Oral Histories

Interview of Sharon Emanuelli

Developer and Coordinator, Craft and Folk Art Museum Festival of Masks, 1977, 1978; Assistant to Program Director, 1978 – 1980; Senior Curator, 1981 – 1984; Staff Liaison, Contemporary Craft Council, 1979 – 1984.
Craft and Folk Art Museum Oral History Project
Biographical Note:
Developer and Coordinator, Craft and Folk Art Museum Festival of Masks, 1977, 1978; Assistant to Program Director, 1978 – 1980; Senior Curator, 1981 – 1984; Staff Liaison, Contemporary Craft Council, 1979 – 1984.
Benedetti, Joan
Emanuelli, Sharon
Persons Present:
Emanuelli and Benedetti.
Place Conducted:
Emanuelli's home 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 CAFAM timeline developed while working on the CAFAM Records at UCLA. Her knowledge of the CAFAM Records, her experience with the other CAFAM oral history interviews, and her personal knowledge of CAFAM during her 21-year tenure there assisted in her preparation for the Emanuelli interview. She also reviewed lists of CAFAM exhibitions produced during Emanuelli's tenure at CAFAM.
Processing of Interview:
The transcript was edited by Joan and Shan for spelling of names and Joan added full names and opening dates of CAFAM exhibitions where appropriate. Both Shan and Joan also added in brackets further information for clarification and deleted with ellipses some back-and-forth comments that did not add to the reader's understanding of the narrative. 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.
4.5 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.
Birth in Brawley, California--Family farm--School--5:00 Mother's background--Art classes--English major at Occidental College-- 10:00 Moves to sculpture emphasis--Meets Patrick Ela--15:00 Occidental College 1969-1973--Vietnam War--Campus demonstrations--Emphasis on writing--20:00 Internship at Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), working for Registrar Patricia Nauert 25:00-- James Allen at LACMA--Working for hotel reservation company--Regrets turning down Pat Nauert job offer--Patrick Ela working for LACMA Education Department when Emanuelli is there--Ela asks her to work for him at Craft and Folk Art Museum (CAFAM) as a volunteer--30:00 Working on M.A. at California State University, Northridge--Working at CAFAM on membership and helping with installations--Getting to know Edith Wyle--35:00 Other CAFAM staff--Coordinates 1977 Festival of Masks--Edith Wyle's vision of the Festival 40:00 Mayor Tom Bradley: "More ethnic groups in L.A. than any U.S. city"--Influence of Fowler Museum at UCLA staff--45:00 M.A. thesis project--Is paid for 20 hours, volunteers additional 20 hours--Coordinating the 1978 festival--Festival becomes full weekend--50:00 Willow Young assists in 1978, then coordinates 1979 Festival--Emanuelli becomes Edith's Program Aide; never a secretary--Various CAFAM secretaries--55:00 Working with Edith Wyle--Emanuelli pretty tolerant--Edith needs flexible help--Learning about exhibition design from Edith and Bernard Kester--More about 1977 festival--1:00:00 Involvement of city and county--Structure of festival--Calling L.A. consulates to get performers and food vendors--1:05:00 Festival of Masks may have been first multi-ethnic festival in L.A.--End of Vietnam War--Brother's experience with the draft--Festival community meetings--Issue of Edith being too directorial at meetings-- 1:10:00 Edith sometimes yells and Emanuelli has to mend fences--Quits during Korean Folk Art show in 1982--Edith wanted preparators to work around the clock--Emanuelli refuses-- 1:15:00 Sometimes two or three shows opened at same time--No elevator--Willow Young as festival coordinator--Willow is great with performers--Willow getting her Ethnic Arts degree at UCLA--All CAFAM staff involved in festival--1:20:00 Volunteer coordinator hired--Mask-related exhibitions during festival--Attempts by current (2009) staff to revive festival--Now more ethnically specific museums--Edith's sense of competition-- 1:25:00 State of California folk arts programs--Barbara Rahm--Senior Curator in 1981--Willow Young, Curator of Special Events--Programmatic Input Committee (PIC)--First show Emanuelli curates is Four Leaders in Glass--1:30:00 PIC sees Dick Weiss slides--Bernard Kester interested in Dale Chihuly--Dick Marquis and Therman Statom are others--1:35:00 Controversies with choice of artists--Letter from Marvin Lipofsky--1:40:00 Lipofsky complains about Weiss--Are all the artists "leaders"?--Edith insists on exhibition title--1:45:00 Museum work as career?--Hard to work full-time after Sandro born--Marriage to Mike Kaiser and move to New York City--Coming to terms with not being a sculptor.
