by Ann Oppenhimer
With a heavy heart, we announce the untimely death of Anton (Tony) Rajer on November 18, 2011, of a heart attack in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, while he was restoring a WPA mural for an elementary school there.
A resident of Madison and Green Bay, Wis., he was an art conservator who worked on many well-known folk art environments, murals and installations, most notably Nek Chand’s Rock Garden in Chandigarh, India, where he was one of the principals of the Nek Chand Foundation. He was graduated in art history and chemistry from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He also received certificates in conservation from Harvard among many other places. He taught in the School of Continuing Education at UW-Madison. In addition, he lectured and led workshops with students in the U.S. and around the world.
Rajer was the author of Rudy Rotter’s Spirit-Driven Art: The Odyssey and Evolution of an Artistic Vision (1998); Public Sculpture in Wisconsin: An Atlas of Outdoor Monuments, Memorials and Masterpieces in the Badger State (1999); and Museums, Zoos and Botanical Gardens of Wisconsin (2006).
He wrote numerous articles for the Folk Art Messenger regarding his travels, conservation work and other folk art projects. A true friend and an enthusiastic supporter of the Folk Art Society, he had been a member of the National Advisory Board from its inception, attending almost every annual conference where he often served as the witty and enthusiastic auctioneer for the FASA benefit auctions.
Many members of the Folk Art Society participated in the tours of India, Italy and Peru that Rajer organized and led. His continued quest for knowledge and the sharing of this knowledge was unbounded.
Prior to the tragedy of September 11, 2001, he had been conserving a mural for the American Folk Art Museum in New York City. Upon hearing of the disaster, he went immediately to the Red Cross to offer his services and spent more than two weeks aiding the survivors and responders, where his command of five languages and his desire to serve others were invaluable. For his work during 9/11, the Folk Art Society presented him with a special Award of Distinction at the 2001 conference, held one month later.
He is survived by his wife, Christine Style, and her two daughters, Sarah and Victoria Davitt. A memorial fund is being established in his name and that information will be available later. Tony Rajer has left behind a remarkable legacy of accomplishments, of friendships, of people helped and comforted, of love from the many people he met and cared for.
Contributions in memory of Tony Rajer will go to a memorial fund to benefit the restoration of Howard Finster's Paradise Garden.
Photograph courtesy Christine Style.