Oral Histories

Interview of Bernard Kester

Craft and Folk Art Museum Board president, 1975. Member, Program Committee, late seventies. Board Member, eighties. Curator, “Made in L.A.,” 1981, “California Women in Craft,” 1977. Subject of “California Classics,” 1987.
Craft and Folk Art Museum Oral History Project
Biographical Note:
Craft and Folk Art Museum Board president, 1975. Member, Program Committee, late seventies. Board Member, eighties. Curator, “Made in L.A.,” 1981, “California Women in Craft,” 1977. Subject of “California Classics,” 1987.
Benedetti, Joan
Kester, Bernard
Persons Present:
Kester and Benedetti.
Place Conducted:
Librarian’s office in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art Research Library in Los Angeles, California.
Supporting Documents:
Records relating to the interview are located in the office of the UCLA Library’s Center for Oral History Research. Researchers can also access the Craft and Folk Art Museum records, ca. 1965-1997 (collection no. 1835) in the UCLA Library's Department of Special Collections.
Interviewer Background and Preparation:
The interview was conducted by Joan M. Benedetti. B.A., Theater; M.A., Library Science, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana. Related Experience: Milwaukee Public Library Decorative Arts Librarian, 1967 – 1968; CAFAM Museum Librarian 1976 – 1997. From 1998 – 2012, Benedetti worked to process the CAFAM Records, 1965 – 1997, which are now part of Special Collections at the UCLA Young Research Library. She is the author of several articles on folk art terminology and small art museum libraries and the editor of Art Museum Libraries and Librarianship, Lanham, MD: ARLIS/NA and Scarecrow Press, 2007.Benedetti prepared for the interview by reviewing the relevant documents in the CAFAM Records at UCLA Special Collections, including several Kester résumés, and an article that appeared in the UCLA Magazine (Summer 1991). The interview follows a roughly chronological outline.
Processing of Interview:
Benedetti and Kester reviewed the interview transcript, making minor changes and correcting spelling of names. Benedetti added (in brackets) full names and opening dates of CAFAM exhibitions where appropriate. She also added (in brackets) some further information for clarification and deleted (with ellipses) some back-and-forth comments that did not further the reader's understanding of the narrative. A later version of the transcript was reviewed by Kay Spilker, a friend of Kester’s. Time stamps have been added to both the table of contents and the transcript at five-minute intervals; the time stamps make it easier to locate the topics in the transcript that are mentioned in the table of contents.
4 hrs.
Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
Series Statement:
The Craft and Folk Art Museum (CAFAM), founded in Los Angeles by Edith and Frank Wyle, grew out of The Egg and The Eye, a commercial art gallery/restaurant devoted to international contemporary craft and folk art—and (in the restaurant) omelettes. The gallery opened November 1, 1965 at 5814 Wilshire Blvd. and transitioned in 1973 to a 501(c) (3) non-profit, the Craft and Folk Art Museum, in the same location. From 1973 to 1984, Edith Wyle served as program director; in 1975 Patrick Ela was hired as administrative director. Wyle retired in 1984, going on the board, and taking the title of founder/director emeritus. Ela was then appointed executive director, and he added design to the museum's program. The restaurant closed in 1989, but the museum is still operating in the same place.The CAFAM Oral History Project was conceived by former CAFAM museum librarian (1976 -1997) Joan M. Benedetti, during her processing of the CAFAM institutional archives (Craft and Folk Art Museum Records: ca. 1965 – 1997), donated to UCLA Special Collections when CAFAM closed temporarily at the end of 1997. At the time, it was thought to be a permanent closure: all staff files including papers, catalogs, ephemera, clippings, press releases, photos, posters, videos, audiotapes, films, and some non-accessioned objects were given to UCLA Special Collections; the permanent object collection was sold at auction; the library collection was given to LACMA. While working on the archives, Benedetti determined to further document CAFAM's history through interviews with persons who had participated in that history. She conducted seventeen of the eighteen oral history interviews and transcribed seven of them. The rest were professionally transcribed with financial support from Frank Wyle. All transcripts were edited by Benedetti and then reviewed and edited by each interviewee. When the recordings and transcripts were completed, they were donated (with the interviewees' permission) to UCLA Library's Center for Oral History Research.The interviewees were selected by Benedetti based on what she knew of their involvement with CAFAM. These persons are by no means the only ones associated significantly with CAFAM's history. Quite simply, they were both significant and available during the time Benedetti had to work on the project as a volunteer.Of the seventeen people Benedetti interviewed over twenty-seven months (January 2008 – March 2010), ten are former staff and six are former board members, including co-founder and board chair Frank Wyle. Wyle's daughter, Nancy Romero, who had worked on several CAFAM exhibitions, was also interviewed. (Edith Wyle had been interviewed for the Archives of American Art in 1993.) When Benedetti completed the CAFAM Records processing in 2012, an interview with her was recorded by Joyce Lovelace, contributing editor for American Craft magazine. As the topic is CAFAM during roughly the same time period, the Benedetti-Lovelace interview is included here.
Early life--B.A. (Fine Arts) and M.A (Ceramics), UCLA--5:00 Some UCLA faculty--June Wayne, Tamarind Lithography Workshop--10:00 Growth of design/art faculties at UCLA--Los Angeles City College--Teaching at UCLA, 1956--15:00 Design Division, American Ceramic Society--Eudorah Moore--First exhibition design: pottery show, Pasadena Art Museum--20:00 Asilomar, 1957--25:00 Rose Slivka, Craft Horizons--Peter Voulkos, Susan Peterson, Anni Albers--30:00 Daniel Rhodes--Voulkos, Peterson, Hamada Shoji, Bernard Leach, Yanagi Soetsu, Marguerite Wildenhain, Laura Andreson--35:00 Tom McMillan, Billy Al Bengston, Edith Heath--40:00 Craft/design publications--Review of Anni Albers' book--45:00 Chair, UCLA Art Department--Acting Dean, UCLA College of Fine Arts-- 50:00 Restructuring of art departments--New and old art disciplines--55:00 Final teaching years, computer's influence on students--1:00:00 California Design shows-- 1:05:00 Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)--George Kuwayama, Stephania Holt, Mary Hunt Kahlenberg, Richard Brown, Earl "Rusty" Powell--1:10:00 Recommends Kahlenberg as LACMA textiles curator--1:15:00 Rusty Powell--Michael Govan, his use of artists as designers--John Baldessari as Magritte show designer--The Egg and The Eye gallery--1:25:00 Friendship with Edith Wyle--Edith cost-conscious--The restaurant--Gallery space--Lenore Tawney--1:30:00 Folk art and contemporary craft--Conceptual art--1:35:00 “Discussions” with Edith Wyle--1:40:00 Frank Wyle’s support--Restaurant and chef Rodessa Moore--1:45:00 New stairway, courtyard in current museum--1:50:00 More on American Ceramic Society Design Division--1:55:00 Artists Ralph Bacerra, Ken Price, June Schwarcz, and Dale Chihuly.