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Tyler Museum of Art Announces Largest Single Gift in Museums History
Beaded serpent. Artist unknown (Mexican, dates unknown). Nayarit, Jalisco, Zacatecas, Mexico. Wood core, bee’s wax, glass seed beads, 8 x 5 1/2 x 36 3/4. Tyler Museum of Art, Gift of Laura and Dan Boeckman, Dallas.

TYLER, TX.- During a press conference held at the Tyler Museum of Art, TMA Director Kimberley Tomio was joined by Laura and Dan Boeckman in announcing that the couple donated one of the nation’s largest and most comprehensive collections of contemporary Mexican folk art to the Tyler Museum of Art. The collection is titled The Laura and Dan Boeckman Collection of Mexican Folk Art, and includes over 650 pieces collected in the last two decades from every state in Mexico, excluding Chiapas. The gift is the largest single donation by one source in the Museum’s history.

“We are overwhelmed by the generosity of Laura and Dan Boeckman in not only choosing to share their immense collection with the Museum, but also their commitment to sharing it with the public,” said Mrs. Tomio. “The gift distinguishes the TMA and also broadens our collection to further represent the diverse and vibrant culture in which we live.” The Museum installed a permanent wall case in the lobby dedicated to showing pieces of the collection in an area of the Museum that is always open and free to the public.

The announcement of the gift coincides with two major anniversaries for Mexico, the 200th anniversary of its independence and also the 100th anniversary of the country’s revolution. “The year 2010 will forever be significant to the Tyler Museum of Art now as a reminder of our country’s connection to Mexico both from a historic and contemporary perspective, and we are thrilled to announce this gift during such a significant anniversary year,” said Mrs. Tomio.

Mr. Boeckman commented that one of the reasons he and his wife chose the TMA to be the recipient of the gift was because of its plans to build a new museum. “We are very supportive of the Museum and hope that this gift will help further the TMA’s progress towards completion of the new building project,” he said. “We also wanted to find a city that had a large Hispanic population.” According to the Office of the State Demographer, in 2009, the Hispanic population in Tyler totaled 40,345, nearly 20 percent of the city’s total population. The Tyler Independent School District reports that in 2008-2009, 38.9 percent of its overall student population in grades kindergarten through twelfth grade was Hispanic/Latino.

“The vision statement of the TMA states that the Museum will be ‘a destination for people seeking a dynamic culturally enriching experience in the visual arts.’ The Laura and Dan Boeckman Collection of Mexican Folk Art ensures that the Museum’s collection represents the cultural heritage of the growing segment of our community. This is important as the Museum strives to serve our local and regional population in its diverse entirety,” said Mrs. Tomio. “We look forward to promoting awareness and understanding of the rich artistic legacy demonstrated by this collection in our educational programming both for students and adults.”

The Boeckmans, Dallas-area patrons of the arts who count the Museum Tower project in the city’s downtown arts district as their own, collected the vast bulk of the artworks during their travels in Mexico. “Both my wife and I have traveled extensively in Mexico, and we spent a lot of time in the interior, especially during the late 1980s and early 1990s,” said Mr. Boeckman. “We began collecting pieces of folk art, and we eventually decided to make an effort to collect pieces from every region. Stephen Vollmer was instrumental in this process.” Stephen Vollmer, former curator of Art of the Americas at the Tucson Museum of Art and former chief curator at the El Paso Museum of Art, helped arrange local contacts for the Boeckmans, drove them to sites, and assisted them in other ways while he worked in Mexico.

“The mass of the collection was gathered in-situ [in the place they were produced] and then crated and packed at the time of acquisition,” said Vollmer. Then the crates would either be flown or driven back into the states. Mr. Boeckman says that he and his wife felt compelled to preserve this art form that at the time of their collecting was already changing, if not beginning to disappear.

“Much of Mexican folk art is utilitarian,” he explained. Decorative plates, for example, are expensive to produce which inhibits their production by contemporary folk artists. “It’s simply cheaper to buy paper plates than to make them yourself. Also, the untrained folk artists are diminishing in number for various reasons, one being that their communities have been disrupted,” said Mr. Boeckman.

Few comparable collections are as comprehensive as the Boeckman Collection, making it exceptionally representative of Mexican folk art. [San Antonio Museum of Art’s collection consisting of thousands of pieces, formed when a large portion of the Rockfeller Collection was gifted, is a leading collection of its kind. The Boeckman collection, while smaller, offers an excellent “view into Mexican culture, according to Mr. Vollmer, and provides a perspective of historical and contemporary values that complements the academic art that most museums concentrate on.” Mexican folk art has made considerable impact on American art, especially that associated with the American Southwest.

Many different types of works are included in the collection, ranging from ceramics, textile, woodcarvings, papier mâché, paper, straw and seeds. Some of the objects are decorative artworks of daily use such as utensils, for example plates and water jugs, as well as toys and ornaments, while others are intended for ceremonial and ritual use such as elaborately detailed candelabras and trees of life. There are pieces used in traditional festivities like the intricately decorated sugar skulls and skeleton figures that are associated with the celebration of el día de los muertos, or Day of the Dead.

Tyler Museum of Art | Kimberley Tomio | The Laura and Dan Boeckman Collection of Mexican Folk Art |

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