I had the opportunity to speak with: Amy Groleau, Curator of Latin American Collections. Amy Groleau spoke with me on the phone about her work at the museum. Please note that the answers are not direct quotes.
1.) What brought you to the Museum of International Folk Art? Have you always been interested in folk art?
Amy Groleau has been with the museum for 3 years now and came from academics with a background in anthropology and archeology. Groleau sees folk art as a culture’s heritage, but not just about the past but also the living culture. ‘Culture is a living thing, it’s a verb’ Groleau emphasizes. Folk art builds on the past and can be used as a ‘spring board for solutions and a meeting place for arts/culture.’ With her academic background, Groleau brings a fresh perspective to her studies at the museum and upcoming exhibits.
2.) Does your expertise in American Folk Art include both North and South America? Are you involved in the upcoming exhibit: Crafting Memory?
Yes! This upcoming exhibition (“Crafting Memory: The Art of Community in Peru” on display from December 3, 2017 to March 8, 2019) was conceptualized by Amy Groleau. In fact, exhibitions at the museum are driven by curators and their interests; for example, if they see a gap in the collection they can develop the research and develop an exhibition. The idea for the exhibit came from previous research and the concept of ‘culture as a living thing, building from the past.’ Groleau aims to show how a culture can ‘use artwork to heal, create solidarity and hope.’ The exhibit will show the traditional folk art beside the new generation‘s adaptation of that tradition. For example, the Peruvian retablos were originally made to show religious scenes, and today artists still create those scenes while also making new retablos in memory of events during the 1980-2000 civil war or current events. Another example is the Shipibo tribe, making themselves visible by bringing their traditional art into cities with public works and murals.
3.) Do you get to travel for work, finding new items to add to the museum collection?
Amy Groleau has traveled to Peru for the purpose of the upcoming exhibition “Crafting Memory: The Art if Community in Peru.” The exhibit will be made up of artwork from the museum, about 40%, and newly acquired works from these trips.
a. What has been your favorite travel destination for museum collection pieces?
Peru has been the main focus for the upcoming exhibition. A new discovery for Groleau on her travels has been some Shipibo tribes people living in Lima. This rain forest tribe is preserving their arts and traditions even while in the country‘s capital with murals and public works.
4.) My favorite part of the museum is the Girard Collection, 10% of which is on display at the museum. Where is that other 90%?
Amy Groleau offices are downstairs and by the storage. Groleau has an interesting take on the other 90% of the collection: there is a world going on below the feet of visitors; where research is being done, conservationists are hard at work and an army of people are working behind the scenes.
5.) Do you have any background information on the photos above (photos of the Girard Collection)?
The toy shop (bottom right image) of toys shopping for toys will make you smile. In fact, in the toy shop scene, Curator Amy Groleau, shares that the framed poster in the background of the shop is an image by the famous Mexican artist Jose Guadalupe Posada.
6.) Do you have any input into what is in the gift shop based on an exhibit?
Yes, Groleau is actually putting the shop in touch with current artists that will be in the upcoming “Crafting Memory: The Art if Community in Peru” exhibition. This is a wonderful way for the museum to represent folk art as a living and contemporary art form as well as supporting living artists.
7.) Do you have a favorite item in the museum?
Currently for Groleau it is a Peruvian skirt collected by the museum founder, Florence Dibell Bartlett. The skirt is a bright yellow wool with a colorful hem of flowers. But for Amy Groleau, that favorite item changes from day to day, which is understandable considering how many items the museum has!
8.) Is there anything about the museum that people don’t know that you find very interesting and would want to share?
Every year there is a folk art market with about 125 booths with art from all over the world. The museum does try to purchase from the market but even more interesting is when the museum invites these artists in to see the collections and even the storage items. From this invitation artists can see art from their countries and on some occasions have even recognized work from their own families.
Also the museum is working on their online catalog where you can see items grouped by collections or exhibitions. This is a continuing project!
*Thank you to Amy Groleau for taking the time to answer questions and provide more information about the museum! Also thank you to Ruth LaNore, Registrar at the Museum for contacts and photo permissions!
So on your next visit to Santa Fe, make sure to visit the Museum of International Folk Art. There is so much to see, it’s kid friendly, and now you have an insider curatorial understanding!
*For more photos of Santa Fe, New Mexico visit my travel photography website by clicking here. You can purchase prints and canvas prints from the site!
Admissions and Hours: Open 10 to 5 (except Mondays and major holidays)
Tickets are $12 for adults/seniors, $11 for kids, free for kids under 16
- First Sundays of the month – free for New Mexico residents