Dear members and friends,
Happy New Year.
Thank you for making 2015 a meaningful year. We celebrate record attendance, groundbreaking exhibitions—including Self Taught Genius: Treasures from the American Folk Art Museum as it continues its success on the road—and pioneering education programs. 2016 begins with optimism and exuberance.
Let’s look ahead.
Our first exhibition of 2016 is Mystery and Benevolence: Masonic and Odd Fellows Folk Art from the Kendra and Allan Daniel Collection, which opens on January 21. It explores the message-laden art of Masons and Odd Fellows, both private societies dedicated to good will, shared values, and community service. Fraternal orders provided fertile opportunities for folk artists who worked in a wide spectrum of mediums—textiles, paint, wood, metal, and more. The iconography—all-seeing eyes, hearts in hands, sheaves of wheat, three-link chains, and more—is layered with meaning, and this will be documented as well as history of the orders and their roles in American public life. The exhibition is cocurated by Stacy C. Hollander, Deputy Director for Curatorial Affairs, Chief Curator, and Director of Exhibitions at the Museum, and Aimee E. Newell, Director of Collections at the Scottish Rite Museum & Library in Lexington, Massachusetts.
American Made: Treasures from the American Folk Art Museum is our first collaboration with Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and opens on July 2. It will feature some one hundred works from our collection. We are honored that this will be the first-ever presentation of American folk art at this beautiful museum of American art in Bentonville, Arkansas. Learn more about this exhibition here.
Closer to home and coinciding with the Outsider Art Fair this month, a compelling discussion on the role of otherworldly phenomena in art by the self-taught will take place on Saturday, January 23, at 4 pm. Please join this conversation with noted scholars and artists for the Anne Hill Blanchard Annual Lecture, titled “Spiritual Technology: Self-Taught Artists Consider the Cosmos.” Other exciting education initiatives rolling out later this year include a workshop with a visiting artist and two major symposia. Check the Museum’s website and watch for upcoming announcements as we continue to present dynamic and thought-provoking events that shed new light on art by the self-taught.
Our innovative “pipeline project” is advancing: funded by the Mellon Foundation, it is a unique partnership with LaGuardia Community College. Students come to AFAM and begin preparations for careers in museums. This group is engaged in discovery of folk and self-taught art while learning about career paths in museum work. The idea is to open the field to a broader and more diverse pool of talent and to provide increased opportunities for those who might not otherwise know about or be able to consider career choices within the museum community. The students have just completed the introductory phase of this program, in which they participated in an overview of the history of folk art while touching on the many, many contributions of artists known and anonymous. Now they will work individually in specific museum departments with guidance and support from staff department heads.
A new CD, produced by the same team that created our limited edition disc two years ago, is still available. “Free Music Fridays: Volume 2” (also a limited edition) is a sixteen-song showcase that highlights many of the artists who have performed at our weekly Free Music Fridays evening salons. This CD is exclusively available at the Museum Shop. And we encourage you to check out a free Friday night concert if you’re planning to stop by.
The Museum’s research collections continue to advance. Mimi Lester, Rapaport Archivist, has re-housed thirty-five archival collections and created finding aids. The Rapaport Archivist is the Museum’s first named position, supported with generous funding from the Rapaport Family Foundation. We have begun welcoming researchers to the library and archives on a limited basis, and will be open to researchers by appointment in the next few months.
I am especially happy to report that we are now welcoming adult, college, and university groups for private guided tours at the Collections and Education Center gallery in Long Island City, Queens, where selected works from the permanent collection are displayed. Currently on view are artworks from Politics NOT As Usual: Quilts with Something to Say. Tours at the Collections and Education Center are limited to fifteen participants for a one-hour visit and are led by experienced gallery guides and Museum educators. This is an unparalleled opportunity to view works in a small group while participating in a guided learning experience. The Collections and Education Center is supported by a grant from the William Randolph Hearst Foundation and a facilities grant from the New York State Council on the Arts.
And, please, if you haven’t yet seen Art Brut in America: The Incursion of Jean Dubuffet, you’ve still got a few days to do so. The exhibition closes on January 10; it features two hundred works from the renowned Collection de l’Art Brut, in Lausanne, Switzerland, a museum that rarely, if ever, allows so many distinctive works to travel—making it truly a once-in-a-lifetime presentation. Art Brut in America is organized by Dr. Valérie Rousseau, who is also the curator of When the Curtain Never Comes Down, which was cited by the New York Times as one of “The Best in Art of 2015.” This is the third year in a row that the American Folk Art Museum has been so honored, and I could not be more proud.
I look forward to seeing you at the Museum soon.
Dr. Anne-Imelda Radice
P.S. Look for the second Annual Report of the American Folk Art Museum at the end of January!