I've had a bittersweet weekend and I mention it not to invite sympathy but as an excuse for the extra anger I feel toward something else: the apparent eventual loss of one of my favorite Museums - the American Folk Art Museum in New York.
This 50 year old institution has, according to a recent NY Times article, had trouble keeping afloat in the past - and certainly this can be said of many art institutions. But in a time where nearly every piece of unpretentious art and every quietly celebrated artist inside the museums walls can be credited with influencing the current craft movement I feel so connected to, I cannot believe that the problem appears to be ability to attract community support (read $$$$$).
How can a collection of art so directly linked to current trends in both painting, design, American craft, and the DIY movement of this last decade especially, be so entirely disregarded? And by it's own trustees, no less? Do we not still value our history as a country, just a handful of centuries after fighting for it? Don't we value the progression of domestic craft? Aren't we currently a country obsessed with announcing the locally made status of each and every article of clothing we dawn, and flaunting our personal relationships with the makers themselves? Is this museum REALLY so ironically lacking in relevance that it's own trustees can't find funding? Who are we, America?
The American Folk Art Museum's recent plan to disperse their collection all over the country and dissolve the institution altogether seems to me a story that's already been written. If we have learned nothing from the consequences of poor judgement and acts of irresponsibility in folk tales - then surely in our own short and notably fragile lives. Have we forgotten some of the morals that folk art once sought to instill? Seek to protect and cherish those things that give you a sense of self. Put value on hard work and physical labor. And perhaps the most potent to me at the moment: once you act on a bad decision, you can't always take it back.
This collection has influenced the movements with which I associate myself and my own work tremendously. Outsider artists like Henry Darger, and iconic groups like the Pennsylvania Dutch quilters have shaped who I am as an artist, and given me both the aesthetics and values for hand made products that I hold dear. I can only imagine they must have this effect on others?
In the words of the New York Times - "Please. Someone, everyone, do something."