Montclair Art Museum showcases Native American Art of the past and present

The Montclair Art Museum may look like a traditional museum from the outside, but it’s what they offer inside that has attracted visitors from around the world.

“We offer shows that really compliment our permanent collection because the museum focuses on American and Native American art which are two founding collections dating back to 1914,” said the museum’s Chief Curator Gail Stavitsky.

Stavitsky says the museum is the only one in the United States to have a permanent gallery devoted solely to the works of landscape artist and Montclair resident George Inness.

“What is important is that some of the paintings actually are of Montclair, how rural life was back then, and how the artist has used Montclair really as a springboard for his imagination,” she said.

The museum has gained national attention for being the last tour stop for the first major retrospective of the career of Kay WalkingStick, one of the world’s most celebrated artists of Native American ancestry. WalkingStick, who is a citizen of the Cherokee nation, says she sees herself as a landscape artist in the tradition of George Inness.

“You have to walk through the George Inness gallery to get to these two parts of her career. For her, this is a way of kind of reclaiming what is often a lost history,” Stavitsky said. “And also draws upon the very fine traditions of Native American art and how she kind of combines those two traditions in a really unique way that is very personal to her.”

The retrospective runs through June 17. If you can’t get to it, you can check out the museum’s reinstallation of the Rand Gallery of Native American Art called “Undaunted Spirit: Art of Native North America.”

“You really got that whole span of history in the gallery from 1880 to the present, and different mediums like ceramics, baskets, amazing beaded work. You can also see wonderful textiles and eyedazzler blanket of the early 20th century by a Navajo artist,” Stavitsky said.

Stavitsky says the museum is a testament to Montclair that she says was always an art colony and is still one today.