Author Archive

The Newark Museum @ 110. Part VI: Education

France Garrido with children from Valisburg

Newark Museum Educator France Garrido with children from Valisburg

“Our Newark museums,” Dana wrote in 1921, by which he meant “a group of museums, in the fields of art, science, and industry, of the modern type,” “should be the handmaidens of our schools, helping to discover among our thousands of young people those tastes and talents which may lead them to such accomplishments as will bring profit, credit, and civility to our city.” Toward that end, he encouraged teachers to bring their students to the museum for both formal and informal instruction. In addition, he founded the Lending Collection (later called Educational Loan Collection) in 1912 to take art objects and science specimens out into classrooms as teaching aids. The Junior Museum was established in 1913 as an after-school club that held classes, took field trips, mounted exhibitions, and put on theatrical pageants.

Apprentices 1929-30

Apprentices 1929-30

The Apprenticeship School graduated its first class in 1926, and these young women, along with a few men, took what they learned at the Newark Museum into their careers as museum workers at other institutions. Among this very first class of apprentices were Dorothy C. Miller, who popularized abstract expressionism in the 1950s and 1960s when she was the curator at the Museum of Modern Art, and Dorothy H. Dudley, who standardized museum registration methods in the years when she was the registrar at MoMA. Later, in the 1930s during the Great Depression, the Arts Workshop was designed for adult learners, when individuals were looking to improve their skills or to find inspiration through their own creativity.

Arts Workshop 1945

Arts Workshop 1945

Nationally recognized today as a leader in arts education, the Newark Museum offers an extensive menu of school programs for Pre-K through 12th-grade students, along with professional development opportunities for elementary, junior-high, and high-school teachers. Other rich and varied educational programming for visitors of all ages include lectures and symposia, live dance and music performances, group and public gallery tours, family drop-in activities, and hands-on workshops in the MakerSPACE, a place where learners of all ages can get creative with clay, paint, found objects, or digital and computer software.

Herve 4 croppedSecond Sundays (weekend programming for all ages) and Late Thursdays (evening programs for adults) deepen the public’s engagement with the museum’s collections and exhibitions. Recent themes explored glass and gloss, art remix, and LGBTQ Pride. In addition, the Museum has several free public programs that promote lifelong learning, including Creative Play, which provides early childhood education activities, and Vitality Arts, which offers multi-session art making courses for adults aged 55 and up.

Late ThursdaySummers are enhanced by Camp Newark Museum, a fun, innovative six-week experience where children from 3 to 14 expand their knowledge through the exploration of the museum’s art and science collections; the Newark Museum Black Film Festival, the longest-running film festival devoted to the African-American and the African-diaspora experience; and Jazz in the Garden, a series of mid-day, open-air musical performances in the museum’s sculpture garden.

School children in front of TNM 1

School children in front of the Museum

Documentation for these activities exist in the form of scrapbooks, newspaper clippings, pamphlets and brochures, administrative files, and photographs. Some of these materials are on display in the exhibition, Promoting Books and Objects: Empowering Newarkers, which is on view on the third floor of the Newark Public Library from January 15 until August 31, 2019. See it before it closes – and be sure to come to the Newark Museum for one of its many lively programs.

William A. Peniston, Ph.D., Librarian/Archivist

June 28, 2019 at 10:45 am Leave a comment

The Newark Museum @ 110 Part V: The Natural Sciences

Dynamic Earth Introductory GalleryThe Natural Science Collection opened on the top floor of the Newark Public Library in 1904 before the Newark Museum Association was even founded. It was comprised of rocks and minerals collected, arranged and described by Dr. William S. Disbrow, a local pharmacist and general practitioner. Over the years, he added plant specimens for the study of systematic botany and economic botany. Because of Newark’s location on an estuary, he also collected zoological specimens relating to sea life, especially shells, which he also placed in the “science museum.” By the time of his death in 1922, the collection consisted of 74,000 specimens, and all of them were bequeathed to the Newark Museum. “Newark needs a science museum,” Dana wrote in 1905, “… a small, practical museum, made up chiefly of objects illustrating the geology, soil, fauna and flora of this vicinity …” Disbrow’s gift – not only of his collection but of his time, effort, and knowledge – helped establish this aspect of the museum’s overall composition.

