The CAFAM documents 32 years of the LA art scene

The Craft and Folk Art Museum (CAFAM) has played an important historical role in the development of the Los Angeles art scene and has launched the careers of well-known artists who are currently highlighted in the exhibition Golden State of Craft: California 1960-1985, a part of the Getty’s Pacific Standard Time initiative.

In January 2012, the Craft and Folk Art Museum (CAFAM) announced the launch of its online finding aid indexing 32 years (1965 – 1997) of CAFAM Archives located at UCLA Library Special Collections

Former CAFAM librarian Joan Benedetti, working with the Special Collections staff, has completed the 14-year task of creating a keyword-searchable online finding aid now accessible to scholars worldwide in fields including art history, contemporary crafts, folk art, product design, world arts and cultures, folklore, museum studies, library and information studies, women’s studies, and studies of Los Angeles, among others.  This finding aid provides an index to the contents of the 6,208 folders in the 550 document boxes that hold the records.  Individual sections of the finding aid include “scope notes” that describe or offer background on that particular section.

In 1965 Edith Wyle and her business partner, Bette Chase, opened an innovative gallery and restaurant called The Egg and the Eye.  (The “Eye” referred to the gallery, and the “Egg” to the restaurant, which served more than 50 kinds of omelets.)  History was created, and in 1973 Wyle began to turn the successful enterprise into a full-fledged museum.  Economic woes forced the museum to close temporarily at the end of 1997 with the consequent dismantling of the permanent collection, the donation of the museum library to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the gift of 32 years of staff files, comprising the museum’s archives, to UCLA Library Special Collections.  These latter institutional records, which include correspondence, memos, minutes of board and staff meetings, announcements, clippings and press releases, newsletters, posters, blueprints, memorabilia, slides and photographs, audiotapes, videotapes, and films, can be accessed by appointment by calling UCLA Library Special Collections at (310) 825-4988.  The CAFAM finding aid is available through the Online Archive of California.

The Craft and Folk Art Museum (CAFAM), located on Los Angeles’ historic Museum Row, is the city’s only institution exclusively dedicated to celebrating craft and folk art. CAFAM works to recognize emerging artists and make art accessible to all audiences, serving as a forum in which art can be presented and described by the artists and communities who create it.

Highlights from the CAFAM Archives:

Memorabilia from The Egg and The Eye Gallery days: a prospectus for the gallery that was sent out to potential shareholders; hundreds of photographs of the gallery, which gave the furniture maker Sam Maloof his first one-man show in 1966 and mounted 185 exhibitions of folk art and contemporary crafts from all over the globe during 1965 – 1975; a “Collector’s Item” box sold by the gallery containing a small plastic bag of dried herbs, “Rodessa’s Fines-Herbes,” together with an omelette recipe using the herbs, photographs and brief text describing the folk art collection of painter Lee Mullican and his wife, Luchita, and a 45 rpm record, “Songs of the Eskimos”; and items bearing the gallery’s famous logo, which was created by graphic designer Milt Zolotow.

Files of the “PET (Preserving Ethnic Traditions) Project,” thus named because it was a favorite of CAFAM’s founder, Edith Wyle.  Staff worked with volunteers from the Junior League as well as graduate students from UCLA’s Department of Folklore to locate traditional folk artists in the L.A. area.  Over a four-year period, 28 artists from 27 craft traditions were documented with color slides and audio recordings, all of which are preserved in the archives.

Documentation of 142 exhibitions presented by the Craft and Folk Art Museum during 1975 – 1997, files from hundreds of complementary education programs for children and adults, and all of the accompanying publicity and publications.  A single exhibition’s progress can be followed from grant proposals through curatorial correspondence; records of the registrar, educator, and installation designer; announcements; posters; invitations to openings; photographs of receptions; exhibition catalogues; volunteer and docent participation; visitor comment logs; press releases and newspaper reviews; and travel across the U.S. and around the globe.

Two documentary films were produced: one, “Magic in the Afternoon,” of the 1981 Festival of Masks, the weekend event that during 1976 – 1995 annually took over Hancock Park across the street from the museum and involved numerous ethnic community groups in performances, mask-making, and food booths at a time when Los Angeles was only beginning to realize its diversity.  Another film, “Murals of Aztlan: Street Painters of ‘East Los’ “ recorded the progress over a six-week period from blank wall-sized canvases inside the CAFAM galleries to dramatic wall murals done by nine Chicano artists, who worked at scheduled intervals so that visitors could interact with them.

About the Craft and Folk Art Museum
The Craft and Folk Art Museum (CAFAM) champions cultural understanding by presenting exhibitions and programs that bridge local and global cultures, and inspire a sense of inquiry and creativity within all people. Located on Los Angeles’ Museum Row it is the city’s only institution exclusively dedicated to celebrating craft and folk art. CAFAM works to recognize emerging artists and make art accessible to all audiences, serving as a forum in which art can be presented and described by the artists and communities who create it. All exhibitions and public programs are developed in close collaboration with community cultural groups to ensure authentic expression.

In addition to the exhibitions on view, CAFAM hosts the Shop@CAFAM, an on-site and online shopping experience that purveys fair-trade art and handicrafts from local and global artists and artisans who are rooted in both traditional and contemporary craft.

Location and Contact: 5814 Wilshire Boulevard (at Curson) Los Angeles, CA 90036 | 323.937.4230|

Parking: There are three large public parking lots within a block of CAFAM, as well as two-hour street parking.

Hours: Tuesday - Friday: 11am - 5pm; Saturday & Sunday: 12pm - 6pm

General Admission: Members FREE; General $7; Students and seniors $5; Children under 10 FREE; First Wednesday of every month FREE