The Hand-in-Hand Folk Art Collection was started by Alice Ann Biggerstaff, a longtime Hallmark employee. Although she never meant to start a collection, Alice Ann acquired hundreds of pieces of folk art through her world travels and her friendships with people of different cultures. Folk art is typically one-of-a-kind pieces made by artists with little formal artistic training, made from materials found within a specific cultural region and using techniques and styles from that region.
In 1995, Alice Ann donated her large folk art collection to the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation (GKCCF) to start the Hand-in-Hand-Folk Art Collection. Mattie Rhodes Center became an active partner of Hand-in-Hand in 1999 when the agency began continuously displaying pieces from the collection in permanent cases in the Mattie Rhodes Art Gallery.
In early 2007, Mattie Rhodes Center was formally gifted the Hand-in-Hand Folk Art Collection, which had grown to more than 800 pieces. In the next few years, many additional pieces were added to the collection and the entire collection was appraised, catalogued and digitized. In mid-2009 the collection moved to the ground floor of UMB’s pARTnership place at 9th and Grand Blvd. in downtown Kansas City, Missouri. Pieces from the collection are on display in this gallery and continue to be on display at the Mattie Rhodes Art Gallery.
Currently the collection includes more than 1,500 pieces of original folk art and encompasses sculpture, ceramics, toys, dolls, masks and textiles. The strongest areas of the collection are works from Latin America and Hispanic and Pueblo Indian artists of the Southwest. Lesson plans and educational background material have been developed for many pieces and Mattie Rhodes Center offers art workshops based on pieces in the collection. The Hand-in-Hand Folk Art Collection remains a valuable cultural and educational resource available to the Greater Kansas City metropolitan area.