1905 Dsibrow xxx

Shortly after the opening of the main building in March 1926, Dana and one of his chief collaborators, Louis Bamberger, the department store magnate, discussed the possibility of building a separate science museum with a planetarium at the back of the garden on Plane Street (now University Street). Unfortunately, Dana’s death and the Great Depression intervened. However, in 1953, thanks to the generosity of Leonard and Alice Dreyfuss, a planetarium with a state-of-the-arts Spitz projector was opened. Since then, the Dreyfuss Planetarium has become a spectacular interactive theater for learning about astronomy, space and planetary science.


It compliments a natural science collection that is featured on the third floor of the main building in an installation entitled Dynamic Earth: Revealing Nature’s Secrets. It offers an immersive interactive environment highlighting more than 400 specimens, illustrating over 4 billion years of the Earth’s formation, including the shifting of tectonic plates, the creation of biomes, such as the grasslands of Africa or the highlands of New Jersey, and the adaptation of plant and animal life to their environments. Thousands of visitors, including hundreds of schools groups, learn about geology, botany, and zoology.

Planetarium 1954

The remarkable history of the natural science collection is briefly recounted in the exhibition, Promoting Books and Objects: Empowering Newarkers, which is on view on the third floor of the Newark Public Library until August 31, 2019.

Gift-shop 076

William A. Peniston, Ph.D., Librarian/Archivist

May 31, 2019 at 9:14 am Leave a comment

The Newark Museum @ 110 Part IV: Other Lands, Other Peoples

2017 New African Galleries 1

The Arts of Global Africa, 2017

Dana’s concept of objects of good design spanned the globe. They were part of an art of everyday life that took different forms at different times in different places. Collecting and displaying them gave local citizens insight into other lands and other peoples. Netsuke, inro, and ojime, along with other Japanese art objects, were acquired in 1909 when the City of Newark purchased the George T. Rockwell Collection. Upon the death of Edward N. Crane in 1911, the Museum acquired his collection of Tibetan art objects that included books, religious relics, clothing, weapons, and other household objects, as well as paintings and sculptures. In partnership with Dr. Albert L. Shelton, a missionary in Tibet, the Museum continued to acquire new objects throughout the 1910s and 1920s. Native American textiles, potteries, and baskets were on display in 1913 and again in 1927, and the exhibitions, Primitive African Art (1928) and Islands of the Pacific (1929), showcased domestic objects of innovative artistry, along with traditional objects in the fine and decorative arts. The Republic of Colombia (1918) promoted mutual understanding between the two countries though ordinary – and extraordinary – objects, and so did China: The Land and the People (1923). Perhaps the Homelands exhibition of 1916 was Dana’s most ambitious attempt to connect the citizens of Newark with citizens from around the world. This innovative exhibition had an educational component that encouraged schoolchildren to bring in objects from home that illustrated their parents’ or grandparents’ countries of origin.

1908 Rockwell Poster 1

Poster for the George T. Rockwell Collection, 1908

Today, the Arts of Asia are represented by over 600 objects on display in 20 permanent galleries. Chinese ceramics, textiles, enamels, lacquer wares and bronzes emphasize the rich history of this civilization. Prints, paintings, and sculpture from Japan, as well as decorative art objects demonstrate the amazing elegance of this island country’s artistic tradition and its ongoing cultural creativity. Korean art is represented by ceramics, costumes, and textiles, ranging from the Goguryeo Kingdom (37 BC – 668 AD) to the present today, with an emphasis on the Joseon Period (1392-1910). India and the subcontinent, along with southeast Asia and Oceania, form a “cultural crossroads” in which Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, and even Islam and Christianity meet in dialogue with one another. The Tibetan Buddhist Altar, designed by the monastic-trained artist Phuntsok Dorje and consecrated by the Dalai Lama in 1990, remains the center of the Newark Museum’s astonishing Tibetan art collection, which includes objects in the fine arts and the decorative arts.

