MFA, Boston gets ‘folksy’ in folk art exhibit

Posted on February 9, 2021 by

The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston showcases folk art — also called the “art of the people” — in “Collecting Stories: The Invention of Folk Art.” It opened last weekend and runs through next January 9.

  The exhibition examines how folk art evolved into a “collecting category” at the MFA thanks to the passion of benefactor/donor Maxim Karolik to champion the art of the people.

A folk art painting of Lake Ontario by an unidentified artist in MFA exhibition

  Throughout the 1940s and ’50s, Karolik advocated the then-radical notion of incorporating American “folk art” into the Museum’s collection and disrupting long-held standards and definitions of so-called “fine art.”

  Through his enthusiasm and generosity, the MFA became one of the first encyclopedic museums in the country to actively collect works by artisans, craftspeople, women, schoolchildren, sailors and other artists who were free from the strict rules of traditional Western academic training.

A folk art whirligig at the MFA Boston

  Karolik’s expansive vision of American art proved to be ahead of his time—while MFA curators ultimately accepted its value, the reluctance to display folk art alongside fine art remained for decades to come.

  The exhibition features 59 works on paper shown in two successive rotations and 20 sculptural objects drawn primarily from the MFA’s Karolik Collection of American Folk Art.

  For ticketing info, hours and Covid-19 guidelines, visit

Gallery notes

‘SHELTER’ EVENT: Join local poets and writers tonight, Thursday, February 11, at 7 p.m. in a free virtual reading event in conjunction with the show ‘Shelter: The Art of Caring’ at the Arts League of Lowell’s Greenwald Gallery in ALL headquarters on Market Street through February 28. Stephan Anstey, Diamond Asaneh, Suzanne Beebe, Douglas Bishop, MJ Bujold, Charles Gargiulo, Nancy Lee Jasper, S. C. Thibodeau and PJ Wamala will share their writings on the subject of “Shelter” that are included in the community exhibit, with all proceeds benefiting the Lowell Transitional Living Center. Homeless advocate and author Alexis Ivy will also participate. Emily Ferrara hosts. Free but registration required at

 BLACK HISTORY MONTH:  Local art venues celebrate February’s Black History Month with events and exhibits. At Lowell’s Brush Art Gallery and Studios “Black Light — Visual Articulations in Conjunction with Black History Month” is on view through February 28. Sponsored by the Lura Smith Fund — MCCF,  in conjunction with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and Black History Month, it focuses on cultural imagery, struggle, the human figure and abstract art, using charcoal, pastel graphite, photography and paint in works by Massachusetts and nationally-known artists Thaddeus Miles, Wilda Gerideau Squires, Derrick Jamison, Gwendolyn Lanier and Calvin Thomas. A virtual reception takes place on Saturday, February 20 at 2 p.m. A Zoom link will be sent via an email blast. To join the Brush email list, go to Or RSVP to  To view the exhibit online, go to…Concord Museum hosts a special Black History Month forum on President’s Day, Monday, February 15 at 7 p.m., featuring Dr. Scott Casper discussing his book “Sarah Johnson’s Mount Vernon.” Few national landmarks are better known than George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate. Casper’s book recounts the life of Sarah Johnson, who spent over 50 years there in slavery and emancipation. Through stories of her life and those of her family and friends, Casper shares an intimate picture of Mount Vernon in the 19th and early 20th centuries and gives insight into those who were essential to making Mount Vernon an iconic historic site that attracts worldwide visitors. Go to to register. Participants will receive a live link the day of the program. Books available at the Concord Book Shop at

TRIVIAL PURSUITS:  Calling all history nerds and trivia champs — this one’s for you. Concord Museum hosts an evening of virtual trivia on Thursday, February 18 at 7 p.m. Test your knowledge of American history, geography and all things Concord in this friendly competition. Categories include Who’s the President; Women of Concord; GeoPlunge: Where History and Geography Intersect and New Beginnings: Inventions and Inventors. Play individually or as a team with household members. Prizes awarded to the top three players or teams. Register at, and you will get a Zoom link to join the game. You will be muted upon entry and can choose to have your video on or off during the game. Answers will be submitted via the Zoom chat feature. Check-in begins at 6:45 p.m. to ensure a prompt start.

ICONIC FILMS: The Museum of Russian Icons hosts a two-part virtual film screening and discussion with director Alexander Smoljanski, who made films about two famous Russian artists — Oscar Rabin, leader of the Soviet artistic underground, and his wife, painter Valentina Kropivnitskaya. “OSCAR” screens this Saturday, February 23, at 11 a.m.  Register by today, Thursday, February 11. “In Search of Lost Paradise” screens Saturday, March 6, at 11 a.m. Register by Thursday, March 4. $6, members; $12, nonmembers, per film. Link to to register for “OSCAR” and to for “Paradise.”

Nancye Tuttle’s email address is


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