NYC Folk Art Musueum threatened with closure

Nicole sez, "The American Folk Art Museum, one of the best museums in NYC, is on the verge of deaccessioning its amazing collection and shutting it doors forever. If you haven't been, the folk art museum introduced Henry Darger (he is the celebrated 'outsider artist' who wrote/illustrated: The Story of the Vivian Girls, in What is known as the Realms of the Unreal, of the Glandeco-Angelinian War Storm, Caused by the Child Slave Rebellion) to thousands of viewers who would never have known about him otherwise. Please get the word out about the downfall of this amazing institution, it would be a massive loss to NYC, and the rest of the world if it closes its doors forever."


  1. FTA: “Some articles, sadly, have suggested a failure of glamour: folk and outsider art may not be sexy enough to the big spenders that museum boards need to attract.”

    This is truly terrible reasoning on the part of the museum’s detractors, especially considering the explosion in crafting, instructables, makers, zines, etc. There is really no excuse that this couldn’t be the new Mecca for crafters as they look back on the past and forget ahead in new directions. 

  2. While I hate to hear of the loss of any artistic venue, I have a hard time seeing something that few have heard of as a “massive loss to…the rest of the world”. The article says the collection would go to the Smithsonian or Brooklyn Museum, so it’s not as it we’re going to lose the art collection itself; I’d go so far as to wager it would reach a far greater audience in the hands of the Smithsonian.

  3. I’ve been in living in NYC for 12 years, and never have I heard anyone say “you HAVE to see this exhibit at the Folk Art Museum.”  And I have lots of artsy, culturally-savvy friends.  I went once and can’t say I remember anything about the experience, except maybe the gift shop.

    So I’m sad, but not too surprised that it isn’t doing well.

    1. Then you missed out:

      …this exhibit was put on by AFAM at the Armory, but it was part of a larger multi-part exhibit on quilting (went with the wife). And yet, I don’t disagree with you–AFAM should be taking advantage of the crafting movement that’s going on now. They’re just stuck some lame narrow-minded thinking that their own museum is irrelevant. 

  4. This is a shame. As someone who values folk and outsider art, I enjoy this museum every time I visit New York. I wish the article had suggested something a little more useful than “write letters, organize petitions… put some money in the slotted box near the entrance.”

    For anyone interested, there are links on the front page of the museum’s page to donate or become a member:

  5. I love the folk art museum.  I’ve had a couple of wonderful visits there, spending hours wandering through.  There’s so much there that simply makes you smile.  It’s a shame it isn’t considered sexy/artsy/glamorous enough, because people haved missed out on a jewel. 

  6. It’s a great museum. MOMA wouldn’t let me in because I had the “wrong kind of suitcase” so I went next door out of idle curiosity and was delighted. Really welcoming people, a cafe that makes you feel among friends, and a fascinating, eclectic collection of wonderful artifacts. Quilts, Radium Girl, outsider art… it’s been on my recommended places to go in NY ever since.

  7. As a contractual museum educator, I’ve had the pleasure of teaching
    school and access programming at the American Folk Art Museum for the past
    three years. I can say that, from the perspective of someone who’s taught in a
    wide range of museums, AFAM is unique. It would be a tragedy to lose it as an institution
    in New York City and an equal tragedy to break up and disperse the collection.
    I’ve worked in AFAM’s galleries with adults with dementia, autism and
    developmental disabilities, with women who are survivors of trauma, have been homeless and very young mothers, with first-time museum
    goers and with a multitude of other diverse populations. These visitors are
    comfortable and successful learners at AFAM in part because they can see
    themselves reflected in the artwork around them. The American Folk Art Museum is
    a home for work by artists underrepresented in the galleries of other museums:
    women, girls, people of color, people living with homelessness, mental illness,
    disability, disenfranchisement. It is a museum with the power to teach people
    that folk art is not in any way less than the art one might find at another
    institution. Part of its power is that it does not present this art as
    “outside” the canon, does not present it in opposition, or as an aside, or a
    counterbalance, or a footnote, to anything else. Folk art at the American Folk
    Art Museum is varied, inclusive and important in its own right. Folk art
    deserves its own museum; it deserves the American Folk Art Museum.  

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