Oral Histories

Interview of Stella Krieger

Craft and Folk Art Museum Shop Manager, 1995 – 2005.
Craft and Folk Art Museum Oral History Project
Biographical Note:
Craft and Folk Art Museum Shop Manager, 1995 – 2005.
Benedetti, Joan
Krieger, Stella
Persons Present:
Benedetti and Stella Krieger. Fred Krieger, Stella's husband, was available in the apartment, but he spent most of the time in his office. He left to get a "take-out" lunch and joined Stella and Joan for lunch at their kitchen table. They had just moved into a new apartment and several workmen came and went during the interview, so there were several interruptions.
Place Conducted:
Krieger'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 consulting some of the CAFAM Records files, now in Special Collections, UCLA Young Research Library, and also an extensive CAFAM historical timeline she had compiled as she was processing those records. Krieger passed away November 21, 2013, so in 2015, when Benedetti was finishing the editing of the transcript, she retrieved several online obituaries. Krieger's memory during the 2009 interview was quite sharp and the interview moved along quickly with most of the questions answered very fully.
Processing of Interview:
Krieger was given the opportunity to review the transcript to supply missing or mis-spelled names and to verify the accuracy of the contents. Benedetti added full names and opening dates of CAFAM exhibitions where appropriate, and she added information for clarification and deleted 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.
3.25 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 Los Angeles--Parents--Early years in East L.A. 5:00--Problems fitting in with Mexicans and WASPs--Move to Fairfax neighborhood--First two years to University of California, Berkeley 10:00 Meeting Fred, who is in medical school--Living at home in L.A.--BA in sociology in February 1960--Fred sets up with partner in family practice in San Pedro. 15:00 Stella always works or goes to school even after kids come--San Pedro/Miraleste/Rolling Hills, where they live until 1989--Interests in collecting groups develop--Fred is “real” collector and artist 20:00--Bought paintings, oriental rugs, textiles, beaded bags with rug designs--Textile Museum Advisory Council--Fred starts The Textile Museum Associates of Southern California; joined Ethnic Arts Council and The Bead Society 25:00--Not sure when met Edith Wyle--Rodessa Moore, Egg and The Eye chef, catered some of their parties--1970 started volunteering at L.A. Natural History Museum shop--Manager, Judith Weinstein--Judy had falling-out with Natural History Museum--Stella starts working as travel agent in San Pedro--Fred and Stella aware of Egg and Eye gallery changing into museum 35:00--Judy Weinstein and Edith Wyle similar--Members of CAFAM off and on; didn't belong to Associates.40:00 Got to know John Browse--He was wholesale vendor of imports from Africa; Stella bought from him for Natural History Museum--In 1989 Kriegers moved to West L.A.--Stella works for another travel agency part-time. In 1994 Gloria Gonick calls to ask if she would consider working for renovated CAFAM. 45:00 They knew Patrick Ela, belonged to same collecting organizations--Stella was aware CAFAM in May Company. 50:00 May Company--Library in May Company; riots in 1992. 55:00 Leaving the May Company--Problems with renovation; architects Hodgetts + Fung; not owning 5800 Wilshire building. 1:00:00 Stella knows Frank tried to buy building--Stella invited to Regency Club to talk to Wyles and few others about being new Shop Manager--Stella’s impression of Wyles. 1:05:00 Patrick Ela; Wyle children and grandchildren. Bernard Kester's influence on Edith. 1:10:00 CAFAM shop unique: no t-shirts, everything handmade--Museum Store Association; books on organizing museum shops--Influencing design of shop; what she couldn't change. 1:15:00 Problems with Hodgetts + Fung-designed shop furniture; footprint of building; no loading dock; no storage space--Leftover merchandise from previous store; Gerri Freer helps. Wyles and Patrick trusted her; Joaquin Torrico did not at first. 1:20:00 Getting "point-of-sale" computer system; Frank Wyle's help to buy; LACMA point-of-sale person helps her--Problems with merchandise; couldn't unpack so couldn't tag ahead of time--Hiring Rosie Getz, Wyle's granddaughter, as her assistant.