Article by Ann Oppenhimer
The 34th Annual Confernce of the Folk Art Society of America, in Richmond, Va., on October 26 -29, 2023, was a memorable event in the society’s history. It was decided after much discussion and consideration that this would be the last conference to be held. It is difficult to find someone to take on this all-encompassing job that requires almost a year to plan and execute. Instead, we plan to hold small meetings throughout the U. S. as events occur that members of FASA would enjoy attending. Board of Directors member Allison Vogler has volunteered to be the chairman of this project with the help of the National Advisory Board members.
In fact, the first such meeting occurred on November 10, when Tina Cox proposed to Steve Slotin that he hold a get-together for FASA members in Buford. Ga., during his open house preceding the upcoming online Slotin Auction. Members received an emailed invitation, admittedly on short notice, but eight people attended, and at least it was a beginning.
The Richmond conference went well, and attendees enjoyed a variety of interesting events. First of all, we thank John and Mary Helen Willett for opening their home for the Thursday evening Welcome Party. Their marvelous collection of folk art that they have collected over 25 or more years was accompanied by a delicious dinner party.
On Friday, we visited an unusual assortment of more than 1,000 heads (sculptures!) that belong to Reid and Jamie Pierce. Many of the pieces in their collection were created by unknown artists, and most looked like they have a story behind them.
Next, we visited Virginia Union University’s Art Gallery to view a wonderful collection of paintings and watercolors by Thornton Dial, donated by Jim and Barbara Sellman. A large collection of African art that the Sellmans gave was also on view, as well as African American folk art donated by Tom and Donna Brumfield.
Barbara Grey and Art Department Chair Pari Valad reopened the gallery especially for our group that day.
Luncheon at the Country Club of Virginia was followed by a visit to the home of Allison and Jim Vogler, who have an assortment of Southern and Florida folk art plus some eclectic and fascinating items. David Whaley’s home (Folly) on Lexington Road, built in 1928 and designed by the well-known Colonial Williamsburg architect, Thomas Tileston Waterman, featured both contemporary art, quilts and folk art. To end the day, my husband and I welcomed the group to our home for light refreshments and to view our collection.
Saturday, we visited the newly redesigned Virginia Museum of History and Culture, which generously welcomed us for the Symposium and luncheon. We thank and appreciate Jamie Bosket, Karen Sherry, Valerie Cassel Oliver and Alex Nyerges as our speakers. We enjoyed Buz & Ned’s barbecue at the VMHC before viewing the museum’s galleries. In the afternoon, we visited the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts to view their exhibitions of art from all over the world. We saw the exhibition of artist Willie Anne Wright, 99, who has been a member of FASA since 1987 – the 6th member to join!
Saturday night featured our Auction & Dinner, with many artworks on auction that were donated by FASA members, friends and artists. Auction Chairman Randall Lott worked for over two months to make both the online and the live auctions function smoothly. Tina Cox was again our intrepid auctioneer, with Vali Braselton and David Jones assisting her on the job. They were all essential to the auction’s success!
Sunday was celebrated with a bus trip to Williamsburg to see the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum and the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum, with lunch at the Abby Aldrich Cafe’. We were thrilled to view the prominent placement of a sculpture by Virginia artist Georgia Blizzard that FASA donated to the museum in 2001.
We thank the FASA Board of Directors for their help, especially Mary K. McDonald for collecting the list of Richmond Restaurants; Jim Sellman for being the bus captain; Vernon Carter for assembling the publications of Richmond museums; Allison Vogler and John Willett for opening their homes; and Brian Sieveking for arranging the purchase of FASA’s gift to the Virginia Museum of History & Culture – another remarkable piece by Georgia Blizzard.
But most of all, we thank all of you who came to the 34th FASA conference, and for making it fun and exciting for everyone to be together again! Read more about the conference and see the photos in this issue of the Messenger.
ANN OPPENHIMER is the Executive Director of the Folk Art Society of America
As seen in the Folk Art Messenger: