Folk art reflects our cultural identity and often serves as a window into a community’s values and aesthetics. Here are five places where you and your family can learn more about this art form:
1 American Folk Art Museum, New York: This important museum’s collection is called an “unabashed song of praise to the nation,” reflecting the idea that folk art is often patriotic or created to commemorate an important event in history. With more than 5,000 objects on hand, dating from the 18th century to the present, the museum celebrates the creative talents of individuals with little or no formal training. View traditional and contemporary artistic expressions including drawings, tinsel art, quilts and painting. Families and Folk Art, offered the first Saturday of every month, introduces children ages 4-12 to folk art through conversation and hands-on art activities inspired by objects within the museum. Admission is free.
2 International Quilt Study Center & Museum, Lincoln, Neb.: Visitors have access to the world’s largest publicly held quilt collection, thanks to a local couple who donated their own 1,000-piece quilt collection. Your family will learn about hand and machine quilt-making traditions and objects used in this folk art. The more than 3,500-piece collection represents work found in 30 countries over four centuries, including doll, French, African-American and Amish crib quilts.
3 The Holiday Folk Fair, Milwaukee: Song, dance, food and crafts dominate this five-day festival that celebrates cultures from around the world. The gathering – held each year on the weekend before Thanksgiving at the Wisconsin Exposition Center – is considered the country’s largest indoor multicultural festival. Designed to encourage peace through respect and understanding, the fair includes dancers from more than 30 ethnic groups and offers student workshops and language lessons.
4 Cherokee Heritage Center, Park Hill, Okla.: Learn about the legacy of the Cherokee people in this museum dedicated to preserving the native people’s culture through the sharing of basketry, pottery and other artistic endeavors. The center is on the National Register of Historic Places and is designated by the National Park Service as an interpretive site for the Trail of Tears. From now through March 1, guests can learn about life as a Cherokee villager in the 1700s in an interactive environment.
5 Museum of International Folk Art, Santa Fe, N.M.: Welcoming visitors since 1953, this museum houses the world’s largest collection of folk art, with more than 150,000 artifacts documenting cultural identity, traditions and aesthetics from around the world. Children enjoy the toy and book areas as well as docent-led art and puppet-making sessions, an iPod Touch tour and a station to listen to animal stories. Admission is free for children 16 and under.