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Memorial Exhibition and Event Series Celebrates Folk Art Collection of M.A. in Museum Professions Co-Founder  

Barbara Cate Exhibition

Photo Credit: Kenneth Hoffman, Ph.D., College of Communication and the Arts

A memorial exhibition is open at the Pierro Gallery in South Orange, New Jersey through March 3 in honor of Professor Emerita Barbara Cate, co-founder of the M.A. in Museum Professions program within the College of Communication and the Arts. An event series is also planned to celebrate her life and legacy. Cate passed away peacefully at the age of 94 on February 4, 2017.

The memorial exhibition, “Carved, Painted, Stitched: The Folk Art Collection of Barbara Cate,” brings together Cate’s collection for the first time thanks to the generous support of the College, Graduate Studies, the Museum Professions program, and Sandy Martiny, adjunct instructor and director of cultural affairs for South Orange, New Jersey.

Cate first came to Seton Hall University in 1963 after earning degrees from Cornell University and Columbia University. At Seton Hall, she taught art and art history courses for more than 20 years.

“After her retirement from teaching, I asked her to stay on to develop the M.A. in Museum Professions program,” said Dr. Petra Chu, program co-founder and professor, who helped organize the memorial programming. “She went on to become the program’s first director.”

Barbara Cate Exhibition

Photo Credit: Kenneth Hoffman, Ph.D., College of Communication and the Arts

Under the leadership of Cate and Chu, the Museum Professions program began in 1994. Students in that first graduating class still remember Cate’s devotion to her students as well as her extensive knowledge of the museum professions field. Katie Witzig, M.A. ’99, who served as Cate’s graduate assistant during her initial tenure as program director and is now one of the curators for the memorial exhibition, said Cate was the perfect person to launch the program.

“Barbara Cate was the heart and soul of the Museum Professions program,” Witzig recalls. “Her passion for the work and for the students was contagious. The way she did things at Seton Hall made her endearing to those of us that had the privilege of working with her.”

Dr. Charlotte Nichols, current program director and associate professor, also fondly remembers Cate. “Barbara was an extraordinarily charismatic teacher,” she said. “Each class was a kind of mesmerizing performance, with a rapt audience. During many of her lectures, as I prepared for my own classes in the office next door, I would often find myself listening in on her lectures.”

Outside of the classroom, Cate was an avid collector of folk art. For her, collecting was not a form of investment – it was a way of surrounding herself with objects she related to and loved. Over the years her collection grew to include wooden animal sculptures, decorated gourds, paintings from New Jersey folk artist Henry Thomas Gulick, and jackets made from damaged quilts that no longer could serve their original purpose.

In the 1980s and 1990s, her collecting activity reached a peak when she became involved in the Folk Art Institute, the academic branch of the Museum of American Folk Art in New York City. She went on to serve as a member of the museum’s board.

Barbara Cate Exhibition

Photo Credit: Kenneth Hoffman, Ph.D., College of Communication and the Arts

By 2017, Cate had collected hundreds of folk and outsider art, historic and contemporary pieces, and works in many different media. Her collection filled every room of her two homes in New Jersey and her studio in New Mexico. Cate and her husband Tracy frequently hosted parties, generously allowing visitors to view the collection.  

Now the public can experience Cate’s collection firsthand. “If you knew Barbara, we hope the exhibition helps you remember. If you did not know her, consider this your introduction to an amazing woman who loved life, her family, her students, and art,” Witzig said. “May her memory live on through all of us and all the work she did to enhance the museum and folk art communities.”

Please join us in honoring Barbara Cate at the following memorial exhibition and events:

Cate’s legacy lives on today. The M.A. in Museum Professions is an innovative program designed for individuals interested in pursuing careers in museums or related cultural institutions. Students in the program select one of four professional tracks, including Museum Education, Museum Registration, Museum Management, or Exhibition Development.

The College currently offers three Master's-level programs, including Museum Professions, Strategic Communication, and Public Relations. In addition, four dual-degree options, including three accelerated B.A./M.A. programs and a dual M.A. degree with the School of Diplomacy and International Relations are offered. A Ph.D. program is currently under development.

For more information about Graduate Studies within the College of Communication and the Arts, please contact Dr. Ryan Hudes.

Categories: Arts and Culture

For more information, please contact:

  • Ryan Hudes, Ph.D.
  • (973) 275-4832
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