Dear Friends and Supporters of the American Folk Art Museum,
Friday, August 3, was a truly special day at the American Folk Art Museum! The day started with a great review in the New York Times of our exhibition Compass: Folk Art in Four Directions, currently on display at the South Street Seaport Museum in collaboration with the Museum of the City of New York. In that review, Roberta Smith characterized our institution as “modestly spreading its wings” in an “exuberant and wide-ranging” exhibition that reveals the “Museum’s collection to be one of New York City’s great treasures.”
That afternoon at Lincoln Square, we held the release party for the Museum’s first music CD, the “American Folk Art Museum presents Free Music Fridays, Volume 1.” Ten musicians or groups played for an audience of almost two hundred for over three hours in celebration of the Museum and its programs. It was a joyous evening! The CD was the brainchild of Lara Ewen, a former volunteer-turned-recent employee and impresario who is responsible for the Museum’s social media presence and manages our longstanding Free Music Fridays program. We are grateful to all the talented musicians who participate in this program, and especially to those who licensed their music. The CD is available in our Lincoln Square shop, and we are looking forward to “Volume 2” already!
In my introductory remarks for the party, I reflected on how the musical strains in our recent history have been many and varied. Obviously, our tradition is “folk,” although with some of our challenges over the past few years we have sometimes felt like singing “the blues.” And there were times when we also needed prayers and “hymns” (put in the religious music of your choice) of salvation. Fortunately, Joyce Cowin and certain other Museum trustees, friends, and staff stepped forward with support and dedication, and now we are in a position to “rock ‘n roll!” With what we’ve accomplished together, we should all “Dance! Dance! Dance!”
We are, of course, most proud of Compass, our exhibition that tells the story of New York’s long and rich seaport tradition through the creativity and vision of folk artists. It is significant that in addition to the artistic charm, relevance, and overall quality of the exhibition, Compass represents a collaboration with two other museums that enabled us to display nearly two hundred great pieces from our collection in a new venue for the presentation of our art. We are particularly grateful to the Ford Foundation (again), The Leir Charitable Foundations, the Danziger family, the Schwartz family, The Peter Jay Sharp Foundation, Jackie Fowler, and the Daniel family for their financial support, without which this exhibition would not have been possible. We also want to thank Commissioner Kate Levin and New York City’s Department of Cultural Affairs, who were instrumental in bringing the three institutions together to realize this great exhibition.
There are many other, less visible developments at the Museum that are equally important in our ongoing revitalization:
We are pleased to announce that, as a result of a generous bequest from our former Trustee David L. Davies and the generosity of his partner, Jack Weeden, the Museum is the grateful recipient of more than $1 million, which we are establishing as the David Davies & Jack Weeden Fund for Exhibitions. This fund will be used to support future Museum exhibitions in our Lincoln Square galleries and elsewhere, and to help us develop traveling exhibitions that will help in our strategic mission of “getting the art out there.” A number of David and Jack’s friends have also made pledges in support of this fund.
David was a wonderful friend to the Museum for many years, as a Trustee, as an important collector of folk art and donor of art to the Museum, and as a leading member of the Clarion Society. The Clarion Society was established to honor those who include the Museum in their estate plans. David’s generosity reminds us all of the importance of bequests, which leave a legacy to ensure the Museum’s future. For more information about the Clarion Society, please contact Elizabeth Kingman at 212. 265. 1061, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am also pleased to announce that the Museum has re-established its Collections Committee, and we have begun to accept or selectively acquire works into our collection. The most recent notable acquisition is a spectacular early 20th-century quilt made by Carl Klewicke (1835–1913), a German-born tailor living in Corning, New York. This tour de force—featuring horses, flags, birds, fountains, and other eye-dazzling motifs—first came to the Museum’s attention in the 1980s during the New York Quilt Project, a statewide quilt documentation effort spearheaded by the American Folk Art Museum. We are thrilled to include this quilt in our collection. The quilt was also featured on the cover of the July/August 2012 issue of The Magazine Antiques, which featured three stories on the American Folk Art Museum including an interview with our trustee, Elizabeth Warren.
We are deep in the process of finding a new Director, as we have mentioned before. The Search Committee has met with a number of strong candidates, and we are optimistic that before the next of these President’s letters we will be able to present a new Director to our community. At the same time we are also rebuilding some of our other institutional capabilities. Over the past couple of months, we have made the following staff additions in addition to Ms. Ewen: we have hired Barbara Livenstein, the former VP of Communications at the Museum of the City of New York as our Public Relations Manager and Karley Klopfenstein, an experienced development officer, as a grants writer. Please join me in welcoming Barbara, Karley, and Lara to the Museum, and don’t hesitate to introduce yourselves if you see them at the Museum.
On a slightly bittersweet note, I also want to recognize here the recent departure of our Acting Director and Chief Administrative Officer, Linda Dunne. The “bitter” is that I will miss working with her; with her energy and dedication to the health of the Museum and her willingness to “slog through” whatever it took to ensure that all aspects of the Museum’s operations functioned effectively and well, Linda made an irreplaceable contribution to the Museum’s stable and successful future in our new incarnation. The “sweet” is my joy for Linda in her finding her “dream” job as Director of Museum Services and Operations at the Rubin Museum of Art, which will give her more time for her husband and family while fully utilizing her extensive experience in museum operations. We wish her well.
We are going to have an exciting fall at the Museum. On September 12, we will open two shows, Foiled: Tinsel Painting in America, presenting more than two hundred examples of this shimmering early 19th-century technique, and Ooh, Shiny!, examining the shiny and reflective materials that have proven to be a persistent impulse in the visual arts. On October 18, we will hold our Glitter Gala fall benefit, and we hope to be in a position by that time to announce the hiring of our new Director. There is a lot for us to look forward to together!
As always, thank you for your past, present, and future support!
President, Board of Trustees
Image: Photo by Gavin Ashworth.