiday gift-giving. There is a wonderful selection of books, toys, cards, scarves, jackets, pillows, rugs, games, and jewelry. All of the items are selected with an eye to folk art in both creation and design.

I look forward to seeing you at the museum soon.



Dr. Anne-Imelda Radice