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SPACES Update from Jo Farb Hernández

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Jo Farb Hernández


It has been over four years since Terri Yoho, Executive Director of the Kohler Foundation, Inc., and I began discussions about the possibility of transferring the substantial physical and digital assets of SPACES (Saving and Preserving Arts and Cultural Environments) archives from California to Wisconsin for their long-term preservation and care. Since that time, KFI personnel and the SPACES Board have worked together with me to conceptually and logistically strategize for this transfer of knowledge, and, as of this writing, all steps in this process have essentially been completed.


We at SPACES/California are greatly appreciative of the work that the SPACES/Kohler team put in to ensure a smooth transition, as we’ve packed and shipped boxes, outlined priorities, and answered questions. Annalise Flynn, an art historian and curator whose master’s thesis from the School of the Art Institute in Chicago focused on the work of Leonard Knight at Salvation Mountain, is now working at SPACES/KFI to address curatorial and research programming going forward.


As Director/Chief Curator Emerita of SPACES, I will continue to work with Annalise and the SPACES/KFI team during a transitional period, concentrating on research and writing about art environments worldwide, providing reports from the field, and advising on ongoing and future advocacy efforts.


As I have recounted earlier, it is both astonishing and gratifying to look back on the arc of how this genre of art, enigmatic at first, became identified as a global phenomenon of idiosyncratic and personal expressivity; how a couple of boxes full of photographs of and paperwork about the Watts Towers developed into the repository for hundreds of books, journals, dissertations, clippings, videos, and audio tapes, as well as tens of thousands of photographs in every analog and digital format, documenting art environments from all over the world; how the efforts of a single photographer, Seymour Rosen, transferred to a small team of one full-time Director and an evolving but dedicated crew of some 3-4 archival assistants who have managed the exponential growth of the archives and so many publication, research, and curatorial projects; and how the efforts of a few committed activists from southern California blossomed into a worldwide community of enthusiasts eager to share their latest discoveries in a way that treats both the art environments and their creators with the respect, the dignity, and the awe they deserve.


It has been an amazing arc so far in all of these ways. And, as SPACES takes its next steps under the auspices of the Kohler Foundation, we remain full of exciting ideas for new research, projects, and preservation, and for ways to think about and interpret these masterful and audacious works. We are grateful to the Kohler Foundation, Inc. for recognizing the value of our work and our collections, and we look forward, with our new partnership, to accomplishing even greater achievements in the future.


Annalise Flynn may be reached at info@spacesarchives.org

Jo Farb Hernández may be reached at jo@jofarbhernandez.com.