1928 Africa 5419

Primitive African Art, 1928

The Global Arts of Africa – a new installation on the first floor of the main building – opened in late fall of 2017. The works on view there highlight the breadth, diversity and vitality of artistic creativity throughout the continent. On view are objects of ritual, ceremonial and daily use, as well as popular urban art forms, studio portrait photography, and fine art works by internationally renowned artists. Outstanding examples include masks and figural sculpture, textiles and dress, pottery, jewelry, furniture, photography and paintings.  The works range from historic artifacts, primarily dating to the late 19th and early 20th century, to examples of contemporary artistic creativity.  The continental scope of the collection—especially its inclusion of art from northern, eastern and southern African countries—is a particular strength and is unmatched today by most art museums.

1949 Tibet 11591 Cuttings

Mr. & Mrs. C. Suydam Cutting in front of the original Tibetan Buddhist Altar, 1949

The remarkable history of the African art collection and the Asian art collection is told briefly in the exhibition, Promoting Books and Objects: Empowering Newarkers, which is on view on the third floor of the Newark Public Library from January 15 until August 31, 2019.

20xx Japanese Galleries

A visitor in the Japanese Galleries, ca.2010

William A. Peniston, Ph.D., Librarian/Archivist

Arts of Global Africa Gallery

Ayana V. Jackson in front of her photographs, Aina and Etta, 2017

May 1, 2019 at 11:13 am Leave a comment

The Newark Museum @ 110 Part III: The Industrial, Applied, and Decorative Arts

Aureen Group

Gold Aurene vases, Steuben Glass Works, Corning, New York, c.1905-1918. The Thomas N. Armstrong III Collection, Gift of the Thomas N. Armstrong III Family, 2018 2018.20.6, .64, .66. A new exhibition, Unexpected Color: A Journey through Glass, will open on May 1.

American art, or the art of the contemporary as, John Cotton Dana might have put it, did not encompass just the fine arts (paintings, drawings and sculpture). In fact, his major interest was the industrial, applied, and decorative arts, objects from daily life with an emphasis on contemporary design, and he did not limit his interest to the United States of America only. Over the two decades that he led the Newark Museum, he mounted several exhibitions, which established a tradition of looking at mass-produced objects of high quality that were readily available to the discerning consumer: Modern German Applied Arts (1912 and 1922), New Jersey Clay Products (1915), New Jersey Textiles (1916), Nothing Takes the Place of Leather (1926), American Design in Metal (1929), and Jewelry Made in Newark (1929). The first Modern German Applied Arts, organized in association with German and Austrian museums, was the first of its kind to focus on contemporary applied arts, and it travelled to Chicago, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and St. Louis. “Beauty has no relations to price, rarity or age,” Dana claimed, and he illustrated this concept in two other exhibitions entitled “Inexpensive Objects of Good Design” in 1928 and 1929.

1912 MGAA 23

Modern German Applied Art, 1912.

“Study your teacups,” Dana declared early in his career. “The drinking vessel of everyday use is an object on which those endowed with the creative art faculty have spent time, care, labor, and high skill for many thousands of years. It has taken a million forms and has been adorned in a million ways.” This theme has remained the focus of the decorative arts department to this day. With galleries devoted to everyday objects of good design, including Lenox porcelain, English ceramics, Jensen silver, Orrefors glass, Jelliff furniture, and Tiffany jewelry, the decorative arts department comprise a vast array of household items from the United States and Europe, ranging from the sixteenth century to the present day.

1926 Leather 2979

Nothing Takes the Place of Leather, 1926.

Of particular importance are its holdings of 19th-century American furniture, American silver and gold, from colonial times to the present day, and masterpieces of art pottery and studio pottery. The latter collection is supplemented by a strong collection of European ceramics from the Renaissance to the nineteenth century and an extensive collection of New Jersey ceramics—both earthenwares and porcelain—reflecting the state’s historic role in this industry over the past three centuries. The Lore Ross Jewelry Gallery is one of the few galleries in the nation devoted exclusively to jewelry, and it is particularly strong in jewelry made in Newark, reflecting the city’s role as the center of the jewelry industry in America from the 1850s to the 1950s.

99.10.8 Gerald Gulotta Block Germany

Teacups and dishes, Chromatics by Gerald Gulotta for Block China Corporation, New York, New York, porcelain made in Germany, 1972, Gift of Gerald Gulotta, 1999  99.10.10-34.

