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Meet Fred Beshid of Museum of Fred

Today we’d like to introduce you to Fred Beshid.

Fred, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I was born and raised in Los Angeles, the son of immigrants. In my early years, we struggled to make ends meet, so we frequented thrift stores to stretch our limited budget.

There was no budget for entertainment so we’d scour the local paper looking for free things to do around town. We’d often end up at museums, many of which were free in those days. I have fond memories of spending many days at the Huntington Library in San Marino. I was impressed with the mansion and the art collection. As a result, I fantasized about of having my own art collection and museum when I grew up. I knew this was a pipe dream, but it came true in an interesting way.

While I was in art school, I started going to thrift stores again and was drawn to the art bins because of my interest in art. I figured I could start collecting thrift store paintings since I couldn’t afford blue-chip art. Since I was training to be an artist at the time, I was drawn to these amateurish paintings showing obvious signs of struggle. Even today the paintings remind me of Saul Steinberg’s quote, “What we respond to in any work of art is the artist’s struggle against his or her limitations.”

By the time the Internet went public in 1995, I had a few hundred paintings in my collection, and I was being asked to show them. After seeing prominent museums were creating websites I saw an opportunity to create my own online museum so I could share my collection with the world. The Museum of Fred (MOF) was finally established in 2000 to celebrate amateur art and the cultural diversity of Los Angeles. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was a pioneer in the new world of online museums and online curating.

I was surprised by how much attention it received. I started getting emails from around the world and winning awards. It was featured on NPR’s All Things Considered, CBC’s Freestyle radio program and in other articles around the world. It was even referenced in a German book about “cultural context providers.” I’m not sure how so many people found MOF, but I’m glad it’s brought some joy into the world.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Being a champion of amateur art and online museums proved to be controversial in the beginning. Some in the museum world felt I was not qualified to be a curator or to create a “museum.” I was criticized for saying making art was too important to be left only to art professionals.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about the Museum of Fred – what should we know?
As I grow older, I’m becoming increasingly more concerned about the future of the collection. I’m currently looking for a permanent home for the collection so it will be maintained after I’m gone.

Also, I hope to be expanding my commitment to working with local nonprofits that can benefit from my experience. I’m currently working with 826LA, Machine Project and Phoneme Media, a nonprofit translation publisher.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Farhad Parsa

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