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American Folk Art Museum

New York, New York

The American Folk Art Museum is the premier institution devoted to the interpretation, display, and preservation of traditional folk art and the creative expressions of contemporary self-taught artists from the United States and abroad.

It has a comprehensive collection with objects dating from the 18th century to the present. The museum has worked for decades to educate the art world’s elite and the general public alike to the importance of folk art as a vital aspect of American culture and cultures around the world.

In 1998, RAA was commissioned to collaborate with the museum staff and architects Tod Williams, Billy Tsien and Associates to design the integration of artworks within their new 30,000-square-foot building, the development of an interpretive layer that would celebrate the art and artists, and the creation of three distinctive inaugural exhibitions.

RAA’s design strategy for the permanent collection, “Icons and Images,” was to integrate the artworks into the fabric and structure of the building. Special display cases, or “niches,” are embedded into the interior walls and at the various levels of a decorative stair.

Other iconic works are strategically located throughout, maximizing the views created by the interior architecture. RAA worked with the curators to modulate the display of both traditional and contemporary artworks.

Size 30,000 square-feet

Year 2001

Architect Tod Williams Billy Tsien and Associates

Project Details

Associate ArchitectPeter Guggenheimer Architects

Exhibit ContractorShowtime Exhibit Builders

Exhibit FabricatorsRenee Alain, Chris Stachecki

Fiber OpticsOpra Glass, Fiberstars


Glass BeadingCeleste Industries

Lighting ConsultantKyle Chepulis

Audio ConsultantVista Group

AwardsIndustrial Designers Society of America (IDSA), International Design Excellence Award (IDEA): Bronze. EnvironmentsADC: Art Directors Club Award: Merit Award