PART TWO – Visit the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe, NM

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Museum of International Folk Art Multiple Visions Gallery, details of exhibit cases 11‐20, 11‐29, 13‐14 and 17‐3. Photos by Monica Goslin.

PART TWO – Visit the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe, NM

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.

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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.

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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 For example, the Peruvian retablos were originally made to show religious scenes, and today artists still create those scenes while also making new retablos in memory of events during the 1980-2000 civil war or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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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*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!

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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!

http://monicagoslin.photoshelter.com/gallery/USA-Santa-Fe-New-Mexico/G0000fdJnhHHan5Q/

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Visit the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe, NM

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

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PART ONE – Visit the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe, NM

SantaFe-NM-FolkArtMuseum-Part1-MGoslin-BLOG
Museum of International Folk Art Multiple Visions Gallery, detail of exhibit case 13‐6. Photo by Monica Goslin.

PART ONE – Visit the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe, NM

I grew up going to Santa Fe, New Mexico every other summer to visit my grandparents, and one thing we always did was going to the Museum of International Folk Art. We took an afternoon to visit the Girard Collection, which is still my favorite. You walk through the collection and see displays of villages of dolls, a band of musicians made up of wooden dolls, an entire marketplace, street scenes, and a river with colorful boats. It is a fantastical exhibit that delights all ages.

Recently I had the opportunity to speak with two curators at the museum. Below is my interview with: Laura Addison – Curator of European & American Folk Art Collections.

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1.) What brought you to the Museum of International Folk Art? Have you always been interested in folk art?

Prior to coming to the folk art museum, I worked as the contemporary art curator at the NM Museum of Art. One of my abiding interests is to bridge the hi art/lo art divide and I was always interested in the conversation between contemporary art practitioners and craft, vernacular arts, etc. The folk art museum was my way to broaden my understanding of American art history by being inclusive of all manner of material objects. I have come to believe that folk art inserts itself into many facets of artistic practice and this dialogue, and the margins and gray areas of folk art, are what interest me the most.

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2.) Does your expertise in American Folk Art include both North and South America? Are you involved in the upcoming exhibit: Crafting Memory?

Our curatorial areas are divided geographically, so I cover North America and Europe. My colleague Amy Groleau does Latin America, and the Crafting Memory exhibition is hers.

(See part two for the interview with Amy Groleau!).

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3.)  Do you get to travel for work, finding new items to add to the museum collection?

Yes, we do have the opportunity to travel for research for upcoming projects. We are fortunate to have the support of a foundation established by the museum’s founder, Florence Dibell Bartlett, for travel grants for field work and exhibition and collection research. A lot happens during these research trips, including making acquisitions for the collection. Much of our collecting happens in conjunction with preparations for exhibitions, so exhibition research and acquisitions dovetail nicely during these work trips.

a.  What has been your favorite travel destination for museum collection pieces?

This past January I had the opportunity to make a quick, preliminary trip to the region of Switzerland, a mountainous region known for, among other things, cheese, skiing, and the traditional cut-paper art form known as scherenschnitt (in German) or decoupage (in French). We have a large collection of paper cuts from around the world–for example, papel picado from Mexico or wycinanki from Poland or jianzhi from China. But we have no paper-cuts from Switzerland, and yet it’s such a rich and active tradition there. When I went to Pays-d’Enhaut, I met with a half dozen artists and saw two tremendous collections. I have in mind to do an exhibition on this material in the future, so this was my first foray into planning this project and collecting in this area. I didn’t make any acquisitions this trip, but down the road I will.

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b.  How fast is the collection growing and is it mostly dolls, textiles, or a mix?

The collection is growing very quickly, currently at a pace of 500-1,000 objects per year. In the past number of years, we’ve seen that as collectors are downsizing, and their children may not share their love of the objects they’ve spent a lifetime collecting, we are being offered large collections of folk and traditional arts. When these are of particularly high quality, when there is great depth and documentation of their collections, and when it fills a gap in our collection, it’s a great benefit to the overall scope of the collection. Dolls and textiles are just part of the collection. We have a wide array of objects, from masks, paintings, and sculptures to furniture and functional objects in a variety of materials such as ceramic, wood, tin, glass, etc.

