Luckily, the wonderful staff at the Museum was born for this.

As soon as I started in 2019, our curatorial department began brainstorming ideas on how to make the Seeing America galleries more inclusive and representative of the American experience. Tragically, slavery is a big part of that experience, but so, too, is the joy, strength, and artistic innovation that Black people have brought to this country, and to this beautiful city we call home.

Next month, the City of Newark and The Newark Museum of Art will officially unveil the Harriet Tubman monument across the street, sculpted by the brilliant artist and architect, Nina Cooke John. Many don’t know that one of the many “stations” on the Underground Railroad was right here in Newark. This site was the home of the abolitionist Jacob King and his family, at 70 Warren Street. A photograph of the King home is one of many works displayed on our “Slavery in Newark” mural, designed to showcase the history of slavery and abolitionism in Newark. This important local history is at the heart  of our new Seeing America, 18th and 19th century galleries.

After four years of thoughtful deliberation and planning, we are reopening the galleries on March 9, complete with 79 artworks and examples of material culture that reimagine how we think about slavery, power, and representation in America. So many artists and community voices have been engaged in making this reinstallation a reality, and I am wholly grateful to everyone involved, especially our donors who made this possible. The walls will be graced with the magnificent Black Abolitionists Wallpaper by Cincinnati-based artist, Terence Hammonds, along with Adebunmi Gbadebo’s moving mixed-media tribute to enslaved plantation workers. Also debuting will be our newly acquired jug by enslaved 19th century potter Dave Drake, as well as many other artworks and everyday objects. These galleries are a must-see!

Speaking of long overdue changes, I’m thrilled to announce our new Associate Curator, Arts of Global Asia, Attega Ali. Ali has independently curated several exhibitions including Back to the Future: History and Contemporary Art in the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia at Twelve Gates Gallery in Philadelphia. We look forward to uncovering stories of the Asian Diaspora.

Just in case you missed the notice in my last letter, I hope you can join us in our galleries for the annual Art Ball on Saturday, May 13. We’re back in person for an evening of entertainment, cocktails, an exquisite dinner, and, of course, raising funds to keep our collections and galleries looking their best. We’ll be honoring arts advocate, Judith Lieberman, and artists Layqa Nuna Yawar and Karyn Olivier.

In conjunction with the reopening of Seeing America, the Museum will also host Community Day: HerStory/Our Story on March 11, celebrating the newly unveiled Harriet Tubman monument in Harriet Tubman Square with live performances, art-making activities, a fashion show, tours of the galleries, and more.

In gratitude,

Linda C. Harrison
Director and CEO
The Newark Museum of Art