Supported by a generous grant from the Henry Luce Foundation, the Art of the Americas department presents a series of three, one-year exhibitions that use understudied works from the MFA’s permanent collection to address critical themes in American art and the formation of modern American identities. All three shows explore the multiplicity of voices that create American art and culture, giving special attention to how those voices have been represented in the past and how the process of examining them in new ways changes our perceptions of these collections and the role of museums in building stronger communities today. The grant also provides research and administrative support for the exhibitions through a three-year curatorial research associate position and three paid summer internships for college students from underrepresented backgrounds.

All three exhibitions will be on view in the Bernard and Barbara Stern Shapiro Gallery, 231, for approximately ten months and accompanied by a range of public programs, including lectures, courses, and demonstrations by contemporary artists.

Opening in April 2018, the first exhibition, “Collecting Stories: Native American Art,” explores the range of perspectives, motives, and voices involved in building the early holdings of Native American art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, including those of indigenous artists and communities. The second show, opening in Spring 2019, investigates the MFA’s early collecting of contemporary American painting in the 1940s and 1950s, while the third exhibition, opening in Spring 2020, focuses on art and design between World War I and World War II.

During the course of these exhibitions, MFA staff members will collect information about our visitors’ experiences in the gallery to inform our future interpretation and presentation of these objects. At the conclusion of the final exhibition, we look forward to sharing our discoveries in a publication.

Keep an eye on this page for updates and information on upcoming exhibitions.

The Henry Luce Foundation’s American Art Program was established in 1982 to support universities, museums, 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.


Generously supported by the Henry Luce Foundation.