by Ann Oppenhimer
Sometimes I am asked, “What does the Folk Art Society of America do?” The most obvious answer is that it publishes the Folk Art Messenger and maintains the headquarters office and research library, plans and produces the Folk Art Society conference held in a different city each October and maintains a popular and informative Web site (which currently is receiving more than 15,000 hits per week). But there are other, less obvious contributions, some of which may result in a folk artist’s work becoming better known. One of the original goals in the society’s mission statement is “to discover, study, promote, preserve, exhibit and document folk art, folk artists and folk art environments.”
Recently, for example, the FASA office received a call from Randy Mason, a filmmaker for the television program “Rare Visions and Roadside Revelations,” operating out of Kansas City, Mo., public television station, KCPT. Mason had acquired the telephone number from a mutual friend who formerly was deputy director of the Virginia Commission for the Arts (one of FASA’s sponsors), now currently with the Arts Council of Kansas City.
Mason and his television crew were canvassing Virginia and several other Southern states to locate outdoor sites of visionary and outsider artists, as well as museums where this art could be viewed. I recommended the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum in Williamsburg and the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore (both already on his list). I also provided the names, addresses and telephone numbers of several artists in Richmond and the surrounding area who I knew would not mind being contacted.
John Anderson, who lives in Louisa, Va., a rural community between Richmond and Charlottesville, called a few days later to say that Mason had visited and videotaped him and his work. He thanked me for the referral and said, “Randy and I had a real good interview.” Mason also visited Robert Howell in Powhatan, Va., and reported that Howell had quite a lot to say once he started talking. Howell, by the way, is recovering from the fire that destroyed his home last November and is back at work.
Mason said these interviews will be featured on the Kansas City channel and that they may be picked up by one of the 50-plus public broadcasting stations around the country which currently air “Rare Visions.” The series recently has been taken by WBGH in Boston, one of the prime public stations. Watch for these spots; you might just catch a glimpse of some Virginia folk artists.
And, turning to the FASA conference, places are filling rapidly for the October 3-6 weekend in Savannah, Ga. Chairmen Joe Adams and Laura Carpenter and their crew have done a superb job with planning, organizing and promoting the exciting and unusual events on tap. Two articles in the current issue (Summer/Fall) of the Messenger describe exhibitions on the agenda; another article previews images of some of the objects to be auctioned during the conference’s popular benefit. This Web site has more information, with registration as well as auction donation forms. To order a conference brochure, call 1-800-527-3655 or write the Folk Art Society, P.O. Box 17041, Richmond, VA 23226.