Montclair Art Museum Names Laura J. Allen as Curator of Native American Art

[February 12, 2021, Montclair, NJ] – Montclair Art Museum (MAM) today announced that Laura J. Allen has been hired as Curator of Native American Art. The Henry Luce Foundation grant funded position, which was awarded in June 2020, is to support a project to develop new strategies for the presentation of MAM’s collection of Native art of North America in its Rand Gallery and throughout the Museum. This award is the Museum’s largest ever one-time foundation grant. 

Ira Wagner, Interim Director at Montclair Art Museum, believes that Allen will bring increased awareness and enthusiasm for one of the Museum’s founding collections. “Laura is a creative and sensitive professional who will allow MAM to develop thoughtful exhibitions and programs with broad appeal based on its extensive and expanding collection of Native American art while reaching out to fully engage MAM with the Native American community locally and nationwide. We are very excited to have this dynamic curator join the MAM team and thank the Luce Foundation for making this possible.”

"We are thrilled that Laura Allen will be joining MAM's staff as Curator of Native American Art after a very thorough and equitable search process with many stakeholders. Key participants in this process have been the eight-member Advisory Council of Native and non-Native scholars, curators, and art world colleagues, who will continue to offer support. All of us–council, staff, and community members alike–are confident that Laura will creatively and diplomatically guide us towards the realization of the Museum's key objectives to build strong, active relationships with Native communities and to revitalize exhibitions and collection-based presentations of the Native arts of North America,” adds Gail Stavitsky, Chief Curator of Montclair Art Museum. 

Allen holds an MA in Decorative Arts, Design History, and Material Culture from Bard Graduate Center centering on Native North American material culture and design. She brings sixteen years of museum experience to this role. She served as the Curatorial Associate for the Northwest Coast Hall renovation at the American Museum of Natural History from 2017–2018, where she facilitated the project’s Indigenous partnerships. Allen also has been an editor and producer for numerous exhibition and education projects at that institution. She has consulted for the University of Alaska Museum of the North and the State Museum of Pennsylvania as well. Allen is an active interdisciplinary scholar and writer whose research focuses on dress and textiles, intercultural exchange and colonialism, animal materials, and the collection, circulation, and display of cultural objects and designs, particularly from the Pacific Northwest Coast.

“I am excited to join the Montclair Art Museum at a transformative time for its collection and its goals to serve Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in the tri-state area and beyond,” says Allen. “Native American art from the past and present demonstrates diverse creativity and worldviews, and wields great social power amid the legacies of colonialism. It is a privilege to be able to work collaboratively with the MAM team, the Advisory Council, and Indigenous artists, scholars, and other community members to foster greater sharing and understanding of the arts, cultures, and histories of the Americas.”

Over the years the Henry Luce Foundation has provided essential support to MAM’s exhibitions Cezanne and American Modernism and Matisse and American Art, as well as funding for a multi-year cataloguing project of the Museum’s Morgan Russell Collection. 




About the Montclair Art Museum (MAM)

The Montclair Art Museum (MAM) boasts a renowned collection of American and Native American art that uniquely highlights art-making in the United States over the last 300 years. Works in MAM's Native American art collection span the period of ca. 1200 C.E. to the present day. The Vance Wall Art Education Center encompasses the Museum’s educational efforts, including award-winning Yard School of Art studio classes, lectures and talks, family events, tours, and the mobile MAM Art Truck. MAM exhibitions and programs serve a wide public of all ages, from families and seniors to artists, educators, and scholars.

All Museum programs are made possible, in part, by the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, a Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts, and by funds from the National Endowment for the Arts, Carol and Terry Wall / The Vance Wall Foundation, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, and Museum members.


About the Henry Luce Foundation 

The Henry Luce Foundation seeks to enrich public discourse by promoting innovative scholarship, cultivating new leaders, and fostering international understanding. Established in 1936 by Henry R. Luce, the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Time, Inc., the Luce Foundation advances its mission through grantmaking and leadership programs in the fields of Asia, higher education, religion and theology, art, and public policy.

A leader in arts funding in the United States, the American Art Program of the Henry Luce Foundation was established in 1982 to support museums, universities, 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.

Media Contacts

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