The future of the High Museum of Art’s folk art department has been in question since the departure in 2013 of curator Susan Crawley, but it’s looking brighter. Today the museum announced a $2.5-million gift from board member Dan Boone and his late wife Merrie Boone to support and expand the department’s art initiatives, and, crucially, endow a permanent, full-time curatorial position to head the department. The Boones have long been supporters of the folk art department, having provided funds for numerous exhibitions over 30 years. Boone is a retired managing partner of Atlanta Capital Management Company. According to a statement from the High, the creation of the Merrie and Dan Boone Curator of Folk and Self-Taught Art gives the museum its seventh endowed curatorial position, reflecting its seven collecting departments. The addition of “self-taught” to the department’s name is the result of the ongoing debate in the field over the appropriate appellation for such art or whether it needs any designation at all. In a press statement, High director Michael E. Shapiro said: “Since starting our Folk Art Department in 1994, the High has worked to raise awareness and appreciation of folk and self-taught artists locally and nationally, building one of the preeminent folk art collections in the U.S.” The museum’s folk and self-taught collection contains some 800 objects, including works by such well-known “outsider” artists as Bill Traylor, Thornton Dial, Ulysses Davis, Mattie Lou O’Kelley, Howard Finster, Henry Darger, and Martin Ramírez, as well as 130 works by Atlanta’s Nellie Mae Rowe given by the late art dealer Judith Alexander.
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