UPPER WEST SIDE — After weathering a tough 2011, the American Folk Art Museum welcomed the new year on Tuesday with talk of a "dynamic future" at its Upper West Side location.
The museum unveiled a 50th anniversary exhibit — "Jubilation/Rumination" — whose title acknowledges the museum's financially troubled past and celebrates what officials hope will be a brighter tomorrow, said board president Monty Blanchard.
"In 2011 we were in the news and mostly it wasn't good," Blanchard told reporters at a press event kicking off the new exhibit. But Blanchard said he and other board members met last September and "recommitted" themselves to a "dynamic future."
The museum teetered on the edge of closure last year after it was forced to sell its Midtown building to pay off mounting debts. The institution is now housed inside its much smaller space at 2 Lincoln Square, on Columbus Avenue and West 66th Street.
Despite its tighter quarters, the museum's prospects are expanding, Blanchard said. A $2 million pledge from board member Joyce Cowin, $1 million from other board members, and a $500,000 grant from the Ford Foundation will keep the museum afloat in the short term.
Moving forward, the museum is taking a series of steps to ensure financial stability, Blanchard said. "That means we'll operate sensibly and within our means," he said.
The museum, whose annual budget was once a reported $10 million, has whittled its yearly spending plan down to $2.5 to $3 million. Next, the museum will focus on rebuilding its board, whose ranks thinned as money troubles grew, and hiring a new director.
The museum also plans to "get the art out there" by sharing its collection with other institutions, Blanchard said. It recently loaned 14 pieces to the Metropolitan Museum of Art's new American wing, and may partner with the South Street Seaport Museum.
Senior curator Stacy Hollander, who's been with the American Museum of Folk Art for 25 years, said "Jubilation/Rumination" demonstrates the depth and breadth of the museum's collection, with nearly 100 paintings, drawings, sculptures and other pieces. The show strives to make connections between contemporary outsider art and the museum's centuries-old pieces, she said.
"Having gone through this very challenging moment in the museum's history, I organized a love song," Hollander said about the anniversary exhibit.
"Jubilation/Rumination" is on view at the American Folk Art Museum at 2 Lincoln Square (Columbus Avenue and West 66th Street) until September 2012. Senior curator Stacy Hollander will lead a free exhibition tour on Jan. 29 at 10 a.m.