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Folk City: New York and the Folk Music Revival at the Museum of the City New York June 17-November 29, 2015



Folk City: New York and the Folk Music Revival at the Museum of the City New York June 17-November 29, 2015

Wednesday, May 06 2015 13:41

Discover New York as the Center of the Folk Music Renaissance

Exhibition includes: Lead Belly’s 12-string guitar, Odetta’s iconic guitar “Baby,” handwritten manuscript of Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind,” Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger letters

Honorary co-chairs: Oscar Brand, Judy Collins, Steve Earle, Nora Guthrie, Noel Stookey and Peter Yarrow

"New York, which has been the source of so much creativity throughout its history, was central to the folk music revival that swept the country and became one of the remarkable phenomena of the 20th Century," said Susan Henshaw Jones, Ronay Menschel Director of the Museum of the City of New York. "Folk music spawned a whole culture, and the legacy continues today in New York and far beyond. This exhibition and our related public programs explore the revival and will let visitors experience it in a fascinating and joyous way."

Folk City will feature listening stations where visitors can hear a range of folk songs along with videos showcasing historic footage that capture the bohemian spirit of Greenwich Village in the 1950s and the national hootenanny craze of the 1960s. The exhibition also includes showcases rare archival photographs, concert posters and original instruments, including:

  • Lead Belly's 12-string guitar
  • Odetta's iconic guitar "Baby" along with one of her colorful kaftan dresses
  • The original handwritten manuscript of Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind"
  • The napkin on which Eric Andersen wrote his "Thirsty Boots" lyrics
  • A trademark felt cap worn by Phil Ochs
  • Handwritten letters by Woody Guthrie and Peter Seeger, and more

Curated by Stephen Petrus, an Andrew W. Mellon post-doctoral fellow at the Museum, Folk City will look at the folk movement in four sections:

  • The revival's roots in the 1930s and 1940s, when singers - such as Woody Guthrie, Josh White, and Burl Ives - moved to New York, drawn by performance opportunities and the progressive political climate.
  • The expansion of folk music culture in the 1950s, when the genre changed from an art form associated with leftist politics during the Red Scare—ensnaring many performers including Seeger - to a popular craze with mass appeal.
  • The boom years in the late 1950s to the mid-1960s, when Greenwich Village was the focal point of the revival and culture due to the concentration of performance venues, including the exhibition's eponymous Folk City.
  • The legacy of the revival from 1965 to the present day, showing how the revival has continued and retained its relevancy through five decades. This includes the rise of 'folk-rock' and other folk trends after the 'British Invasion' and Dylan's stunning turn to electric guitar in 1965

"The New York folk music community created songs that stopped Americans in their tracks. Folk Songs were of substance, the meat and potatoes of people's lives," said Petrus. "This music resonated with New Yorkers and many others. It not only informed them about their cultural heritage, but also broke down social barriers."

Folk City highlights visionary entrepreneurs who were committed to promoting folk music, including Mike Porco of Gerde's Folk City, Izzy Young of the Folklore Center, and John Hammond of Columbia Records. The Greenwich Village performance spaces are shown as exciting venues and as incubators of a burgeoning counterculture. Artists from different backgrounds performed in Village clubs as well as in one of the city's great communal gathering places, Washington Square Park, where they tried out both new music and new ideas that often challenged social conventions of the time.

The Museum will offer a broad array of public programs in conjunction with the exhibition, including folk concerts and panel discussions. The Museum's Frederick A.O. Schwarz Children's Center has designed special programs for students and teachers, which have been made possible by a grant from the D'Addario Foundation.

The exhibition's accompanying book, Folk City: New York and the American Folk Music Revival, by Stephen Petrus and historian Ronald D. Cohen, with a foreword by Peter Yarrow. Published by Oxford University Press, the book shows that folk music flowered in New York as a result of initiatives of musicians, record company producers and executives, radio show hosts, club owners, concert promoters, folklorists, managers, journalists, and audiences. Princeton University historian Sean Wilentz calls Folk City "the best history yet of the city's influential folk music culture, packed with astonishing photos that finally see the light of day." The Village Voice named Folk City one of "Fifteen Books You Need to Read in 2015."

The exhibition's honorary co-chairs are themselves significant participants in the folk revival and its legacy: Oscar Brand, Judy Collins, Steve Earle, Nora Guthrie, Noel Stookey and Peter Yarrow. The idea for the exhibition originated with co-chair John Heller, and he was joined in supporting and helping raise funds by co-chairs of James E. Buckman and Tom Neff.

Folk City is made possible by Wyndham Worldwide Incorporated.

Additional support is provided by James G. Dinan and Elizabeth R. Miller, The Zegar Family Foundation, Martha and H. Patrick Hackett Jr., Jill and John Chalsty, The Martin Guitar Charitable Foundation, among others.

The media sponsor is WFUV.

The exhibition is designed by Pure + Applied.

About the Museum of the City of New York
The Museum of the City of New York celebrates and interprets the city, educating the public about its distinctive character, especially its heritage of diversity, opportunity, and perpetual transformation. Founded in 1923 as a private, nonprofit corporation, the Museum connects the past, present, and future of New York City. It serves the people of New York and visitors from around the world through exhibitions, school and public programs, publications, and collections.

Media Contacts 
Noel Rubinton
(917) 492-3320

Brittnie Mabry
(646) 490-6446


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