Oral Histories

Interview of Joan M. Benedetti

Conducted 17 Craft and Folk Art Museum interviews. Museum Librarian, 1976 – 1997. Director, CAFAM Center for the Study of Art and Culture, 1989 – 1994. Processed CAFAM Records; composed Finding Aid.
Series:
Craft and Folk Art Museum Oral History Project
Topic:
Art
Interviewer:
Lovelace, Joyce
Interviewee:
Benedetti, Joan
Persons Present:
Joyce Lovelace in California and Joan Benedetti in New Mexico; Robert Benedetti was present in the Benedetti home, but did not participate in the telephone conversation.
Place Conducted:
Joan Benedetti was at her home in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Joyce Lovelace was at her home in La Cañada, California, when she called Joan, recording the interview on her cell phone.
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:
Joyce Lovelace, Contributing Editor and writer for the American Craft Council's (A.C.C.) magazine, American Craft, started writing for American Craft magazine in 1983 as an Associate Editor when the A.C.C. was headquartered in New York City. When the A.C.C. organization moved to Minneapolis in 1995, she remained on the American Craft staff as Contributing Editor, reporting from her home in La Cañada in Southern California. Her articles appear in almost every issue. This interview was not part of the original Craft and Folk Art Museum Oral History Project. It was conducted by Joyce Lovelace for an article published in the April/May 2012 issue of the magazine, American Craft, on the completion by Joan Benedetti of the processing of the CAFAM Records: 1965 – 1997, located at UCLA Research Library’s Special Collections. The institutional archives had been donated to UCLA when the museum closed (temporarily as it turned out) at the end of 1997. Benedetti had served as the CAFAM Museum Librarian for 21 years, 1976 – 1997, and she facilitated the transfer of the archives to UCLA and the library to the L.A. County Museum of Art. She moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 2009 and Lovelace interviewed her for over two hours by telephone; the interview was recorded. Because the content of the Lovelace interview covered essentially the same time concerning CAFAM that was the focus of the oral history project, it was decided that Lovelace interview of Benedetti (with Lovelace’s permission) would be included with the CAFAM oral history recordings and transcripts at the Center for Oral History Research at UCLA.
Processing of Interview:
Both Lovelace and Benedetti reviewed the transcript and made minor changes, deleting some back and forth dialogue that served no purpose. Benedetti also added some information in brackets for clarification, as appropriate. 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.
Length:
2 hrs.
Language:
English
Copyright:
Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
Audio:
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.
Craft and Folk Art Museum (CAFAM) Records Finding Aid in Online Archive of California--CAFAM press release sent to American Craft Council (ACC)—Jessica Shaykett, ACC librarian, tells Joyce Lovelace about Benedetti—Lovelace to write about CAFAM Records and Benedetti’s work on them--1:00 Joan and Joyce reminisce about the ACC and CAFAM—Joan Polster and Linda Seckelson, former ACC librarians—6:00 What was Joan “presented with” initially--Why CAFAM closed in 1997—Joan’s history with CAFAM—Early career aspirations—Motivation for library degree—Early library career: Gary and Milwaukee—CAFAM job high point--16:00 Edith Wyle—Patrick Ela—Festival of Masks-- 21:00 CAFAM as nexus for folk arts—Tension between folk art, contemporary craft, and design—Materials of everyday life—L.A. citywide exhibition “Pacific Standard Time”—Eudora Moore 26:00 Moore and Center for the Study of Art and Culture (CSAC)—Workshops on diversity and inclusion for museum workers—1992 (riots and Columbus Quincentenary) 31:00 Museums re-thinking focus on Western values—Contemporary Native American craft exhibition—More about diversity and inclusion workshops--36:00 Nancy Downes-LeGuin, professional trainers—Festival of Masks, CAFAM’s community involvement—CAFAM Records and understanding world crafts--41:00 Content of Records collection—Arrangement—Photography of exhibitions—Budgets--46:00 P.E.T. Project—Art Libraries Society of North America (ARLIS/NA) and Society of American Archivists (SAA)--51:00 Organization by originating source—Placement decisions—Publicity files--56:00 Helping researchers—CAFAM library committee--1:01:00 Calling ARLIS colleagues—Request for proposal—Discovery of CAFAM records—Adding CAFAM records into RFP—Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) takes library—Archives to UCLA--1:06:00 100 boxes to start, then many more—“Where everything was”—Description of two Wilshire buildings—A sea of boxes—Final number about 250—Flat files, odd-shaped boxes--1:11:00 All staff laid off—Work/storage space at UCLA—Joan at LACMA—Volunteers at UCLA—After LACMA retirement more time at UCLA—One box, one folder at a time—Start of Finding Aid--1:16:00 Working alone—Michelle Arens--1:21:00--Joan’s motivation—Items of value?--1:26:00 What would interest artists?—Exhibition files—Searching Finding Aid—Moving to UCLA Library Special Collections' Center for Primary Research and Training (CFPRT)--1:31:00 UCLA renovations precipitate move—CFPRT adopts—Two graduate students speed up process—Move to Santa Fe November 2009—Back to L.A. for final processing, clean-up--1:36:00 Work on Finding Aid from Santa Fe—Did Joan know how long it would take?—Starting oral histories—Teresa Barnett’s oral history course—UCLA Center for Oral History Research (COHR) lends equipment—After LACMA retirement--Finding time for Art Museum Libraries and Librarianship--1:41:00 Working with 43 art museum librarians--1:46:00 Making do for granting agencies—Librarians most generous people—Alma Eikerman inspiring teacher at Indiana University--1:51:00 Robert Benedetti—Noah Wyle-- 1:56:00 Wyle on CAFAM board—Others Lovelace might write about--End of session-- 1:58:38.