The Ballantine House, an 1885 National Historic Landmark, remains the centerpiece of the collection and represent a “case study” of what the “ideal home” meant in America over a century ago. This rare example of a late-19th century Gilded Age urban mansion offers a chance to experience the Decorative Arts collections, as well as objects from the Asian, African, Native American, and Science collections, in their historic settings. Eight period rooms and five galleries provide a glimpse into the life of the Ballantine household as well as exhibitions which study the collections and their historic context in depth.

BH 1977 Window 17669

Stained-glass window, Ballantine House stair landing, 1885, Purchase 1937 37.646.11.19.

The exhibition, Promoting Books and Objects: Empowering Newarkers, which is on view on the third floor of the Newark Public Library from January 15 until August 31, 2019, highlights this tradition of exhibiting and collecting the industrial, applied, and decorative arts, along with the Newark Museum’s other historic traditions over the past 110 years.

-William A. Peniston, Ph.D., Librarian/Archivist


1905-1910. Purchase 1993 The Millicent Fenwick Fund  93.76.

April 1, 2019 at 11:07 am Leave a comment

Part II: American Art, or the art of the contemporary

John Cotton Dana once wrote: “If we wish for a renaissance of art in America, we must be students and patrons of endeavors, which seem humble, but [which] are, in truth, of the utmost importance.” Consequently, he worked with collectors, donors and trustees, who were interested in the fine arts, and together they put together a remarkable collection of American paintings and sculptures. He was particularly interested in contemporary artists, like Childe Hassam (solo exhibition in 1911), Max Weber (solo exhibition in 1913), Bryson Burroughs (solo exhibition in 1915) and Rudolph Ruzicka (solo exhibition in 1917). He also encouraged his patrons, like Arthur F. Egner, an art collector and the chairman of the Board of Trustees, and Mrs. Felix Fuld, another trustee and a major philanthropist, to support him in collecting and exhibiting the works of the living American artists. Egner lent his collection for an exhibition in 1917, and more importantly, Mrs. Fuld made a major donation of paintings and sculptures by contemporary artists, purchased on the advice of Holger Cahill, for the opening of the new building in 1926. Toward the end of his life, Dana asked his staff to develop two exhibitions on American Primitive Painting (1930) and American Folk Sculpture (1931), both of which were part of a national trend later championed by Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, who was also advised by Holger Cahill before he became the head of the Federal Arts Project for the Works Progress Administration.

1917 Ruzicka 809

The Wood-Engravings of Rudolph Ruzicka, 1917.

Currently, the American art collection is displayed on two floors in the North Wing of the Museum’s complex. Native Artists of North America showcases an exciting selection of works by Native Americans and places them in the broader context of American art. A new publication, Seeing America: Native Artists of North America, highlights this collection. It is followed by important Colonial and Federal portraits, a superb collection of Hudson River landscape, along with Western landscape paintings, and American Impressionist and Modernist paintings. Hiram Powers’ The Greek Slave is probably the most iconic of the many 19th-century American sculptures that are also represented in the collection.

1927 Living American Artists 3757

Living American Artists, 1927.

With the support of a major grant from the Henry Luce Foundation, the Newark Museum is reopening its modern and contemporary American art galleries this month. In addition to new, versatile spaces, this effort includes a complete overhaul of our interpretive framework, including many new gallery concepts and objects that have not been seen before in our galleries. Covering a diversity of media from painting to sculpture, and from photography to video art, the 20th and 21st centuries are represented by multiple genres, such as realism, modernism, abstract expressionism, pop art, conceptual art, and many others. Another publication, Seeing Amercia: The Arc of Abstraction, focuses on this aspect of the Newark Museum’s remarkable collection.

1926 Recent American Paintings

Recent American Paintings, or, Paintings by American Artists of Today shown at the opening of the Newark Museum, 1926, with the name of the artists exhibited writing by hand on the cover.


Seeing America, the thematic title for the American art galleries, emphasizes that this nation, forged out of many diverse traditions and lifestyles and striving to live up to its democratic ideas, has always encouraged its artists and makers to engage in a process of self-reflection and self-reinvention. It also encourages the visitors to see American art from a broader perspective, incorporating the arts of Indigenous Native Americans, African Americans, immigrants from around the world, and many others.


