Collection of Mexican Folk Art to Distinguish Museum
During a press conference held at the Tyler Museum of Art, TMA Director Kimberley Tomio was joined by Laura and Dan Boeckman in announcing that the couple donated one of the nation’s largest and most comprehensive collections of contemporary Mexican folk art to the Tyler Museum of Art. The collection is titled The Laura and Dan Boeckman Collection of Mexican Folk Art, and includes over 650 pieces collected in the last two decades from every state in Mexico, excluding Chiapas. The gift is the largest single donation by one source in the Museum’s history.
“We are overwhelmed by the generosity of Laura and Dan Boeckman in not only choosing to share their immense collection with the Museum, but also their commitment to sharing it with the public,” said Mrs. Tomio. “The gift distinguishes the TMA and also broadens our collection to further represent the diverse and vibrant culture in which we live.” The Museum installed a permanent wall case in the lobby dedicated to showing pieces of the collection in an area of the Museum that is always open and free to the public.
The announcement of the gift coincides with two major anniversaries for Mexico, the 200th anniversary of its independence and also the 100th anniversary of the country’s revolution. “The year 2010 will forever be significant to the Tyler Museum of Art now as a reminder of our country’s connection to Mexico both from a historic and contemporary perspective, and we are thrilled to announce this gift during such a significant anniversary year,” said Mrs. Tomio.
Mr. Boeckman commented that one of the reasons he and his wife chose the TMA to be the recipient of the gift was because of its plans to build a new museum. “We are very supportive of the Museum and hope that this gift will help further the TMA’s progress towards completion of the new building project,” he said. “We also wanted to find a city that had a large Hispanic population.” According to the Office of the State Demographer, in 2009, the Hispanic population in Tyler totaled 40,345, nearly 20 percent of the city’s total population. The Tyler Independent School District reports that in 2008-2009, 38.9 percent of its overall student population in grades kindergarten through twelfth grade was Hispanic/Latino.
“The vision statement of the TMA states that the Museum will be ‘a destination for people seeking a dynamic culturally enriching experience in the visual arts.’ The Laura and Dan Boeckman Collection of Mexican Folk Art ensures that the Museum’s collection represents the cultural heritage of the growing segment of our community. This is important as the Museum strives to serve our local and regional population in its diverse entirety,” said Mrs. Tomio. “We look forward to promoting awareness and understanding of the rich artistic legacy demonstrated by this collection in our educational programming both for students and adults.”
About the Collection
The Boeckmans, Dallas-area patrons of the arts who count the Museum Tower project in the city’s downtown arts district as their own, collected the vast bulk of the artworks during their travels in Mexico. “Both my wife and I have traveled extensively in Mexico, and we spent a lot of time in the interior, especially during the late 1980s and early 1990s,” said Mr. Boeckman. “We began collecting pieces of folk art, and we eventually decided to make an effort to collect pieces from every region. Stephen Vollmer was instrumental in this process.” Stephen Vollmer, former curator of Art of the Americas at the Tucson Museum of Art and former chief curator at the El Paso Museum of Art, helped arrange local contacts for the Boeckmans, drove them to sites, and assisted them in other ways while he worked in Mexico.
“The mass of the collection was gathered in-situ [in the place they were produced] and then crated and packed at the time of acquisition,” said Vollmer. Then the crates would either be flown or driven back into the states. Mr. Boeckman says that he and his wife felt compelled to preserve this art form that at the time of their collecting was already changing, if not beginning to disappear.
“Much of Mexican folk art is utilitarian,” he explained. Decorative plates, for example, are expensive to produce which inhibits their production by contemporary folk artists. “It’s simply cheaper to buy paper plates than to make them yourself. Also, the untrained folk artists are diminishing in number for various reasons, one being that their communities have been disrupted,” said Mr. Boeckman.
Few comparable collections are as comprehensive as the Boeckman Collection, making it exceptionally representative of Mexican folk art. [San Antonio Museum of Art’s collection consisting of thousands of pieces, formed when a large portion of the Rockfeller Collection was gifted, is a leading collection of its kind. The Boeckman collection, while smaller, offers an excellent “view into Mexican culture, according to Mr. Vollmer, and provides a perspective of historical and contemporary values that complements the academic art that most museums concentrate on.” Mexican folk art has made considerable impact on American art, especially that associated with the American Southwest.
Many different types of works are included in the collection, ranging from ceramics, textile, woodcarvings, papier mâché, paper, straw and seeds. Some of the objects are decorative artworks of daily use such as utensils, for example plates and water jugs, as well as toys and ornaments, while others are intended for ceremonial and ritual use such as elaborately detailed candelabras and trees of life. There are pieces used in traditional festivities like the intricately decorated sugar skulls and skeleton figures that are associated with the celebration of el día de los muertos, or Day of the Dead.
With the Boeckman collection coming to the Museum, the education department has started programming lectures and workshops specifically addressing Mexican folk art as well as to incorporate it into the existing programs such as Family Days and Outreach Art Activities. Already this Fall, the Museum has invited, as guest speakers, specialists in the field such as Sylvia Orozco, Executive Director of Mexic-Arte Museum in Austin and Marion Oettenger, Director of the San Antonio Museum of Art, who is scheduled to give a lecture on November 8. In the future the Museum is planning to publish a comprehensive catalog of the Collection as well as to organize more exhibitions from the Collection.
“It is our hope that the Laura and Dan Boeckman Collection of Mexican Folk Art will help foster an interest in fine arts among our local and regional Hispanic populations,” said Mrs. Tomio. Price Arredondo, director of Hispanic Business Services for the Tyler Area Chamber of Commerce, sees the Boeckman Collection as a cultural watershed for East Texas, particularly for youth in the region.
“This lays the groundwork for the Hispanic community to not only be aware of the Museum if they aren’t already, but to get them excited about the arts and take an active role in helping to keep the city moving forward as a cultural center,” Arredondo said. “That’s what this is really all about – especially for the young people. This is a great way to start getting them involved.”
Of course the size of the collection brings with it challenges for an already shrinking space. “The Boeckman Collection is a great example of why the Museum needs more space! Frankly speaking, we have outgrown our current facility, and with the addition of this collection, we now more than ever need the additional storage and exhibition space the new museum will provide,” said Mrs. Tomio. An area in the education wing of the new facility will display selections from the Boeckman Collection on a regular basis, and the breadth of the collection will make it possible to have curators develop a variety of special exhibitions, focusing on different aspects and themes of the works.
The TMA has completed construction documents for the new museum and has entered into Phase Two of its fundraising efforts. Once a certain percentage of funds have been raised to the new building, the TMA will unveil the building’s design and break ground on the Museum’s new property, which is located at the intersection of University Boulevard and Lazycreek Drive in Tyler.
Currently, a focus exhibition of pieces from the Laura and Dan Boeckman Collection of Mexican Folk Art is on display in the Museum lobby and the Tyler Public Library this month. The selection of works relate to the Day of the Dead holiday, which is celebrated in Mexico and by Mexican Americans living in the United States.
The Tyler Museum of Art, accredited by the American Association of Museums, is supported by its Members, Tyler Junior College, and the City of Tyler, and is located at 1300 S. Mahon Ave., adjacent to the Tyler Junior College campus off East Fifth Street. Regular hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday. (The Museum is closed Mondays and major holidays.) Lunch is available in the Museum Café from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and the TMA Gift Shop is open during Museum hours. For more information, call (903) 595-1001 or visit www.tylermuseum.org.