John Foster

Collector, Artist, Designer, Speaker, Writer, and Father


John Foster defines himself simply as “immensely curious about the world.” For the last 35 years, John has been an educator, graphic designer, painter, photographer and continues as a passionate collector and scholar of photography, folk, self-taught and art brut.

For ten years (1995 to 2005), John was a founder and president of ENVISION Folk Art of Missouri, a not-for-profit arts organization where he served as editor of the Journal for 10 years. He currently serves on the Board of Trustees for SPACES (Saving and Preserving Art and Creative Environments) and is an emeritus member of the Advisory Board of the Folk Art Society of America. John was selected as FASA’s 2004 recipient of the Award of Distinction on the occasion of their 17th Annual Conference in Oakland, California.

John Foster’s exhibition “Accidental Mysteries” of vernacular photography opened in 2005 at the Sheldon Art Galleries in St. Louis and continues to travel to museum venues throughout the United States. To date, it has been shown over 12 different museums, including the Peabody Essex Museum in Boston, MA, Intuit in Chicago and San Jose State University in California. The Peabody Essex Museum reported that over 77,000 visitors visited the exhibition during its stay. The exhibition has received numerous positive reviews and acclaim during its travel schedule, including being named one of the Top Ten Art Exhibitions of 2006 for the city of Memphis, TN.

John has been an invited guest speaker on vernacular photography and self-taught art at many universities and professional venues, including the American Folk Art Museum’s annual symposium Uncommon Artists: A Series of Cameo Talks during the Outsider Art Fair week in 2007.

John’s impact on others is larger than he imagines...and in an increasingly visual and digital world, anyone with the wide-open eyes and critical judgment he brings to his projects is especially valuable.
— Jim Linderman, Grammy nominated artist, writer, collector, and blogger at Dull Tool Dim Bulb

Art & Antiques Magazine (March 2005) named the Foster collection of vernacular photography in its annual list as one of the Top 100 Art Collections in the United States. He has been written about or his collection shown in magazines and newspapers ranging from The New York Times,  Harper’s, Collector’s Weekly, The Folk Art Messenger, Raw Vision, Don’t Take Pictures, and online magazines such as Newsweek, Phaidon, SF Gate, and more.

In 2014, John was the sole juror for How Magazine's 5th International Annual Poster Design Competition.

John is currently a contributor for, an international website that features news and critical essays on design, urbanism, social innovation and popular culture. To date, John has written nearly 300 weekly posts for the popular site.

John is a writer and has lectured on the field of self-taught art, vernacular photography and folk art environments and has curated numerous exhibitions in art.

He has written for Raw Vision magazine; Intuit’s Outsider magazine; the Folk Art Messenger, the Missouri Historical Society Gateway Magazine and ENVISION. Additionally, John has been on the forefront in discovering one of the most important self-taught artists of the 20th century—that of “The Electric Pencil”, later identified as Edward Deeds through the hard work of artist and collector extraordinaire Harris Diamont of New York.

John holds a BFA degree from East Carolina University and a MFA degree from Washington University in St. Louis. 

John and his wife Teenuh have two grown children, Hannah and Luke, and make their home in St. Louis, Missouri. 



Recent Instagram Photos by John Foster