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Newark Museum Receives $1 Million Grant from the Mellon Foundation to Support Major African Art Initiative
For nearly a century, the Newark Museum has been a pioneer among U.S. museums in the collecting and display of African art.

NEWARK, NJ.- The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded the Newark Museum a $1,000,000 grant to support a major collections-based initiative in African art. The grant will be used to fund new curatorial and research positions and the first-ever catalogue on the museum’s highly respected and internationally recognized African art collection.

“We are profoundly grateful to the Mellon Foundation for its recognition of the Museum’s great strengths – scholarly excellence combined with collections-based outreach to broad audiences,” said Mary Sue Sweeney Price, Director and CEO of the Newark Museum . “Mellon support comes at a critical moment, as we galvanize our outreach efforts to create a new suite of galleries for this important collection, and expand educational programming in African art and culture. The Foundation’s generosity will assist the Museum as it forges new paths in the display and interpretation of African art.”

For nearly a century, the Newark Museum has been a pioneer among U.S. museums in the collecting and display of African art. The Museum began to acquire African art in 1914, just five years after its founding. Founding director John Cotton Dana collected North African art on visits there in the late 1920s. In 1926, the Museum mounted Primitive African Art, one of the first museum exhibitions of African art. Director Emeritus Samuel Miller inaugurated the Museum’s first permanent gallery devoted to African art in 1970.

Today, the Newark Museum ’s rich and evolving collection of African art encompasses more than 4,000 works that span the continent. The collection is especially notable for its breadth of artistic representation and inclusion of historic as well as modern and contemporary African art, a recent collecting emphasis. Last year, the Museum unveiled the groundbreaking installation, Present Tense: Arts of Contemporary Africa, the first permanent collection gallery devoted to contemporary African art in the U.S.

Recently, the Museum has embarked on a major initiative that will result in an expansion and reinstallation of the African art galleries, planned to open in 2015. At 8,400 square feet, the new suite of galleries will almost triple the current space. The reinstallation will feature a dynamic interpretative framework that, along with the catalogue on the collection, will impact the way audiences and scholars alike think, view and engage with African Art.

“The grant is transformative for the Museum, enabling a dramatic change in the presentation and interpretation of the arts of Africa,” remarked Christa Clarke, the Museum’s Curator of African Art and Senior Curator, Arts of Africa and the Americas . “The early commitment of the Mellon Foundation to this initiative will make an enormous difference to its successful implementation. Through its support of curatorial capacity, the Museum can expand its reach and establish itself as one the nation’s premiere resources for the exhibition and study of African Art.”

The Mellon grant is the latest in a series of fund-raising successes related to the Museum’s African arts initiative. In December, the Museum received a half-million-dollar National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Challenge Grant toward renovation of the African art galleries and permanent endowment. In awarding the grant, the largest of only eight in New Jersey last year, the NEH panelists described the initiative as “vital” and “a visionary plan for the future.” The NEH Challenge Grant requires a three-to-one match, or $1.5 in new dedicated funding for the African art galleries. Additional new funding includes $100,000 from the Verizon Foundation to support a new curriculum project based on the African art collection.

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