Susan Cummins has been involved in numerous ways in the visual arts world over the last 35 years, from working in a pottery studio, doing street fairs, running a retail shop called the Firework in Mill Valley and developing the Susan Cummins Gallery into a nationally recognized venue for regional art and contemporary art jewelry. Now she spends most of her time working with a private family foundation called Rotasa and as a board member of AJF and California College of the Arts.
Susan Cummins interviewed Allie Farlowe in 2008. Farlowe was, at that time, assistant curator at the Mint Museum of Craft + Design in North Carolina, United States.
Susan Cummins: Tell us something about your background and your role at the Mint Museum.
Allie Farlowe: I received a BFA in jewelry and metalwork from the University of Georgia and a MA in American Decorative Arts from a joint program offered by Parsons School of Design and the Smithsonian Institution. I selected this particular graduate program because it allowed me to closely study the history of jewelry and metalwork. Over the years I have also worked and interned at various museums including the Georgia Museum of Art and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. One particularly exciting opportunity was a research assistant position at the Renwick Gallery during the organization of the 2003 Jewels and Gems exhibition. Currently, I am the assistant curator at the Mint Museum of Craft + Design. I have been at MMC+D for three years.
Have you curated any jewelry shows in the past? Do you have some planned for the future?
I have worked on many exhibitions at MMC+D that have incorporated a great deal of jewelry. Most recently, I curated Masters of Disguise, a permanent collection exhibition that addressed not only people’s relationship with self-transformation, but also examined disguised forms, materials and environments. Jewelry played an important role in this exhibition, especially the work of Melanie Bilenker, Evert Nijland and Robert Ebendorf. Future projects include a retrospective of Gary Noffke’s work. This exhibition will explore Noffke’s jewelry, holloware and flatware from the 1960s to present day. Also, MMM+D is hosting two traveling shows that focus on jewelry: Ornament as Art: Avant-Garde Jewelry from the Helen Williams Drutt Collection (August 16, 200 8–January 4, 2009) and The Miniature Worlds of Bruce Metcalf (February 2 8–May 17, 2009).
How has the Mint worked with Susan Beech to acquire a jewelry collection?
Susan Beech has played an instrumental role in the development of MMC+D’s international jewelry collection. She generously provided the seed money for the collection, not long after meeting founding director Mark Leach. Susan continues to enthusiastically share her knowledge and time as well as help the museum acquire many important works. Her passion for the field of studio jewelry is contagious! This year Susan will be presented with the McColl Award. This award, which was established by MMC+D and our national support affiliate, the Founders’ Circle, recognizes her generosity, energy and vision.
Can you talk about any particularly significant pieces in your collection?
There are so many significant works within MMC+D’s international jewelry collection. The holdings include a range of materials, techniques, narratives and styles. Currently, we are in the process of mounting an installation within the Gorelick Gallery that will highlight many significant examples of jewelry and metalwork from MMC+D’s permanent collection. Included among the 45 works are creations by Annamaria Zanella, Nel Linssen, Tina Rath, Nancy Worden, David Watkins and Ruudt Peters.
Has the Mint shown jewelry in relationship to other craft and if so what were the ideas behind those shows?
MMC+D has shown and continues to show jewelry in relationship to other craft media in exhibitions and within, in our permanent collection galleries. These groupings not only create interesting visual comparisons, but also stimulate dialogue.