Oral Histories

Interview of Maryna Hrushetska

Craft and Folk Art Museum Executive Director, 2005 – 2010.
Craft and Folk Art Museum Oral History Project
Biographical Note:
Craft and Folk Art Museum Executive Director, 2005 – 2010.
Benedetti, Joan
Hrushetska, Maryna
Persons Present:
Hrushetska and Benedetti.
Place Conducted:
Craft and Folk Art Museum workshop room 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 studying Maryna's resumé. She was the only one interviewed who did not have any experience or memory of CAFAM during the principal period covered (1965 – 1997) by the CAFAM oral history project. (Maryna started at CAFAM March 1, 2005; Joan interviewed her March 5, 2010.) Other than talking about Maryna's childhood and background before taking the job of CAFAM Executive Director, the content of the interview was entirely about Maryna's time at CAFAM up to the time of the interview in March 2010. Wally Marks III, CAFAM's board chair at the time, who had been interviewed by Benedetti a couple of weeks earlier, suggested that Maryna be interviewed. Joan has continued her membership in the Museum and so has stayed aware of CAFAM's public activities. Her work with the CAFAM Records, her experience with the other CAFAM oral history interviews, and her personal knowledge of CAFAM during her 21-year tenure as CAFAM Museum Librarian (1976 – 1997), also prepared her for the Hrushetska interview.
Processing of Interview:
Benedetti and Hrushetska reviewed the interview transcript making minor changes and correcting spelling of names. Benedetti added 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. 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.
2 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.
No previous knowledge of Craft and Folk Art Museum (CAFAM)--Parents, childhood growing up Ukrainian American in Chicago--Immersion in Ukrainian art and culture--5:00 Move to Chicago suburb--Experience of discrimination--More about parents and immersion in arts--10:00 Full scholarship to Illinois State University--15:00 A year in Salzburg--B.A. in Finance and International Business--Business and art of equal interest--20:00 Thunderbird School of Global Management--Focus on international business--Learning history and culture of world regions--Internship in Ukraine as Soviet Union breaks up--M.A. from Thunderbird--25:00 International managers training program in New York City--30:00 Hedge fund in Ukraine--Traveling extensively and collecting Eastern European art--35:00 Part-time art rep in London--Buys “inventory,” ships to U.S.--Move to California--“Fresh Air Salon,” Bergamot Station--40:00 More than a gallery--A CAFAM board member--Asked to apply for CAFAM directorship--45:00 Visiting CAFAM--First (mixed) impressions--Edith Wyle--Interview process--50:00 Attraction of problems--First challenges--Job reviews--Setting goals--55:00 Job descriptions--Gradually replacing entire staff--Trading for Museum Educator--1:00:00 Entire staff pitches in--Outside cleaning firm--Website, accounting system developed--Advantages, challenges of small staff--1:05:00 Exhibition development--Designs exhibitions--“Tone” meetings--Wall text--1:10:00 Edith Wyle and Maryna--CAFAM’s past (a gathering place)-- 1:15:00 CAFAM ahead of its time--Competition now--Importance of restaurant-- 1:20:00 Critical loss of 5800 Wilshire--Restaurant a distraction?--Shop currently contributing to bottom line--Why no endowment?--Website improvement--Grant for marketing campaign--1:25:00 Re-thinking color and logo--What is folk art?--What about contemporary craft?--1:30:00 Contemporary craft artists defensive--Reads background literature--CAFAM audiences more interested in folk art--1:35:00 Josh Dorman--Contemporary craft takes itself too seriously--Not for Maryna--Working with a nonprofit board--Nonprofit structure encourages inaction--Getting clear about mission--Board needs to be “professionalized”--Consequences for nonperformance--1:40:00 Frank Wyle contributions--Board contributions raised--Survey from '80s: “Everybody has good feelings”--Gifts not substantial enough except for Capital Campaign--Many more nonprofit competitors--1:45 Role of City of L.A.--Support dwindling--Ten-year contract to expire--Arts community regards CAFAM/city arrangement as a “sweetheart deal”--Al Nodal’s affection for Edith Wyle--CAFAM reopens before she dies--City now has no money--1:50:00 Comparing arts spending in other U.S. cities--CAFAM’s reputation within funding agencies--Much is repaired; much still to do--Communication with Getty mis-handled--Maryna had to prove herself-- 1:55:00 Limits her exposure to people with long CAFAM history--Stress of job in first two years--Now more involvement with colleagues in comparable institutions--Less isolation--2:00:00 Pride in CAFAM’s exhibitions--Loves exhibition installation work--CAFAM needs clarity on “what it wants to be”--Board leans on her--2:05:00 Money and vision--Decision to leave CAFAM in six-nine months--Asks board to think strategically--Perhaps her leaving will be board’s “call to action”--She will remain interested in CAFAM’s future.