A lively display of extraordinary objects created by ordinary people, “American Folk” is the first major exhibition of folk art at the Museum. Showcasing our pioneering collection and enriched by important works lent by area collectors, the exhibition features monumental family portraits, carved and painted furniture, quilts, decoys, a carousel greyhound—and even a toy Noah’s ark.

The installation includes works in many media grouped together by theme. In the “Family Album” section are portraits of people of all ages, with special emphasis on children.

“Birds and Beasts” includes a splendid group of metal weather vanes (some with traces of their original gilding) that prove how valuable domestic animals were to the agricultural economy.

Exotic animals also fascinated artists, as Young Lion, a calligraphic drawing, and Wilhelm Schimmel’s carved wooden Lion attest. Crowning “God and Country,” the final section of the exhibition, is an extraordinary quilt with Bible stories designed and stitched by a former slave, Harriet Powers. This quilt, as well as the other textiles and works on paper in the show, is seldom on view because of its sensitivity to light.

While offering a window onto everyday life of the past, “American Folk” also provides a glimpse into the future. Its imaginative concepts of display and interpretation may become part of the future reinstallation of the American collections. Accompanied by a random-access audio guide and a lively, full-color publication highlighting some sixty works in the show, the exhibition has special appeal for families.


This exhibition is sponsored by Merrill Lynch. The media sponsor is WBZ-TV 4.