The Mennello Museum of American Folk Art

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The Mennello Museum of American Folk Art

900 East Princeton Street

Orlando, Florida 32803

Written by Julie Greiner

When visiting Orlando, Florida, there are many cultural sites, events and experiences outside the gates of the theme parks. One of Orlando's most prominent museums is the Mennello Museum which is located in picturesque Loch Haven Park on Lake Formosa. Special exhibitions and programs are celebrated throughout the year - including traveling folk art exhibitions. One of the most prominent permanent exhibitions is the Cunningham Collection which was donated by collectors Marilyn and Michael Mennello of Winter Park, Florida.

Earl Cunningham 1893-1977

Earl Cunningham was born in Edgecomb Maine and spent his life practicing such diverse trades such as a chicken farmer in Georgia raising chickens for the U.S. Army, a seaman and a tinker. Earl Cunningham settled in St Augustine, Florida in 1949 and opened a curio shop called "The Over-Folk Gallery." Cunningham painted landscapes of places he had visited during his earlier life, such as Maine, New York, Nova Scotia, Michigan, North and South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. His paintings being full of vivid colors, and his visions of the world gave him the reputation of being an American Primitive Fauve.

In 1986, The Museum of American Folk Art in New York featured Earl Cunningham's work which promoted and publicized his work world-wide. His works are now displayed in The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institute and the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Center in Williamsburg, Virginia.

American Folk Art

American Folk Art has been described in various ways and words. Roberta Smith, noted art critic, described Cunningham's works as "a weird fusion of traditional folk art and pop culture." H. Barbara Weinberg described Cunningham's works as summoning "our own associations, recollections, fantasies, and reveries..."

The City of of Orlando dedicated the opening of the Mennello Museum in November, 1998. Marilyn and Michael Mennello presented Earl Cunningham's painting Camp David to President and Mrs. George W. Bush in a White House ceremony. It is believed that the painting will be displayed at the President's mountain retreat, Camp David. Other selected works from the Permanent Collection include: Charlie Lucas, Renee LaTour, Jesse Aaron, Mama Johnson, Jimmy Lee Sudduth, Sister Gertrude Morgan and Missionary Mary Proctor. The Mennello Museum Gift Shop specializes in hard to find folk art books, a selection of folk art greeting cards and original art works by local artists. For further information call 407-246-4278.

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