Photo credit: Artist unidentified, Independent Order of Odd Fellows Bow and Arrows Plaque for First Degree, 1860–1900, Paint and gold leaf on wood, with metal, Collection American Folk Art Museum, New York, Gift of Kendra and Allan Daniel, Photo by José Andrés Ramírez
Mystical, evocative, and sometimes simply strange, the art of fraternal practice is rich in symbols that are oddly familiar yet strikingly uncommon. Through arcane and alluring artifacts, Mystery and Benevolence brings to light the histories of the Freemasons and the Independent Order of the Odd Fellows, two fraternal secret societies with deep roots in American history. The over eighty carvings, textiles, sculptures, and adornments that constitute this exhibition were used from the late eighteenth through mid-twentieth centuries, and retain their clandestine allure to this day.
Whether regarded as “secret societies” or “societies with secrets,” American fraternal groups arouse endless curiosity about their ceremonies, ritualized performances, and recitations. These practices, many borrowed and adapted from ancient Egypt and biblical Christianity, are kept hidden from outsiders, and lend an aura of exclusivity and brotherhood to its members. The “mystery and privilege” of these brotherhoods are also transmitted through secret systems of hand grips, gestures, and passwords that are thought to originate in the Middle Ages. Cryptic symbols, hieroglyphs, rituals, and vows of secrecy cloak fraternal orders in an opaque otherness that separates them from society while also binding their members in a system of shared belief.
Mystery & Benevolence: Masonic and Odd Fellows Folk Art was organized by the American Folk Art Museum, New York from the Kendra and Allan Daniel Collection and is toured by International Arts & Artists, Washington, DC
Activities & Events
One Day Workshops
Art Nouveau Illustrations
Marc Chagall Plate
Free Gallery Talks
Thursday, November 10, 6-8 pm
Speakers: Dale Perelman, Jonathan Solomon, Jim McKim, Rob Cummings
The Making of Masonic Monuments
Thursday, December 15, 6-8 pm
Speaker: Jim West
The Origins of Friday the 13th
Friday, January 13, 6-8 pm
Speaker: Bob Presnar
Scottish Rite Cathedral Tours
A unique tour of Masonic History and symbolism held within New Castle’s own Scottish Rite Cathedral. Get a exclusive peek into the Lodge Rooms and Masonic Archives still in use today. Held Thursdays, November 10 – January 18. Reservations required.
Night at the Movies: National Treasure (PG)
Thursday, December 29, 6 pm
Bring the whole family to see the 2004 movie, National Treasure staring Nicolas Cage at the Scottish Rite Cathedral Auditorium. Admission is free. Concessions will be available.
About the Movie: Benjamin Franklin Gates (Nicolas Cage), in hot pursuit of a legendary treasure, must steal one of America’s most sacred and guarded documents — the Declaration of Independence!
Schedule a Tour
Guided tours of the exhibits are available at no charge for school groups and clubs. Contact Robert Presnar to schedule your tour of the Hoyt Galleries.
Take your students onaA unique tour of Masonic History and symbolism held within New Castle’s own Scottish Rite Cathedral. Get a exclusive peek into the Lodge Rooms and Masonic Archives still in use today. To schedule at day-time tour, contact Dawn at (724) 654-6683 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Featuring objects from the American Folk Art Museum that reflect American history and culture, this guide is designed to be readily adapted by educators teaching Kindergarten through high school levels. While classroom teachers across the city, state, and nation often teach similar content to their students, each educator has a distinct approach to engaging their learners in the material. In response to this, the museum’s education team has created a guide to borrow from and build on to meet the needs of your specific classroom environment and teaching style.