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Top 10 American Folk Art Museums

Written by: Editorial Staff

April 30, 2011
Filed Under Art 


One of the top ten American folk art museumsContributed by Robert Blaine, Top 10 Guru

American folk may not have a reputation for being artistic, but we sure have a history of it, thanks to American folk art.

Patriotism aside, our country has produced some of the greatest art this planet has ever seen. Folk art, unlike fine art, depicts the heart and soul of “the people,” the pictures of this country’s working class, unrepresented and least glamorous, depicted in simple, yet artistic ways. Folk art encompasses ALL ethnicities, races, social castes and regions to bring us the true voices of our early ancestors.

To appreciate our country’s folk art, museums have opened nationwide, all of them brilliant. Yet, some have taken the cake. Or the apple pie. Let’s count down the ten best American folk art museums.

10. The Chase Home Museum of Utah Folk Arts

One of the top ten American folk art museums

One of the best things to happen to Utah since Karl Malone and John Stockton, the Chase Home Museum of Utah Folk Arts is home to the artwork of the finest artists of Utah’s ethnic, native, occupational and rural communities.

9. San Antonio Museum of Art

One of the top ten American folk art museums

Located in the heart of San Antonio, this important museum exhibits local masterpieces from Texas’ most traditional artists, with influences from Spanish colonial and Latin American art.

8. Fenimore Art Museum

One of the top ten American folk art museums

Named after American writer James Fenimore Cooper (I guess Cooper Art Museum sounded too bland), this legendary folk art museum in New York offers dozens of exhibitions, from folk art to American Indian art. Quilts, life masks, paintings, portraits and sculptures are all featured in this historic museum.

7. Folk Art Center

One of the top ten American folk art museums

The Appalachians are such a huge part of American history, being the area where our settlers first landed and where many diverse Native Americans saved our butts. Attracting over 250,000 people every year, the Folk Art Center in Asheville, North Carolina is an Appalachian history museum that pays homage to this part of American culture, featuring hundreds of the region’s art relics from the early 20th century.

6. High Museum of Art

One of the top ten American folk art museums

One of the most visited American art museums in the world, this mesmerizing temple in Atlanta, GA holds over 11,000 works of folk art and European fine art. Its name may sound more like Mick Jagger’s basement, but in reality, the High Museum of Art is a visual feast from America’s past.

5. Huntington Museum of Art

One of the top ten American folk art museums

The Huntington Museum of Art is the largest museum between Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Richmond, and the home of a vast collection of folk art, sculptures and material culture items from this country, England and the Orient. Even for this reason alone, West Virginia ought to be a more popular state.

4. Heritage Museums and Gardens

One of the top ten American folk art museums

One of the grandest museums in the United States, the Heritage Museum and Gardens in Massachusetts is a true landmark of New England, a museum with hundreds of Revolutionary War artifacts, early 20th century folk art displays and some of the coolest rhododendron gardens one may ever find. This museum could easily be mistaken for the Garden of Eden had it not been for New England’s weather.

3. Museum of Appalachia

One of the top ten American folk art museums

No museum can appreciate the early 20th century pioneers in the Appalachians better than this enchanting living history museum. Remembering some of the proudest ages in American history, the Museum of Appalachia is comprised of 30 buildings (including the alleged birthplace of Mark Twain), thousands of art relics, and, yes, one of the largest folk art collections in the entire country.

2. Shelburne Museum

One of the top ten American folk art museums

Over 150,000 artifacts, 39 exhibition buildings and even the 220 foot steamboat, the Ticonderoga, the Shelburne Museum in Vermont sits on 45 sweeping acres of land, hosting a dazzling collection of American folk art. It’s a wonder how they crammed all of that into Vermont.

1. American Folk Art Museum

One of the top ten American folk art museums

Last but not least, the largest, most famous American folk art museum is obviously the American Folk Art Museum. Nestled in Manhattan, New York, this remarkable institution opens doors to the classic American art scene, unleashing maybe the greatest collection of American self-taught artists from the last centuries, exhibitions from this country’s many different ethnic groups and a breathtaking look at what true American folk art is all about.

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