Hiram Powers, The Greek Slave, 1847. Gift of Franklin Murphy, Jr., 1926. 26.2755.

A visit to the American art galleries is always thought-provoking and inspiring. How it fits into the overall history of the Newark Museum is part of the theme of the exhibition, Promoting Books and Objects: Empowering Newarkers, which is on view on the third floor of the Newark Public Library from January 15 until August 31, 2019.

William A. Peniston, Ph.D., Librarian/Archivist


Kay WalkingStick, Me and My Neon Box, 1971. Acrylic on canvas, 54 x 60 in. Purchase 2018 Helen McMahon Brady Cutting Fund. 2018.17

March 4, 2019 at 11:15 am Leave a comment

The Newark Museum @ 110 Part I: Dana on Libraries and Museums

In celebration of the 110th anniversary of the Newark Museum – and in celebration of the 130th anniversary of the Newark Public Library – the two institutions are collaborating on a joint exhibition entitled Promoting Books and Objects: Empowering Newarkers. It will be on view on the third floor of the Newark Public Library through August 31, 2019. Over the course of this exhibition, the Newark Museum will present a series of blogs highlighting some of its central themes. Today, we begin with a brief overview of John Cotton Dana’s tenure as the second director of the Newark Public Library and as the first director of the Newark Museum.

Ruzicka color

Rudolph Ruzicka, “The River Bank,” from Newark: A Series of Engravings on Wood by Rudolph Ruzicka, 1917

Dana once wrote: “A city should adorn itself. It should not only keep its streets neat and clean, supply itself with good water and construct ample sewers, set up beautiful parks, build plenty of attractive schools, and wear always that air, hospitable to learning, wisdom, and art, which has distinguished the world’s best cities; it should also take on certain material indications of culture and refinement, such as libraries and museums.”

NPL ca.1902

The Newark Public Library, ca.1902

Public libraries, in Dana’s opinion, were “a means for elevating and refining … tastes, for giving greater efficiency to every worker, for diffusing sound principles of social and political action, and for furnishing intellectual culture to all.” Museums were designed “to give pleasure, to make manners seem more important, to promote skill, to exalt handwork, and to increase the zest of life by adding to it new interests.” Both institutions were indispensable for an advanced industrial democracy because some people learned through books – hence, the need for libraries – and others learned through objects – hence, the need for museums.

TNM Exterior 1926 2909

The Newark Museum, ca.1926

At the Newark Public Library, Dana proceeded to develop ways to make information more accessible to all Newarkers. He purchased books for all citizens, including foreign language materials for immigrants, illustrated stories for children, and special books for the blind. He increased the borrowing period from two weeks to one month, established a system of interlibrary loans, developed a special color-coded filing system, and opened the first business library in the country in 1904. Dana assiduously advocated for new ways to make the Library more useful. He did so by printing bookplates, broadsides, booklists, and pamphlets, as well as by writing numerous articles in library periodicals and Newark newspapers.

JCD Bookplate

John Cotton Dana bookplate in Japanese style

In 1909 Dana founded the Newark Museum as a compliment to the Library’s educational mission. He mounted innovative exhibitions, built outstanding collections, and served the community through a variety of programs designed to meet the needs and interests of the public. “A good museum attracts, entertains, arouses curiosity, leads to questioning – and thus promotes learning,” Dana wrote, and a century later, the Newark Museum is still proud to be carrying on that tradition.

-William A. Peniston, Ph.D., Librarian/Archivist

February 1, 2019 at 8:58 am Leave a comment

C. Suydam Cutting and East Africa


The Newark Museum. Collection of C. Suydam Cutting. Gift of Mrs. C. Suydam Cutting 1988.

Born into a wealthy New York family, Charles Suydam Cutting (1889-1972) graduated from the elite Groton School in 1908 and from Harvard University in 1912. He began his engineering career with M. W. Kellog Co. where he specialized in sales. During World War I and II, he served in the U.S. Army.


