Celebrating the life of Barbara Cate, the art she collected

‘Navajo People,’ by Antonio Johnson

SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — Living well means different things to different people but all would agree that loving what you do adds to the magic. “Carved, Painted, Stitched: The Folk Art Collection of Barbara Cate” on view at the Pierro Gallery, 5 Mead St. in South Orange, from Jan. 25 through March 3 features one of the great loves and accomplishments of local art historian Barbara Cate. There will be an opening celebration on Thursday, Jan. 25, from 7 to 9 p.m. at the gallery.

Cate, who lived from 1923 to 2017, loved and lived with her collection of American folk art in her Maplewood home for many years. She first became interested in folk art in the 1960s, and went on to build most of her collection in the 1980s and 1990s, traveling widely around the United States with her husband Tracey Cate, sometimes by motorcycle, meeting artists and buying their work. A trained art historian and professor at Seton Hall University, Cate organized exhibitions and wrote books and catalogue entries about folk art. She surrounded herself in her work and her daily life with the art she loved best. This exhibition celebrates Cate, her passion for collecting and her belief in living what you love.

A host of free public programs accompanies the exhibition and, as befitting this collaborative project between Seton Hall colleagues and South Orange Cultural Affairs, the programs will be held at the Baird Center and at Seton Hall.

On Saturday, Feb. 3, from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Baird Center, 5 Mead St., attend “We Collect: A Pop- Up Museum Family Day,” with Harley Spiller, aka the “Inspector Collector.” A pop-up museum is a temporary exhibit created by the people who sign up to participate. The museum lasts a few hours, giving you a chance to share what you love with other collectors. Families are encouraged to register for this event to show what they have collected. To sign up, contact Martiny at smartiny@southorange.org; participation is limited, with tables going to participants at a first-come, first-served basis. Children are encouraged to register to share their collections and attend with one caregiver. Visitors are encouraged to attend to speak with the collectors. Spiller is famous for his numerous collections, including Chinese restaurant menus, Mr. T memorabilia and more. He will be on site to talk about all the fun things you can learn from your own collections.

On Thursday, Feb. 15, don’t miss “Art Collecting in America: Torchbearers and Tastemakers. Esmee Quodbach of the Frick Art Reference Library in New York will discuss from 7 to 8 p.m. at Seton Hall University’s Walsh Library, Beck Rooms, the rich history of more than two centuries of art collecting in America, from its inauspicious beginnings to the present. Prior to the lecture, from 6 to 7 p.m., there will be refreshments and an opportunity to meet Quodbach.

On Thursday, March 1, join moderator Chad Leinaweaver, visiting collectors Marion Bolden and Michael Festa, and local art restoration professional Sarah Barack from 7:30 to 8:30 at the Pierro Gallery in the Baird Center to discuss the collecting life. Bolden collects black Americana, including sheet music and Madame CJ Walker products; Festa is a toy collector extraordinaire. Learn how their passions guide their collecting, how collecting has enhanced their lives, and what it is like to live with and nurture a collection. Barack will be on hand to help you figure out the safest ways to care for your own collections. View an object from each of these collectors that has a fascinating story behind it. There will be plenty of time for questions and answers with guests.

On Tuesday, March 20, hear Rutgers University professor James Delbourgo discuss “Encyclopedic Collecting, the British Empire and the British Museum: The Curious Case of Hans Sloane” from 7 to 8 p.m. at Seton Hall University’s Walsh Library, Beck Rooms. Prior to the lecture, from 6 to 7 p.m., there will be refreshments and a chance to meet Delbourgo. This talk explores the overlooked yet colorful life of British Museum founder Sir Hans Sloane. Born in 1660, Sloane amassed a fortune as a London society physician, became president of the Royal Society and Royal College of Physicians, and assembled an encyclopedic collection of specimens and objects — the most famous cabinet of curiosities of its time — which became the foundation of the British Museum.

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