CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – The Fralin Museum of Art at the University of Virginia (UVA) has received a $250,000 American Art Program Responsive Grant from the Henry Luce Foundation to focus on the Museum’s Native North American Collections Project. The initiative will support new research and interpretation of the Native American collection to invigorate and advance the understanding and presentation of these artworks through engagement with Native scholars, artists, and knowledge holders.
The work undertaken for this project will foster new approaches to presenting the collection that are informed by Indigenous perspectives, leading to the publication of a major scholarly text, enhanced online presence, and the development of an innovative exhibition co-curated with Native collaborators.
“We are grateful to the Henry Luce Foundation for its support of this project and its recognition of the importance of the objects that have yet to be properly studied and made public,” said Matthew McLendon, J. Sanford Miller family director of The Fralin. “I know I speak for all at the Museum when I say we look forward to partnering with Native experts, learning from them so we can properly steward what is in our care.”
The core of The Fralin Museum of Art’s Native American collection was gifted to the University of Virginia in 1937 by Lady Nancy Astor to be housed in its newly constructed museum. The objects once decorated the Indian Hall in New York City’s Hotel Astor. Today, the institution’s collection of Native American art has grown to more than 700 works. It includes Plains beadwork and Southwestern pottery, textiles, and baskets from the late-19th to the mid-20th centuries and recent acquisitions of contemporary works by Wendy Red Star, Cara Romero, and Rick Barlow, among others.
Despite the collection’s growth, it remains understudied. This grant will allow The Fralin to engage with scholars, artists, and knowledge holders from source communities to document and publish the collection for the benefit of the scholarly and public audiences the Museum serves — especially the Native communities represented. Key activities include researching artworks for proper attribution and identification of materials, construction, provenance, and history to improve the Museum’s records and expand access to the collection. Print and online catalogs will examine the history of the collection and present artwork histories with nearly 400 images and essays by Native scholars and experts. The consultations will guide the production of new photography that is attentive to presenting details of the artwork with respect.
In 2016, Adriana Greci Green, Ph.D. was named The Fralin’s first curator of Indigenous arts of the Americas. Greci Green’s preliminary research of the institution’s collection has resulted in new programs, courses, and installations, including a collaborative exhibition with four contemporary Native American artists, done in conversation with historic works in The Fralin’s collection. Funding from the Luce Foundation will enable new research and documentation to be carried out in consultation that reflects Indigenous experiences. As a result, The Fralin will strengthen and expand relationships with Native scholars and communities, forming a cornerstone of the ongoing decolonization of the collection.
Greci Green said, “We are honored to receive this support for the collaborative process needed to uncover the untold histories of these works of art, gain new insights into the lives and experiences of the artists who made them and reconnect these works to their communities of origin in new, meaningful ways.”
About The Fralin Museum of Art at the University of Virginia
Established in 1935, the University of Virginia Art Museum became The Fralin Museum of Art in 2012 in honor of a bequest of American art and service to the University by Cynthia and W. Heywood Fralin. The Museum maintains a collection of more than 13,000 works of art, including American and European painting, works on paper and sculpture from the 15th through the 21st centuries; art from the ancient Mediterranean; Asian art; and Native and ancient American art. Housed in a historic building near the Rotunda on the landmark UVA campus, The Fralin is dedicated to serving the widest possible audiences and engaging comprehensive visual education to enhance its visitors’ understanding of world cultures. Throughout the year, the Museum presents a diverse selection of exhibitions, programs, research, and events that bring the University and broader community together.
About The Henry Luce Foundation
The Henry Luce Foundation seeks to enrich public discourse by promoting innovative scholarship, cultivating new leaders, and fostering international understanding. The Foundation advances its mission through grantmaking and leadership programs in the fields of Asia, higher education, religion and theology, art, and public policy.
The Luce Foundation’s American Art Program supports innovative museum projects nationwide that advance the role of visual arts of the United States in an open and equitable society and the potential of museums to serve as forums for art-centered conversations that celebrate creativity, and explore differences and seek common ground. The Foundation empowers museums to reconsider accepted histories, foreground the voices and experiences of underrepresented artists and cultures, and welcome diverse communities into dialogue.
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