by Ann Oppenhimer
In 1998, the Folk Art Society of America established the Herbert W. Hemphill Jr. Memorial Award in memory of a charter member of the society. “Bert” Hemphill, author and legendary collector, was one of the founders of the American Folk Art Museum in New York City. He was the speaker at FASA’s first conference in 1988, won the second FASA Award of Distinction (in 1990), and was a member of the National Advisory Board since its inception. He was recognized by the Smithsonian Institution when his collection was acquired by that museum and exhibited in 1990 as Made With Passion at the National Museum of American Art.
Since the 1998 Houston conference, the Hemphill Memorial has been funded by a portion of the amount raised by the Folk Art Society’s annual benefit auction. The funds are used to purchase a work of art from a living folk artist, and this work is donated to a museum, usually in the same state in which the conference is held. Beneficiaries have included the University of Texas at Austin, the Owensboro (Ky.) Museum of Fine Art, the Oakland Museum of California, the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum in Williamsburg, Va., The Morris Museum in Augusta, Ga., and Springfield Museum of Art in Springfield, Mo. Artists whose work has been donated include Hector Benavides, Tim Lewis, Ted Gordon, Georgia Blizzard, Lorenzo Scott, Ralph Lanning and Judith Scott. This award thus honors a folk artist and a museum each year.
“When a new work of art comes into the collection, all the old ones sit in judgment of it.”
– Bert Hemphill, speaking to the Folk Art Society’s first conference,
June 6, 1988, in Richmond, Va.