The Newark Museum. Collection of C. Suydam Cutting. Gift of Mrs. C. Suydam Cutting 1988. 88.1052

An avid sportsman, Cutting became a champion of indoor tennis, both on the court and off. In 1925, he and his brother won the national doubles title. However, it was his interest in the natural sciences that led him to participate in a number of expeditions to Central Asia, East Africa, and the islands of the Indian and Pacific Oceans in the 1920s and 1930s. Under the sponsorship of several museums, especially the Field Museum of Natural History and the American Museum of Natural History, where he later served as a trustee, Cutting and his colleagues collected some remarkable examples of the flora and fauna of the lands that they visited. He also took countless photographs and made several motion pictures of some, but not all, of these travels. In a series of articles for Natural History between 1931 and 1941, he recorded his experiences, and later in 1940, he published his book, The Fire Ox and Other Years.


The Newark Museum. Collection of C. Suydam Cutting. Gift of Mrs. C. Suydam Cutting 1988. 88.1075

Through the generosity of John H. McFadden and his wife Lisa D. Kabnick in honor of his sister Mary McFadden, a great-niece of Mr. Cutting, who inherited his sense of adventure, the Newark Museum is pleased to announce the digitation of some of his photographic work relating to his trip to Ethiopia in 1926.

Sponsored by the Field Museum of Natural History and financed by the Chicago Daily News, this expedition included Jack Baum, the newspaper’s representative; Dr. Wilfred Hudson Osgood, the Field Museum’s curator of mammals, and his assistant, Alfred Bailey; the famous ornithologist and artist, Louis Agassiz Fuertes; and Mr. Cutting. Fuertes’ Album of Abyssinian Birds and Mammals, published in 1930, became one of the most important – and most beautiful – scientific treatises on ornithology and mammalogy in Eastern Africa.


The Newark Museum. Collection of C. Suydam Cutting. Gift of Mrs. C. Suydam Cutting 1988. 88.1182

In Addis-Ababa, they secured the permission of the Regent, Ras Tafari Makonnen (later Emperor Haile Selassie), who entertained them in the royal palace. The southern journey took them to the Arussi plateau, “the home of the rare mountain nyala, the black bushbuck, and other rare game.” The northern journey led them to the Amharic plateau, “a complicated pattern of mountains and mile-deep canyons,” between which are “good rolling prairies.” Among the many specimens of mammals and birds that Cutting and his colleagues brought back to the United States was an alive baby dog-faced baboon, Tinnish, and three Gelada baboons, all destined for the Chicago Zoo.

Donated by his widow, Mary Pyne Filley Cutting, in 1988, these photographs document the experiences of Cutting and his colleagues. They include Galla men and women at work on the Arussi plateau, festive receptions by one of the local chieftain, Ras Hailu, in the Gojam province, scenery from the Amharic plateau and its mountains, and other aspects of life in eastern Africa in 1926.

— William A. Peniston, Ph.D., Librarian/Archivist


Credit: C. Suydam Cutting, The Fire Ox and Other Years (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1940), p.348.


December 20, 2018 at 11:40 am Leave a comment

Meet Our Curators: William Coleman and Amy Hopwood

William L. Coleman, Ph.D. is Associate Curator of American Art.

What is your role here at the Museum? 

My focus is on the world-class colonial and nineteenth-century American collections, with a particular interest in landscape painting. In addition, I am assisting Curator of American Art Tricia Laughlin Bloom with the catalogue Arc of Abstraction and the overhaul of our modern and contemporary galleries. Day to day, I conduct research on both objects we already own and potential acquisitions that could fill gaps in the collection. In addition, I assist scholars and members of the public with inquiries about early American objects and represent the Newark Museum to the wider museum and academic communities

What makes your work at the Museum important?

This institution has one of the most important collections of early American art in the world. As a result, this part of the collection is the subject of frequent inquiries from a wide range of constituencies, including other institutions who hope to borrow our works for temporary exhibitions.

What projects are you working on currently and long-term?

My immediate priorities are to devote more attention to our still life and genre paintings, hugely important in their period but often overlooked here because the major landscape holdings demand so much attention. In the longer term, I am laying the groundwork for a variety of projects that relate to my piece of the collections, including an idea for a show on global art colony movements.

