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October 28, 1989 - Image 53

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-10-28

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

torates in folk art. Somehow, they
manage to sound pedagogical even
though folk art is, at least theoretically,
non-academic.
"Folk art is something acquired
rather than learned," says Wertkin,
grasping for a definition. "Folk art is art
produced by people who are reflect-
ing in some way a community
aesthetic, but outside the traditions of
academic art. The people who pro-
duce this art are not formally trained
in academic ways."
Experts find it easier to explain what
folk art isn't than what it is. For the most
part, folk art lacks all those art terms
memorized on the first day of an art ap-
preciation course, among them,
perspective, depth and abstraction.
Although folk artists are not suppos-
ed to be formally trained, you can get
training in folk art.
Courses at the museum's folk art in-
stitute include both lectures and craft
classes. For fees that range between
$15 and $65 per session, students can
learn about American folk sculpture,
Puerto Rican Santos or the art of the
Inuits. The more industrious can enroll
in hands-on courses that range from
"Advanced Marbleizing" and "Paint
Your Own 'Little Girl in Red'" to "Make
a Shaker Pin-Cushion Basket."
Wertkin says that many people don't
appreciate the museum on their first
visit. "Sometimes people who have not
been exposed to folk art compare the
art they've seen in other museums to
what they see here and say, 'Oh, my
grandmother could do that.' Slowly but
surely you come to understand that if
your grandmother could stitch like that
or paint like that, maybe she was an
artist, too."
Apparently, a lot of people have
made that realization. The new gallery
opened in April and the first exhibit
featuring highlights from the perma-
nent collection drew more than 35,000
visitors in three months.
However, things have not always
gone so well at the museum, which
was founded in 1961 without a perma-
nent collection, an endowment or a
building. In 1963, the museum open-
ed to the public for the first time on the
un-air-conditioned ground floor of a
brownstone on 53rd Street. It moved
three times, and was closed from 1986
to 1989.
Five years ago, the Museum of
American Folk Art had a dwindling

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