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4.)  The Girard Collection has over 100,000 items but only about 10% is on display! Are items rotated in the permanent collection?

Ten percent of the Girard Collection is on display in the permanent exhibition Multiple Visions, which was curated, designed and installed by Alexander Girard. The objects in The objects in Multiple Visions don’t get rotated out. Multiple Visions is really a great example of Girard’s design work, one of the few remaining as he envisioned it, so you have to think of it as a discrete environment or installation. Rather, other collections objects get exhibited in our changing exhibitions. The permanent collection is typically the launching pad for the exhibitions we develop here. The collection is so strong, there’s a lot to work with.

a. This may be a silly question but how often are the display dusted? That must be quite the undertaking especially with the clay figurines.

Yes, cleaning the Girard Wing is quite an undertaking. Our preparator does regularly check on the displays and clean as needed, change lights as needed, look for other issues that need attention. We did undertake a massive cleaning most recently in 2010.As we prepare for bringing the traveling Girard retrospective organized by the Vitra Design Museum in Germany, which will be here in 2019, we will be doing another cleaning on that same scale.

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b.  Are the displays based on the culture and country the dolls come from? Is there a story within the display? (See my photo above in regards to the answer below!).

Girard sometimes created displays that were country- or culture-specific, such as the Peruvian village or the Pueblo village, but other times he put objects from different cultures together that may share something else in common–for example, beadwork from various cultures are on display side by side in two parts of Multiple Visions. Alexander Girard was definitely telling stories with his displays, simply by the fact of creating scenes as if they were theaters on display. One of my favorites is the Mexican baptism scene that features ceramic figures by the Aguilar family of Ocotlan de Morelos in Oaxaca, Mexico. Girard created a display almost like a stage set, with a foreground, center stage and background, with the family of the baby being baptized standing at the front and a crowd of others receding toward the back. Where you see the narrative unfold most in Girard’s displays are his village scenes, where he placed buildings and landscape elements and grouped figures standing within this miniature environment and interacting with each other. Girard’s displays really lend themselves to the visitor crafting a narrative to describe what they see.

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c.  Do items from the collection travel to other museums?

Yes, we often lend objects from our collection to other museums. However what is on view in the Girard Wing is permanently displayed, so the works that travel are not those on display but others from the collection.

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5.) Do you have any input into what is in the gift shop based on an exhibit?

We always provide the shop with suggestions of books we’ve found helpful in our preparations for shows, or put them in contact with the living artists we’ve worked with. But ultimately, they make those decisions based on what they know about buying trends.

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6.)  Who designs the new exhibitions and how much input do you get in that?

We work with exhibit designers who are either in the museum system or outside contractors whom we hire. (The museum system includes the 4 state museums in Santa Fe: us, Museum of Indian Arts & Culture, New Mexico History Museum, and the New Mexico Museum of Art. We share the exhibits department, which includes the exhibition and graphic designers, as well as preparators, fabricators, and conservators.) A curator works very closely with the exhibit designer and graphic designer to arrive at the look, feel, layout, and installation of the exhibition. We operate as a team. Curators provide the content, context, the guiding principles and groupings necessary to tell the story; the designers make the works shine and best tell this story.

a.  Do you work with the design department on exhibition books and brochures?

Yes, for brochures, we work with our graphic designers. For our publications/books, we work with whatever publisher is publishing and distributing the book. Curators are closely involved with the entire book process, including text, images, and design.

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8.)  What is an exhibit you would love to organize and curate for the museum?

I am working on a long-term project called Mining Folk: Troubling Taxonomies of Art and Design, which will include the work of a dozen contemporary artists all of whom reference folk art in their work in such a way that they change the conversation and disrupt closed notions of “art,” “folk art,” “craft,” et cetera. By “changing the conversation,” I mean their use of folk art brings new awareness or understanding to the folk art source material as well as its use in a contemporary context. Maybe this is social commentary, or perhaps it is a different way of understanding a political situation.

*Thank you to Laura Addison 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!

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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!

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Visit the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe, NM

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

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