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Director Quits After Folk Museum Misses $3.7 Million Payment

The executive director of the American Folk Art Museum, which is in default on interest payments due for $31.9 million of bonds, is leaving the museum in July.

Maria Ann Conelli said today on the museum’s website that after six years at the museum, she’s returning to academia. She didn’t return a call or e-mail for comment. Susan Flamm, a spokeswoman, declined to comment.

The museum, a few feet west of the Museum of Modern Art on Manhattan’s W. 53rd Street, missed $3.7 million in payments to a debt service fund connected to bonds issued to construct a new building, it said in a January filing. It didn’t expect to make payments into the fund “for the foreseeable future,” the museum said.

Exhibitions of paintings, drawings and quilts -- many of them acclaimed -- failed to attract attendance and revenue projected a decade ago when the bonds were issued. The museum has been searching for a patron to rescue it, possibly in exchange for prominently displaying his or her name.

“There are many development opportunities at the museum,” Conelli said in an e-mail to Bloomberg in February. “Our education floor and programs can be named for $2 million and the building can be named for $25 million.”

Photographer: Paul Goguen/Bloomberg

The exterior of the American Folk Art Museum. Close

The exterior of the American Folk Art Museum.

Photographer: Paul Goguen/Bloomberg

The exterior of the American Folk Art Museum.

Before joining the museum, Conelli was dean of the School of Graduate Studies at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Before that, she was at what’s now called Parsons The New School for Design.

Conelli said on the museum’s website that she’s leaving the museum “in the good hands” of the deputy director, Linda Dunne, and the board. Dunne, reached by phone, declined to comment.

To contact the reporters on this story: Philip Boroff in New York at; To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at

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