After 16 years, it’s time to take stock of the Folk Art Society of America’s major events and accomplishments. We have received many requests for this information, making us realize that perhaps members who have not been a part of the organization from its inception may not be aware of what other members often take for granted. Therefore, we are including in the Web site a new article, “16 Years: A History of the Folk Art Society,”  illustrated with old photographs from FASA’s files. It’s part of our ongoing historical documentation — making lists for the record books, if you will. The striking cover of the Spring Folk Art Messenger recapitulates the color covers from the past five years.
An event that has caused a personal stock-taking has been the exhibition of our own collection, Point of View: American Folk Art from the William and Ann Oppenhimer Collection, which originated at the University of Richmond’s March Art Gallery on October 12, 2001. The exhibition had been scheduled to finish its scheduled tour of six venues on April 13, after traveling to Longwood University in Farmville, Va., Orlando’s City Hall Terrace Gallery in Florida; The Art Museum of Western Virginia in Roanoke, Va.; Sweet Briar College in Amherst, Va.; and the Contemporary Art Center in Virginia Beach. My husband and I attended each opening reception, and I gave a slide lecture or gallery talk at least once in each museum. At every stop, the directors, curators, registrars, educational directors and security personnel were most professional, cordial and enthusiastic. We enjoyed the receptions, the lectures, the newspaper and magazine articles — and we appreciated this once-in-a-lifetime experience. Now, there has been a new development: We have received word that several additional showings of the exhibition have been requested, and the art works will continue their journey through at least 2004.
Richard Waller, director of the University of Richmond Museums, selected the artworks for the exhibition, first by looking at photographs and then by looking at the objects scattered throughout our home. He asked us to make a list and take pictures of the pieces we felt should be in the show, saying he would study these and make a tentative list. When we met to make the final decision, he told us that he had about 60 pieces on his list. We had 140 pieces on our list, and we knew we had a problem. I said, “Richard, we have more that 100 pieces in the living room.” Richard quickly replied, “But we don’t want the exhibit to look like your living room!”
Folk art collectors can understand the problem. We think more is more, and sometimes a collection can get out of hand. We did compromise on 86 works, approximately half sculpture and half two-dimensional paintings, drawings and serigraphs. Four works were deemed too fragile to travel and were seen only in Richmond.
It’s a revealing experience to see your collection through the eyes of others. Certain objects looked much better in the well-lit galleries than they did mixed with the furniture and trappings of daily life. Friends who came to the exhibition often remarked, “Where was that? — I never saw that piece before,” about an object that must have been visually lost in our living room.
After the exhibition completes its tour, it will be disassembled, put into the specially built crates and returned to us. We’ll be glad to see certain favorites that we r