Mission and History | Montclair Art Museum
(MAM) & Yard School of Art offer American, Native American, & contemporary art exhibitions, programs, & classes in NJ

Mission Statement


The Montclair Art Museum, together with its Vance Wall Art Education Center, engages our diverse community through distinctive exhibitions, educational programs, and collections of American and Native American art. Our mission is to inspire and engage people of all ages in their experience with art, including the rich inter-cultural and global connections throughout American history, and the continuing relevance of art to contemporary life.



Vision, Values, and Diversity Statement


After 100 years of service, MAM is recognized as the leading American art museum and community art school in Northern New Jersey. As an organization, we value: artistic inspiration, diversity of voices, individual and group creativity, and the importance of all arts to a civil, inclusive, and forward-thinking society.


We respect and welcome individual differences and strive to maintain an environment that fosters productivity, creativity, and individual satisfaction by celebrating the diversity of race, gender, nationality, age, religion, sexual orientation, and physical abilities.


During our second century, we will invigorate our collections and curatorial presentations; expand our educational services and audience; support artists, their work and connections; pursue productive institutional partnerships; and embrace new media and technology. We will also secure MAM’s financial stability and preserve its facilities and other assets in a prudent and sustainable way.



A Brief History


"Montclair, as generously endowed by Nature, may be enriched by Art and so rendered even more attractive as a select residential town"

–William T. Evans (1909), Montclair civic leader who presided over the commission that led to the founding of the Montclair Art Museum. He was the largest collector of American art up to World War I.


A notable community institution with an international reputation, the Montclair Art Museum (MAM) is still located in the same—though now thrice-expanded—building in which it opened in 1914. Situated amid a beautiful, tree-lined residential area of Montclair, New Jersey, just 12 miles west of New York City, the Museum is esteemed for its holdings of American and Native American art, its exhibitions, its family and public programs, and its art school. It welcomes more than 65,000 visitors annually.


The Museum was a pioneer: one of the country’s first museums primarily engaged in collecting American art (including the work of contemporary, nonacademic artists) and among the first dedicated to the study and creation of a significant Native American art collection. This pioneering spirit still reverberates in the Museum’s pursuit and presentation of high-quality art that characterizes and celebrates America’s diversity, including the recent launch of its Contemporary Art Program, in 2010, providing MAM an opportunity to showcase dynamic contemporary work and expand the Museum's contemporary art holdings. A main feature of the MAM program is to explore the interplay between historical and contemporary art to enrich our understanding of the larger historical context in which art is created, presenting work that is both challenging and accessible. A key component of the Contemporary Art Program is its New Directions exhibition series of solo artists, established in 2011. Artists featured in the series include Marina Zurkow, Saya Woolfalk, Spencer Finch, and Sanford Biggers. Most recently, in spring 2015, MAM presented its largest and most ambitious exhibition of contemporary art to date, Come as You Are: Art of the 1990s.


From its founding, the Montclair Art Museum has maintained a vital presence in its surrounding community. The Museum’s collection began with gifts from prominent Montclair residents that included both American and Native American art, laying the foundation for the Museum’s holdings. MAM’s George Inness Gallery is one of the only galleries in the world dedicated to the work of America’s greatest landscape painter, who spent the last nine years of his life in Montclair, from 1885 onward, and who drew inspiration from the local landscape. Other well-known artists followed in his footsteps, cementing Montclair’s reputation as an intellectual center and artists’ colony, a reputation it retains to this day.


MAM’s collection has grown to over 12,000 works. The American collection, which started with a gift of 36 paintings from William T. Evans, comprises paintings, prints, drawings, photographs, and sculpture dating from the 18th century to the present, and features excellent works by Benjamin West, Asher B. Durand, John Singer Sargent, Edward Hopper, Georgia O’Keeffe, Andy Warhol, and Roy Lichtenstein, as well as younger and emerging artists such as Louise Lawler, Chakaia Booker, Whitfield Lovell, and Willie Cole.


The Museum’s superb holdings of traditional and contemporary American Indian art and artifacts, New Jersey’s largest, represent the cultural achievements in weaving, pottery, wood carving, jewelry, and textiles of indigenous Americans. The collection was begun by Annie Valentine Rand and carried on by her philanthropic daughter Florence Rand Lang, one of the Museum’s founders, and continues to grow with commissioned works, gifts, and purchases that celebrate the vitality and modernity of traditional forms and beliefs. Among the contemporary American Indian artists represented are Tony Abeyta, Dan Namingha, Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, Allan Houser, Bentley Spang, and Marie Watt.


Equally important for its community presence and its reputation are the Museum’s public and family programs and art school, serving everyone from toddlers to senior citizens. Collaborations with numerous cultural and community partners bring artists, performers, and scholars to the Museum on a regular basis. Guests have included Holland Cotter, John Elderfield, Bill T. Jones, Jeff Koons, Faith Ringgold, Winfred Rembert, Kiki Smith, Philip Pearlstein, Shirin Neshat, and Lorna Simpson. More than 10,000 K–12 students from 190 school districts visit the Museum every year. Free Family Days, a Family Learning Lab, MAM Park Bench, Home School Days, and Birthday Art Parties allow families to experience art in a variety of different ways. As the New Jersey affiliate of the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, MAM opens opportunities to creative teenagers to gain national recognition for their work. The Museum also provides programs for seniors and special needs individuals—such as the hearing impaired and people with Alzheimer’s—as well as training for teachers in the arts.


MAM’s art school, now the Yard School of Art, has been an integral part of the Museum’s life nearly from the beginning. It was founded in 1924, just 10 years after the Museum itself, and has operated continuously since then, offering courses year-round to kids, teens, adults, and seniors. Courses cross a broad range of the artistic spectrum, including drawing, painting, collage, pastel, printmaking, and illustration. In 2011, the school launched two new areas: a Ceramics Studio and a Digital Media Lab.


In 2014, MAM celebrated its Centennial with a yearlong program of activities, which included a Birthday Party on January 15, exactly 100 years from the day of its founding, that attracted thousands of visitors. In honor of the Centennial the Museum also commissioned internationally renowned artist Spencer Finch to create a site-specific installation that has transformed the Museum's facade, making it a more inviting point of entry. Watch the Centennial Film


The first institution in New Jersey designed as a museum and one of the first in the nation to be accredited by the American Association of Museums, the Montclair Art Museum, as it marks its Centennial, continues to seek novel ways, through its exhibitions, education programs, and outreach efforts, to inspire and inform its growing and ever more diverse audiences.



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