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Current Exhibits
at the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum

  • 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 September 5, 2017.

  • 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.

    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.


  • Thunderbirds: Jewelry of the Santo Domingo Pueblo

    Santo Domingo Pueblo in New Mexico has the longest jewelry-making tradition of any of the Southwest pueblos.  It stretches back centuries. During the 20th century, however, they created a fascinating type of jewelry that until now has received little attention. Sometimes called Depression jewelry, or, as the makers themselves referred to it, thunderbird jewelry, it is a true expression of folk art. Economic conditions and rise of tourism in the 1930s led to the modification and creation of jewelry made from non-traditional materials like car batteries and the use of the thunderbird motif. On display will be over 100 examples of the necklaces and earrings that were produced in the first half of the 20th century. The exhibit will also explore the technique used to make the jewelry and the families who created the pieces. This loan exhibition is organized by guest curators Roddy and Sally Moore of the Blue Ridge Institute at Ferrum College, Ferrum, Virginia.

    Through Monday, September 5, 2016, in the David and Mary Peebles Gallery

  • Dollhouse

    The World Made Small

    Dollhouses are some of the most popular miniature versions of the real world. On view in the Wilkinson Gallery is a museum favorite — the enormous Long island Dollhouse made around 1900 and fully furnished. The earliest dollhouse in the exhibit was made in 1820 for twin girls. Other houses include a house made in the Chesapeake around 1835 and a colonial revival house made around 1940. While young girls played house, what about the young boys? Wonderful German-made playsets from the 19th century will be featured including a fort, a soldiers' campsite and a farm.

    Through February 2018 in the Rachel Elisabeth and Joshua Ryan Wilkinson Gallery

  • 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