The new “American Made” exhibit is now open at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. It features pieces from a collection at the American Folk Art Museum. It focuses on early American folk art, with pieces ranging from practical, like weathervanes and quilts, to the absurd, like a whirligig depicting Uncle Sam perched on a bicycle.
Mindy Besaw, a curator at Crystal Bridges, says many of the works wouldn’t normally be presented on the same level as more conventional pieces in the museum’s collection.
“These artists in this exhibition are self-taught artists,” Besaw says. “They may have been trained as apprentices or in boarding schools, compared to artists in our permanent collection [who] may have been more academically trained. So, it’s maybe a bit of an alternative art history… and so, complimentary to our permanent collection.”
In addition to the temporary exhibit, the museum will bring in local artists and craftspeople to offer a different perspective on the collection. Besaw says seeing local artists and talking to them about their work helps connect visitors to the art in new ways.
“The art in the exhibition is really early America, but what we’ve done to compliment that, and to bring it really to the present, is—we’re using local artists to come in to do demonstrations, workshops, and just be here to really translate how are some of these traditions continuing into the present,” says Besaw.
Besaw also says that while “American Made” is the museum’s first venture into folk art, it is not the last. She says that future exhibits hope to focus on work from across the United States.
“American Made” is open July 2 through September 19.