The American Folk Art Museum (AFAM) has been in dire financial straits in recent months, but the establishment announced this week that it will continue to provide a cohesive collection of contemporary and traditional folk art in its current location. The museum, located at Lincoln Square in Manhattan, received financial donations of undisclosed amounts from the Ford Foundation and other trustees.
The museum released a plan outlining its hopeful vision for increasing the museum's growth and sustainability: "The plan includes the election of Chairman Laura Parsons and President Edward V. (Monty) Blanchard Jr., a new financial strategy that ensures the Museum’s fiscal viability, and a dynamic future while continuing its exhibitions, research, and educational programs at Two Lincoln Square." The new leaders both expressed excitement and passion toward AFAM, and a willingness to move forward.
Since July, the museum has been closed, after selling its West 53rd Street location to the Museum of Modern Art, and returning to its prior, smaller Lincoln Center location. The 53rd St. locale opened in 2001, costing $32 million in borrowed bonds. According to the New York Times: "In a struggle made worse by the recession, the museum was unable to attract the crowds it had expected or the wealthy contributors it needed." Its staff of 50 is now down to 12.
Yet the Ford Foundation saw value in AFAM worth protecting. Darren Walker, Vice President for Education, Creativity and Free Expression at the Ford Foundation, praised the museum's collection of "folk art, drawn from diverse and self-taught artists" as "a powerful showcase of the American spirit and an important public treasure for the people of our city."
In an effort to increase visibility, AFAM will collaborate with other New York museums, including The Brooklyn Museum, the New-York Historical Society and the Museum of Art and Design. The Metropolitan Museum of Art will also display 15 major works of art from the AFAM collection.
With all involved parties anticipating innovative methods of increasing stability and profitability, the American Folk Art Museum hopes to boldly enter a new phase of its life as a landmark of American history and culture.