Where is your favorite place to have lunch in Newark?

La Cocina on New Street for delicious Cuban food.

Do you have a favorite collection piece? 

My current favorite is Albert Bierstadt’s intimate but virtuosic Sunshine and Shadow, now on view in gallery N115. This intimate work in oil on paper mounted on canvas is very different, both in its subject and scale, from those people might expect from the artist. His virtuosic handling of light in this beautiful little painting urges greater attention to the technique at work in his sweeping Western views, not just the big ideas that technique was used to convey.

Amy Hopwood, Associate Curator of Decorative Arts

What is your role at the museum?

For me, being a curator means developing, protecting, researching, exhibiting and promoting the Decorative Arts collections to the Newark Museum members, to the public and to students and scholars. Each day brings the possibility of a new inquiry; an offer of a donation; discussion with the Registrar’s department about cataloging, storing, conserving, lending or displaying the collection; or speaking with the Exhibitions and Education departments and docents about interpretation. All of these discussions give me opportunities to study the objects within the Decorative Arts collection, in order to know them better and build a foundation for all the other projects connected to the collection.

What is your background?

During college, I interned at the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and created my own project to catalog and research historic clothing discovered in the Amherst College Theater Department’s costume collection. The 19th- and 20th-century clothing had been donated and used as theater costumes over the years.

What’s important to know about curating decorative arts?

I studied at the Winterthur Program in Delaware, where I learned how to handle and study objects and discovered what questions to ask about them: What do the materials, construction and decoration of an object reveal about the people and culture that made it? What was the original use and how might that have changed over time? Given these layers of meaning, what stories can the object describe to a museum visitor? I applied these questions as Curator for Costumes and Textiles at the San Diego Historical Society. I look forward to applying these ideas to the Decorative Arts collection here at the Newark Museum.

What makes your work at the Museum important?

I mentioned the Registrar’s department in the first question. We work together as a team for all the behind-the-scenes work to bring objects into the collection, store them safely, and exhibit them here or through loans to other museums. I see all of my work as part of a machine with lots of interconnected parts. I enjoy discussing projects with all of the curators so that we can intertwine objects and ideas across all of the collections. I also work with the Exhibition, Education, Publications & Marketing, and Members’ departments to insure that all of the exhibitions, docent tours, school tours and public programs integrate my curatorial research with the interpretive approaches used by the educators, docents and Junior Explorers.

What projects are you working on currently and long-term?

Currently I am developing two exhibitions based upon a collection of French couture jewelry and a collection of 1920s and 1930s art glass. Both exhibition will have their own theme, but I want to introduce the visitor to how the objects were made, what the materials and designs reveal about their makers and time, and provide a connection to the Newark Museum’s connections. The visitor might also see their own glass and jewelry in a new way.

Where is your favorite place to have lunch in Newark?

I have a special fondness for diners, so I’ll name Central Restaurant and The Deluxe Diner as my favorites

Do you have a favorite collection object?

This is a tough question as there are so many incredible choices. Even though it is not in the Decorative Arts collection, Gold Cakra Lamp by the Korean artist, Choe U-Ram (2014.1) is high on my list. I love the designs created by the moving parts, how it is influenced by the viewer’s motions, and the feeling of calm that the visual patterns and movement creates. With all of the interruptions and multitasking of today, I love to stand and look at this artwork, soaking up its beauty and peacefulness.

June 11, 2018 at 1:41 pm Leave a comment

Decolonizing the Museum, Part Two


Wendy Red Star. Winter, 2006. From the series The Four Seasons. Archival pigment print on sunset fiber rag, 23 x 26 in. Gift of Loren G. Lipson, MD, 2016 2016.46.1.3. ©Wendy Red Star

In October 2017, Art in America devoted an entire issue to Native American art, and the Newark Museum was invited to contribute to this national conversation. Along with distinguished curators and leaders from museums throughout the United States and Canada, Tricia Laughlin Bloom, Ph. D., Newark’s Curator of American Art since 2015, was asked to discuss practices and policies for decolonizing museums. The full roundtable includes contributions by Wanda Nanibush (Art Gallery of Ontario), Karen Kramer (Peabody Essex Museum), Ben Garcia (San Diego Museum of Man), Lara M. Evans (Institute of American Indian Arts, Santa Fe), as well as Bloom, and is recommended reading for all concerned with access and equity in museums. It can be read here.   Here’s the excerpted transcript of Tricia Bloom’s contribution:

