Montclair Art Museum Receives Grant from Henry Luce Foundation to Support Native American Art Collection


[June 23, 2020, Montclair, NJ] – Montclair Art Museum (MAM) today announced that it has received a grant in the amount of $320,000 from The Henry Luce Foundation to support a project to develop new strategies for the presentation of MAM’s collection of the Native Art of North America in its Rand Gallery and throughout the Museum. This award is the Museum’s largest ever one-time foundation grant. 

With key goals to engage current, innovative ideas about Indigenous communities with art museum collections and exhibitions, this project seeks to indigenize the curatorial process, making decisions collaboratively from the start. The grant will fund the necessary project personnel, honoraria, and travel expenses to develop and execute key principal activities of an Advisory Board for Native American Art, a Project Curator of Native American Art, and two scholarly assemblies over a three year period.

"We are so grateful to the Henry Luce Foundation for making it possible to realize what has been our longtime dream and goal of collaboratively engaging Indigenous artists, scholars, and communities with innovative plans for the museum's collection and exhibitions,” said Chief Curator Gail Stavitsky. “I look forward to working closely with the Advisory Board members and the future Curator of Native American Art, who will bring current thinking and new strategies to the process of creating new, more dynamic, more ethical and fully realized presentations of the Museum's collection that feature the perspectives and voices of their Native creators."  

Along with Stavitsky, the Advisory Board will begin work in June-July 2020 to assist with the development of the Curator of Native American Art job description which will be officially posted in September. The intention is to have a curator in place in January/February 2021 and phased reinstallations of Rand gallery by fall 2023. 

The members of the Advisory Board are: 

  • Heather Ahtone (Choctow/Chickasaw), Senior Curator of the First Americans Museum, Oklahoma City, OK 
  • Kathleen Ash-Milby (Navajo), Curator of Native American Art, Portland Art Museum, Oregon
  • Joe Baker (Lenape), Director of the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center, Mashantucket, CT 
  • Sherrie Ferri-Smith (Dry Creek Pomo’Bodega Miwok), Curator of Education and Exhibits, Grace Hudson Museum & Sun House, Ukiah, California
  • Pamela Jardine, Curator Emerita of Native American Art, Montclair Art Museum
  • John Lukavic, Andrew Mellon Curator of Native Arts, Denver Art Museum
  • Kay WalkingStick (Cheokee), artist
  • Lucy Fowler-Williams, Associate Curator and Senior Keeper of American Collections of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

As the only museum in New Jersey specializing in American and Native American art since its founding in 1914, MAM’s collection of Native American art objects spans the period of ca.1200 C.E. to the present day, including a growing array of works by leading contemporary artists. The collection represents the cultural development of seven major Native American cultures throughout the United States. Additionally, Native works are regularly featured alongside artwork by non-Native American artists from MAM’s permanent collection throughout the Museum. This multi-faceted approach to American Native and non-Native art is one that distinguishes MAM, allows for a broader understanding of the complexities of American history, and creates opportunities for greater access and deeper exploration.  

With our country wrestling with complex questions about American identity, MAM’s Native American collection is more relevant than ever. Through these new strategies for presenting the collection in collaboration with Indigenous communities -- which give strength to their voices and cultural knowledge -- MAM will realize the collection’s full potential as a tool to further advance our mission to continue the relevance of art and culture to contemporary life. 

MAM’s Interim Director Ira Wagner is very excited about this opportunity. “The Luce Grant will allow MAM to transform a part of our founding collection of Native American Art into a presentation emphasizing contemporary thinking about the role of Indigenous communities in our society and the visual arts in America.” 

Over the years the Henry Luce Foundation has provided essential support to MAM’s exhibitions Cezanne and American Modernism and Matisse and American Art, as well as funding for a multi-year cataloguing project of the Museum’s Morgan Russell Collection. 




About the Montclair Art Museum (MAM)


The Montclair Art Museum (MAM) boasts a renowned collection of American and Native American art that uniquely highlights art-making in the United States over the last 300 years. The Vance Wall Art Education Center encompasses the Museum’s educational efforts, including award-winning Yard School of Art studio classes, lectures and talks, family events, tours, and the mobile MAM Art Truck. MAM exhibitions and programs serve a wide public of all ages, from families and seniors to artists, educators, and scholars.


All Museum programs are made possible, in part, by the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, a Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts, and by funds from the National Endowment for the Arts, Carol and Terry Wall / The Vance Wall Foundation, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, and Museum members.


About the Henry Luce Foundation 


A leader in arts funding in the United States, the American Art Program of the Henry Luce Foundation was established in 1982 to support museums, universities, and arts organizations in their efforts to advance the understanding and experience of American and Native American visual arts through research, exhibitions, publications, and collection projects.


The largest measure of the Program’s funds are awarded through Responsive Grants to museums to encourage and facilitate both internal and outward-facing projects based in permanent collections.



WalkingStick, Kay (American, b. 1935)
Night, 1991
Acrylic, wax, copper and oil on canvas diptych
Museum purchase; funds provided by Alberta Stout