Grand Rapids Art Museum exhibit to feature American folk art

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American Perspectives: Stories from the American Folk Art Museum Collection is available from May 22 through Aug. 28. Courtesy GRAM

The Grand Rapids Art Museum’s newest exhibit features more than 80 American folk art objects, spanning from paintings and pottery, to quilts, needlework and sculpture, which were created by folk artists, often referred to as self-taught artists.

American Perspectives: Stories from the American Folk Art Museum Collection is available from May 22 through Aug. 28 and organized into four sections — founders, travelers, philosophers and seekers.

“American Perspectives offers our visitors a chance to look at America through the eyes and experiences of folk artists,” said Dana Friis-Hansen, GRAM director and CEO. “The diversity of experience and perspective is what strengthens our community, and we look forward to sharing a platform for stories that have often been untold throughout history.”

Some of the artworks in the exhibition will represent the perspectives of groups such as enslaved people, immigrants and people with disabilities.

“American Perspectives includes traditional artworks like portraiture and landscape painting to more unexpected pieces like carousel figures, wood carvings and dolls,” GRAM assistant curator Jennifer Wcisel said. “The craftsmanship and beauty of each work are remarkable, but what truly makes them come alive are the diverse stories behind them. From Felipe Archuleta, who was unable to find work as a carpenter and began creating life-sized animal sculptures to Jessie B. Telfair, a black cook in Georgia who created her Freedom Quilt after being fired from her job when she tried to register to vote. I hope visitors will find stories that relate to their own lives and the social and political issues of the present.”

Museum visitors also can share their stories as part of the exhibition through response stations and hands-on activities.

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