American Perspectives: Stories from the American Folk Art Museum Collection

May 22, 2021 — Aug 28, 2021

American Perspectives: Stories from the American Folk Art Museum Collection tells the unfolding story of America, from its inception to the present, through the work of American folk artists.

Folk artists, sometimes referred to as self-taught artists, are individuals whose talents emerged from personal experience rather than formal training. Their creations are beautiful, diverse, truthful, often utilitarian, and rooted in their individual heritage or community.

The exhibition features over 80 folk art objects, from paintings and pottery, to quilts, needlework, and sculpture. These fascinating artworks span the entirety of our nation’s history, offering firsthand testimony to the people, places, and events of our culture. The exhibition reveals both the diversity and similarity of the American experience across time and place. It reinforces how many of our society’s current issues — immigration, political turmoil, economic uncertainty, and loss of personal liberties — have been concerns in the past. Visitors will see the vital role that folk art plays as material evidence of American history. The artworks broaden our understanding of the United States, expanding upon and personalizing our national narrative. It gives voice to individuals outside the social mainstream. Many of the works present the perspectives of marginalized groups, such as enslaved people, immigrants, and people with disabilities.

The works are organized into four sections — Founders, Travelers, Philosophers, and Seekers — that respond to such themes as nationhood, freedom, community, imagination, opportunity, and legacy.

The exhibition is organized by the American Folk Art Museum, New York, with support provided by Art Bridges.

Originally curated for installation at the American Folk Art Museum, February 11, 2020 — January 3, 2021, by Stacy C. Hollander, Independent Curator. Tour coordinated by Emelie Gevalt, Curator of Folk Art, the American Folk Art Museum.

Exhibition Support

Support for this exhibition is generously provided by:

  • Wege Foundation
  • The Meijer Foundation
  • James and Mary Nelson
  • Greg and Meg Willit
  • Lizbeth O’Shaughnessy and Terry Rathbun
  • Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs
  • National Endowment for the Arts
  • Ken Betz and Pat Brewer
  • brightly
  • Robert Daverman, AIA / Grand Rapids Community Foundation
  • Eenhoorn, LLC.
  • Erin Gravelyn
  • Jeff Gurney and Xuesi Li Gurney
  • Haworth, Inc.
  • Dirk and June Hoffius
  • Martin and Enid Packard
  • Prime Buchholz
  • Triangle Associates, Inc.
  • Dr. Ghayas and Joy Uddin

Additional funding is provided by the GRAM Exhibition Society. 

Lead Exhibition Sponsors

Exhibition Videos

Installation photography