Our History in a Nutshell
The brainchild of Ted Warmbold and Marcia Lucas, Austin Friends of Folk Art began in 1987 as a small but enthusiastic band of culturally curious explorers.
At the time, Warmbold, a folk art enthusiast and collector, was editor of the San Antonio Light and president of the San Antonio Friends of Latin American Art (FOLAA), a well-established organization that serves as a fund-raising arm of the San Antonio Museum of Art. Lucas was and is a passionate lover of folk art and owner of El Interior, a store featuring folk art of Mexico. The two were drawn together by efforts to find a permanent home for the wonderful folk art collections of Nelson Rockefeller and Robert K. Winn.
In its first six months, AFFA held six programs to educate and build friendships: a caravan to San Antonio to see the museum’s folk art collections with a stop at Ted Warmbold’s (home to his private collection of some 4,000 pieces), a lecture and film on Mexico’s Day of the Dead celebration, a meeting to construct a Day of the Dead altar, a mask-making event for children at the Laguna Gloria Museum, a harvest wreath-making workshop, and the first holiday party. Speakers, excursions, hands-on programs, visits to homes of private collectors, educational outreach—these are the types of programs AFFA has continued to offer through the years.
On June 30, 1988, Austin Friends of Folk Art was formally incorporated as a 501c3 non- profit organization, complete with bylaws, officers and directors, and a mission to promote public appreciation of folk art, which AFFA defines broadly enough to accommodate everything from urban mural art, Feng Shui and Southwest petroglyphs to Moroccan fortune-telling, Oaxacan wood carving and Byzantine icon painting.
The organization has been blessed with dedicated leaders, who speak articulately about the organization and their dreams for it.
Founder Marcia Lucas: “We are an educational group. We are here to educate people about folk art. And we are friends, friends who love folk art. We are not an elite organization and do not wish to become one. Our goal has always been to educate as many people as possible.”
Carol Blanchard (President 1988-89): “What first attracted me was an opening to a spiritual existence, folk art as spiritual life. It is the spiritual level of folk art which unites people as well as the unbridled experience that folk art is. People are attracted to the ceremonies and artifacts related to ceremonies. The ceremonies help us key into the spirit of the people who created them. It is nurturing to learn of the cultures which fostered this spiritual world.”
Teresa Kendrick (President 1990): “We managed to have fun at this learning endeavor. We wanted to blend serious material without being too serious, with people who had a genuine affection for each other…. Friends of Folk Art educated all of us. It honed our sensibilities. We brushed with people whose lifework is folk art. Visiting homes was never as interesting as the experts who shared their lives and passions with us. We were lay people who became educated in folk art which would normally have stayed in the realm of museum curators and serious collectors.”
Priscilla Murr (President 1991-96): “My goals were: 1) education; 2) building a community of friends; and 3) making Austin Friends of Folk Art financially viable. We were founded upon principles of community- building within an educational context, and education has remained central to our purpose. For me, as for the founders and past presidents, that meant we could explore any avenues which interested us. We were soon defining folk art as any art by any folk.”
Juan Isart (President 1997-98): “I had big dreams. I wanted Austin Friends of Folk Art to become a real force in the community. I even had a dream of establishing a folk art museum. I also wanted to establish a scholarship connected to folk art, whether in art, archeology or whatever. What was really great was being part of a group where members are so dissimilar. It didn’t matter if you were rich or poor, young or old, attractive or unattractive. Nobody had to fit into some sort of mold. All were individuals and all were friends.”
Pat McCambridge (President 1999-2002): “If you get too highly structured and get too locked up in procedures, you begin to lose creativity. You have to keep stoking the flames to keep the creative fires burning. If you begin to worry too much about how something is going to get done, you can lose sight of what it is you are trying to do in the first place. There was a great deal of serendipity in the group. Finding subjects for programs was never really the problem. The trouble was finding people with enough time to make them happen.”
Barbara Jackson (President 2003-2004): [About programs:] “There seems to be no end of ideas, and most of them are good.” [About AFFA’s sound financial status:] “This is the pool of resources that puts AFFA at the crossroads. The board sees these remaining assets as ‘visionary’ ones that will enable AFFA to plan some very special events—once- in-a-year or once-in-a-lifetime events—or to make contributions to organizations that will become permanent additions to the preservation of a culture. The board feels the necessity of spending assets to benefit its members and other individuals, organizations and institutions in the community while being mindful that these assets are not being renewed in the same manner as the $2,000 per year that is earmarked for donations and grants.”
Trevoris Morgan (2005-06): “I was President at a time when AFFA had made the commitment to return some of its accrued savings to the community through grants and in other ways that promote an appreciation of folk art. Of course, we continued to have stimulating and educational programs for our members, and we increased speakers’ honorariums as a way of supporting their contribution to the survival and appreciation of folk art. Those are all reasons for AFFA to be proud.”
Merry Wheaton (2007-2013): “AFFA has matured structurally over the last several years. We have solid accounting practices and guidelines for grant awards, and our annual report to members recaps the year’s activities and shows how our funds are working in the community. During my term, AFFA worked to build partnerships with other organizations of adults and children, to conduct joint programs, and to get them covered by the media. These efforts led to three exhibits that put folk art in the public eye. I believe that to know folk art is to love it, and that means our job is to effectively get out the word so new friends can find us and learn along with us through stimulating monthly programs.”
Gloria Pennington (2013- )