Why folk art, contemporary craft, and design?-- 5:00 "All those things together"--A "modernist aesthetic"--10:00 Shinjuku Station an early design show--Art and craft historically--15:00 Edith's view aesthetic--Her responses intuitive--Edith's catalogs mostly visual--Edith on California Institute of the Arts board--Milton Zolotow--20:00 Craft's relationship to past--More first CAFAM experiences--Nina Green--Working with Patrick Ela--25:00 Emanuelli and Patrick good friends--Mask festival Edith's vision--Patrick's job to do what Edith couldn't do--Edith as accelerator, Patrick as brake--30:00 Emanuelli not critical of anyone but challenges Edith on catalog content--Exhibitions Emanuelli worked on--L.A. Collects Folk Art Emanuelli’s first show, Lee Mullican organizer--35:00 Patterns--American Crafts in the White House--40:00 Joan Mondale and Elena Canavier's influence--Max King’s influence on all CAFAM publications-- 45:00 Artists Mask Invitational organized by Emanuelli--Natzler--50:00 Paper from Flat to Form--Emanuelli full-time in 1979--55:00 Huge Artesanos Mexicanos show--French Folk Art, Close Packing and Cracking--1:00:00 Weaving Traditions of Highland Bolivia-- Greek Ethos--Akari Light Sculptures--Isamu Noguchi one of many famous people Edith knew--Edith curates and designs Traditional Toys of Japan--1:05:00 Emanuelli coordinates Japan Today, a citywide event--Japanese teahouse in parking lot--Working late--Many catalogs--1:10:00 Emanuelli coordinates all shows, manages installations--Writing drafts for Edith--Willow curates 1980 Masks in Motion show--Edith's use of color--1:15:00 Mask as Metaphor curated by Emanuelli--Gallery 3 in Santa Monica--1:20:00 More about Gallery 3--Gallery 3 poster--Ann Robbins and Susan Skinner--Twelve Artists--Two Schools of Fish--1:25:00 More about Two Schools of Fish--Murals of Aztlan curated by Frank Romero--1:30:00 Shifra Goldman review 1:35:00-- Emanuelli curates John Cederquist--Guardians of Happiness problems--1:40:00 Emanuelli designs American Porcelain--The Dark Crystal--1:45:00 Annex space--Black Folk Art in America--Masks in Motion (1984)--More about John Cederquist--1:50:00 Ebendorf and Ross--Moves to New York City--1:55:00 Puzzles Old and New--2:00:00--Jerry Slocum collection--Puzzle house and parties-- 2:05:00 Puzzle book--Janet Marcus education programs--2:10:00 Emanuelli and Marcia Page in Tokyo--Other puzzle venues--2:15:00 Mike Kaiser on Board--Move to 5800 Wilshire--Ratkovich development--2:20:00 CAFAM at May Company--1989-1992--Native America: Reflecting Contemporary Realities--May Company problems--More about move to 5800 Wilshire--Merging of 5800 and 5814 Wilshire by Hodgetts and Fung--Inability to buy 5800 Wilshire--2:25:00 Emanuelli works on Museum for a New Century re-opening exhibition--The Egg and the Eye, CAFAM history--2:30:00 More about Museum for a New Century--CAFAM was dark for 2.5 years--1995 "Homecoming" weekend--Emanuelli busy raising son--CAFAM financial troubles--Funding dries up--Closing in 1997--Jim Pieper-- 2:35:00 Peter Tokovsky--Stella and Fred Krieger--Patrick Ela as Interim Director--CAFAM closed for 14 months before re-opening--Library and archives given away 1997--LACMA negotiations--Patrick Ela and Al Nodal save CAFAM, 1999--2:40:00 Edith's memorial--Edith as "second mother"--CAFAM memorable for everyone.