Museums tell stories. The older and more diverse a museum’s collection, the fuller the stories it can tell—but only if the collection is used wisely. As purveyors of culture, museums always risk falling into patterns—telling familiar stories, one-sided stories. It is not enough to collect with a broad and democratic mission, as the Newark Museum has done for more than one hundred years. Rich holdings of Native American art—or the art of any non-hegemonic group—do not benefit anyone if the works remain in storage. It is critical to find ways to put objects into thoughtful contexts. The vitality of the objects, which come to life when placed within a larger visual exchange, and the attention of the visitors, who grow weary of the same tired scripts, depend on it.

In 2016 the Newark Museum relocated its Native American collection from a tuck-away space to a central gallery on the ground floor, at the intersection of the Decorative Arts, Asian Art, and American Art galleries, steering our visitors toward the new conversations we want to have about the Museum’s global collections. Titled “Native Artists of North America,” this long-term installation presents a selection of rarely exhibited historical objects, which have been taken from storage, studied, treated, and reinterpreted. They are arranged with ample space and light, allowing visitors to get up close to the materials, and reflect the experience of six different curators, including five leading indigenous artists and scholars from around the country. “Native Artists” becomes, in effect, the way into Seeing America, Newark’s recently reconceived display of American art, featuring Indigenous art—historical, modern, and contemporary—installed through the chronological narrative.

While the basic story of Seeing America may look familiar, the museum has intentionally made the aesthetic equivalent of large demographic shifts in these galleries over the past two years. The reconfigured long-term exhibition integrates works of Latin American, African American, and Indigenous art—largely pulled from storage—into the overall history of American art. The ongoing challenge is to continue to build the collection in underrepresented areas and to make the acquired works part of the public stories we tell.

The Newark Museum is organizing a solo exhibition featuring new work by Portland-based artist Wendy Red Star, (Apsáalooke) Crow; Opening February, 2019.


December 12, 2017 at 11:59 am Leave a comment

Decolonizing the Museum, Part One

Kay WalkingStick. Me and My Neon Box

Kay WalkingStick. Me and My Neon Box, 1971. Acrylic on canvas, 54 x 60 in. Newark Museum purchase, 2017. ©Kay WalkingStick

In honor of Native American Heritage Honth we’re highlighting a new acquisition, a major early work by Kay WalkingStick, Me and My Neon Box, 1971. An enrolled member of the Cherokee nation, throughout her long and celebrated career WalkingStick has advocated that Native American art is American art. Newark’s collecting has followed this integrative model from the beginning, and so we continue in the 21st century. This vibrant, large-scale painting—the 4th work by WalkingStick to enter the collection—will be a highlight of our expanded Pop Art gallery, opening in February 2019, part of a comprehensive reinstallation of the Seeing America galleries funded by the Henry Luce Foundation.

neon box

Kay WalkingStick, circa 1971. ©Kay WalkingStick

Me and My Neon Box celebrates the feminine subject as powerful and erotically charged. Both playful and political, this work feels as relevant now as it did when it was painted at the birth of the feminist movement some 50 years ago.  Using her own naked body as a model WalkingStick painted contours and shadows in a hard-edge style that pops and glows with a saturated candy colored palette. It’s worth noting that in modern art in general—and especially in Pop Art—representations of women painted by women were rare and radical enough that WalkingStick experienced censorship in her efforts to show these works in the 1970s.

Me and My Neon Box is currently traveling in the retrospective Kay WalkingStick: An American Artist.  The final stop for this nationally touring exhibition will be the Montclair Art Museum February 3-June 18, 2018.

– Tricia Laughlin Bloom, Curator of American Art


November 29, 2017 at 10:21 am Leave a comment

Older Posts

Join the Newark Museum blog page!

Join 250 other followers

Follow us on Twitter

Newark Museum Flickr Photos


July 2020


%d bloggers like this: