Romanian Folk Art Museum Proposed for Montgomery
By Katie Jain l April 20, 2021
Sitting in the home of former teacher Rodica Perciali are four historic European benches—part of her antique Romanian furniture collection. Three have been placed in her garage, too big for the house which was already “overloaded with pottery, rugs, textiles, libraries, decorative arts, and archives” according to the 72-year-old educator. Such has been Perciali’s life for 33 years now, since she began collecting and displaying Romanian cultural items in Chicago.
Over the past three decades, she has established the largest collection of European village artifacts in the United States, from traditional clothing to furniture. Her items have been loaned and presented in museums in Chicago, Philadelphia, and Transylvania. Perhaps most remarkable of these items, however, are the 1,000 exquisite decorative eggs, now adorning Perciali’s museum in Philadelphia.
Brightened with geometric shapes and patterns, traditional Romanian colors, and religious or nature-related imagery, these eggs represent an Easter custom for many Orthodox Christians. Between buying the eggs from artisans and importing a full 40-foot trailer of antiques from Romania, Perciali has exhibited her collection across the country.
Now though, after its generational lifespan, Perciali is looking to compile her branches of the Romanian Folk Art Museum into one, Montgomery-based location. She and her husband, Michael, have spent more than 20 years in three locations and have determined that, in their age, they can no longer “continue to strive for visionary endeavors and model projects” alone.
To Perciali, Montgomery feels like “the sunny countryside of Europe” and holds Dutch origins, similar to much of their village furniture collection. Moreover, as a teacher, Perciali sees enormous benefit in her collection being displayed in Montgomery. “This is not your typical museum,” she emphasized, “it has the potential to make Montgomery unique and to educate its students.”
Yet, Perciali says this transition, both financially and socially, “cannot be made alone.” She pointed out that, while she has found a number of properties in Montgomery perfect for her purposes, “We can’t do it ourselves anymore. It would be beautiful if Montgomery could purchase that large space. It could be the pride of the area, instead of the building going to something commercial. “Montgomery already lost its arts center,” she said, referring to the former site on Montgomery Road in Skillman, which serves as a meeting and gathering place for the 24 Club, an addition recovery program.
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Beyond its obvious functions within the county, Perciali believes that the creation of a Romanian Folk Art Museum in Montgomery could “initiate a program of cultural dialogues,” even going so far as to “put Montgomery on the map by bridging its traditional heritage and rustic flavor with a modern, creative, and international outlook.”
Through her complex story and passion for the arts, Perciali is still a teacher at heart. Since the 1980s, she has developed projects and ways to educate people about the history of immigration and cultural entrepreneurship. She has sought ways to spread awareness about her cultural heritage, through museums, internship programs, presentations, and conferences. Perciali has dedicated her life to the art of sharing; now, she seeks to bring that art to Montgomery.
For more information visit her website at romanianculture.us.