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.

The first exhibition, “Collecting Stories: Native American Art,” explored 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, “Collecting Stories: A Mid-Century Experiment,” examines a short-lived moment in the MFA’s history when it launched a trial initiative to acquire contemporary American art, allowing the Museum to hold works without adding them to the permanent collection until it could be determined that they had stood the “test of time.” The third exhibition, “Collecting Stories: The Invention of Folk Art,” on view May 2, 2020–March 7, 2021, focuses on the MFA’s collection of American folk art from the M. and M. Karolik Collection.

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.


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Generously supported by the Henry Luce Foundation.