The Fralin Museum of Art receives grant to support the Native North American Collections Project

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The Fralin Museum of Art receives grant to support the Native North American Collections Project
Unrecorded Diné (Navajo) artist, Arizona or New Mexico. Rug in Ganado Style, 1980s. Natural and dyed commercial yarns. Bertha Brossman Blair Collection of Southwestern Textiles, 1998.4.16.

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.”

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