Willem and Diane Volkersz, of Bozeman, Montana, began to collect folk and outsider art in the 1970s. The Volkersz’ met at the University of Washington in the 1960s where Willem was working on his BA degree in studio art. He became fascinated with Simon Rodia’s Watts Towers in Los Angeles, and after he and Diane moved to Kansas City when he accepted a teaching position at the Kansas City Art Institute, they began to collect folk and outsider art.
From the late 1970s to the present, they have amassed one of the most important folk and outsider art collections in the country.
It is the storytelling or narrative aspects of the artwork that particularly appeal to them. “Folk art is the development of these artists’ own unique format and imagery, and they have to tell a story,” Willem has said. “It’s something in their lives that they’ve negatively experienced, such as a divorce or death. It gives them emphasis to start telling their story, and that is what we’ve really been interested in.”