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Current Exhibits
at the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum

  • From Forge and Furnace:
    A Celebration of Early American Iron

    Can iron and art be used in the same sentence? Absolutely! This hard, often black or gray, metal was used to make everything from stoves and hinges to andirons and weathervanes. As with most folk art, though, the makers of these utilitarian pieces chose to embellish their work to make them interesting and attractive although no more functional than if they left them unadorned. A stove could still heat a room whether it was a simple iron box or iron cast into a statue of George Washington. This exhibition highlights these decorative, yet useful, objects made in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Iron mining and iron production were established in the colonies almost as soon as settlers arrived. By the American Revolution, Virginia had several furnaces providing the iron that was made into firebacks, stoveplates and a myriad of household items like ladles, toasters, trivets and tammels.

    Opening Nov. 24, 2016 in the Peebles Gallery

  • We the People: American Folk Portraits

    In this anniversary year, the Folk Art Museum celebrates with a new exhibition featuring a wonderful collection of American folk portraits. One of the first folk art pieces Mrs. Rockefeller acquired was a charming painting of a child. From there, her collection grew. On view will be images of children with their favorite pet or toy, companion portraits of husband and wife, and paintings of individuals. These early American folk portraits are treasured for their historical significance as well as their aesthetic appeal. Without folk painters, the faces of many members of the middle and, sometimes, lower classes would not have been recorded. The portraits reveal much about ordinary people: how they lived, what they valued, and how they wished to be remembered. Folk portraits give us glimpses of the countless people who shaped America as vitally and lastingly as her better known movers and shakers. The artists too left something of themselves. They did not achieve their occupation through formal guidance or direction from others but, instead, through inborn talent and intuition. On view will be old favorites from the collections as well as new acquisitions never before exhibited. This exhibition is made possible through the generosity of Don and Elaine Bogus.

    Opening May 6, 2017 in the Clark Gallery

  • Color and Shape: The Art of the American Theorem

    In the early years of the 19th century, theorem painting was a popular activity in both the school and home. Young girls were taught to use stencils to create colorful still life pictures, usually painted on fabric. Ladies’ magazines of the period also gave instruction to those wanting to try the technique at home. This exhibition in the Guyton Gallery, features 11 paintings, exploring how the theorems were made and how individual artists, using very similar stencils, created their own take on the subject. Today many of the theorems survive without the name of the maker, but four pieces in the exhibition are signed, providing the opportunity to take a closer look at the diverse backgrounds of the artists.

    Through January 2018.

  • German Toys in America

    This exhibition will feature a colorful variety of 19th-century German wooden toys from dolls and soldiers to arks and animals. During the period, around two thirds of the toys in American shops came from Germany. Known as The Toy Workshop of the World and The Land of Toys, Germany dominated the toy market for most of the 19th-century. American toy sellers ordered their merchandise through illustrated catalogs or sent agents to Germany who personally selected the best stock with which they filled their shelves. Children played house with dolls, waged battles with soldiers, reenacted the great flood with an ark full of animals, created towns, and managed their own zoos.

    Through 2018

  • A Century of African-American Quilts

    This exhibit showcases twelve colorful and stunning quilts, half of which have never before been seen by the public, spanning more than a century after 1875. The quilts of African Americans varied widely, depending on the date, location or community, the purpose for which the quilt was made, and the personal artistic vision of the quilt maker. The bold designs and brilliant colors of the quilts speak to a longstanding cultural and artistic tradition within which the women designed and created their quilts. Although none of the quilts were made during the era of slavery in America, several of the quilters represented were born into slavery and others descended from enslaved families. Each quilt maker used the humble materials of fabric and thread to create a bedcover that was warm and practical as well as brilliant in color and artistry. This exhibition was made possible thanks to gifts from Cindy and Sheldon Stone of Los Angeles, California, and the W. K. Kellogg Foundation c/o Cynthia and Robert Milligan of Lincoln, Nebraska.

    Through May, 2018, in the Foster and Muriel McCarl Gallery

  • American Ship Paintings

    This exhibition of 5 paintings from the Folk Art collection highlights the popularity of ship portraits. In the mid-19th century, ship captains and owners commissioned artists to depict their sea-going vessels in all their glory. Included in the exhibit are 3 large paintings by James Bard, one of which depicts the schooner yacht America, the first winner of the trophy now known as the America's cup. Steamboats plied the rivers of 19th-century America and are represented in the exhibit in two paintings, one of which is over 6 feet long, giving an impressive, detailed view of the side-wheeler. Each portrait depicts a specific ship with a story to tell.


  • Sidewalks to Rooftops: Outdoor Folk Art

    Sidewalks to Rooftops: Outdoor Folk Art

    This exhibit in the Leslie Anne Miller and Richard B. Worley Gallery examines signboards, storefront figures, weather vanes, marine carvings, whirligigs, carousel animals, and other pieces originally intended for use outdoors. These 19th- and 20th-century works survived the elements and bear witness to the creative spirit that once enlivened the American landscape.

    This exhibition was made possible by a gift from Barry M. Boone in loving memory of his wife, Linda.

    Ongoing exhibition

  • Down on the Farm

    Down on the Farm

    This popular exhibition in the Penelope P. and Dr. Sergio V. Proserpi Gallery follows the story of Prince, a carved wooden dog, as he explores the countryside and meets up with animals in paintings, sculptures, and toys. Read rhyming text that tells of his adventures as he encounters weather vane roosters, carved ducks, and wooden horses.

    Ongoing exhibition

  • Conserving the Carolina Room

    Conserving the Carolina Room

    This exhibition in the Rex and Pat Lucke Gallery highlights the current research on and conservation of an 1836 painted room acquired by the museum in the 1950s. Each board, wainscot and door has been investigated and treated to bring it closer to the original appearance.

    The conservation of the Carolina Room was made possible by Mr. and Mrs. Rex A. Lucke of Elkhorn, Nebraska, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional conservation support is provided by the Mildred and J.B. Hickman Conservation Endowment and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Endowed Conservation Fund.

    Ongoing exhibition

  • Cross Rhythms: Folk Musical Instruments

    Cross Rhythms: Folk Musical Instruments

    This exhibition in the Elizabeth M. and Joseph M. Handley Gallery features banjos, fiddles, and dulcimers from the 19th and early 20th centuries. Highlights include a piano built into a chest of drawers and a record-playing hippocerous.

    Ongoing exhibition