Dear Friends,

At NMOA we began 2024 with our beloved community. Our annual celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is our largest Community Day of the year, gathering more than 1700 visitors to honor his life and work.

In addition to performances, activities, and food, we enacted Dr. King’s principles alongside 15 community partners — NJ Hospital Association offered information for residents without health insurance; Brilliant Smiles held a dental clinic for children; Sanford Angels screened blood pressure; and AYR Wellness, Blaze Responsibly, and Ironbound Community Corporation held an expungement clinic to help neighbors clear court records. We collected 700 pounds of non-perishables for the food bank at the Newark Water Coalition. Coordinating these free services is not the work of a typical museum, but it is the essential work of community.

I was delighted that the event elicited fan mail from Adam Weinberg, Director Emeritus of the Whitney Museum of American Art, who wrote, “My wife and I were blown away by the energy, enthusiasm, crowds, sense of community, the performances, and the collection displays… Your work is truly exemplary.”

What is exemplary about NMOA is not only that we recognize Dr. King’s call for justice on the national holiday, but also that we offer access to free services and center the need for joy and equity in our work, in our collections, and in our leadership, year-round.

That commitment is at the heart of the exciting new exhibition opening on February 22, The Story of Newark Fashion: Atelier to Runway. Showcasing designers from Newark’s deep roots in the fashion industry, including Narciso Rodriguez, Stephen Burrows, Marco Hall, and others, the exhibition honors 75 years of innovation, starting with groundbreaking Black designers Wesley Tann and Emily Miles in the 1950s.

Our guest curator is Kristen J. Owens, a historian of Black fashion, with Tracey “Africa” Norman, international runway star and Newark native serving as a curatorial advisor. To celebrate Newark’s fashion community, NMOA commissioned Mickalene Thomas to create Isn’t She Lovely? Tracey Norman, a full-length portrait of Norman wearing a Douglas Says gown currently on view in our Seeing America gallery.

To be exemplary means to strive for something more. Our work at NMOA elevates those – from King to Burrows to Norman – who have shown us what a more beautiful and just world can be. Please join us this month as we continue to build a stronger, beloved community.

See you at the Museum,

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

PS. Please mark your calendars for the Art Ball on Saturday, May 4 to help us recognize two outstanding honorees, Rutgers Newark Chancellor Nancy Cantor and contemporary American artist Willie Cole!