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Culture notes: High folk art curator departing after a decade; Outfit extends ‘Fly’ run two weeks

By Howard Pousner
hpousner@ajc.com

Susan Mitchell Crawley, the High Museum of Art’s folk art curator since 2004, is resigning effective March 3.

“I am pleased by what we have been able to accomplish over the past 10 years,” Crawley wrote in an email, “and I look forward to new challenges, beginning with an exhibition for the Madison-Morgan Cultural Center next winter.”

One of Crawley’s greatest achievements was the 2009 exhibition “The Treasure of Ulysses Davis: Sculpture from a Savannah Barbershop.”

“This legacy-changing retrospective revealed that the self-taught artist was considerably more complex and sophisticated than he has been given credit for,” then-Atlanta Journal-Constitution critic Catherine Fox wrote.

Davis’ wood-carvings were featured in the seminal 1982 exhibition “Black Folk Art in America, 1930-1980” at Washington’s Corcoran Gallery of Art, but further national exposure for the work was limited. The artist rarely sold his pieces because he wanted them to remain together after he died.

“They’re my treasure,” the proud Savannah barber once explained. “If I sold these, I’d be really poor.”

After Atlanta, “Treasure” toured to New York’s American Folk Art Museum, giving the sculpture another national showcase.

Crawley also helped organize last year’s “Bill Traylor: Drawings from the Collections of the High Museum of Art and the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts,” which toured the work of the Montgomery, Ala., sidewalk artist to several U.S. museums after the High.

The Southeast has been a center for vernacular art-making for decades, which in part explains why the High is the only major general museum in North America with a curatorial department devoted to the field.

Crawley helped expand its folk holdings, now numbering more than 800 works, adding important pieces by artists including Louis Monza, Thornton Dial and Minnie Evans.

The High expects to begin a search for a replacement shortly.

THEATER
Outfit drama ’Fly’ extended
Theatrical Outfit has extended the well-received Tuskegee Airmen drama “Fly” two weeks, until March 10, at the the Balzer Theater at Herren’s downtown. In the AJC’s review, contributing critic Bert Osborne called the production ”unquestionably uplifting … Despite some bumpy patches along the way, in large part ‘Fly’ takes wing.” 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays; 2:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. $15-$33.  84 Luckie St., Atlanta. 877-725-8849, www.theatricaloutfit.org.

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