Symposium: Defining American Art: Then and Now

Defining American Art: Then and Now

Sunday, April 7, 2024

Symposium: 12:30–4:30 pm
Kemper Auditorium

Reception: 4:30–5:30 pm
Addison Gallery of American Art


The Addison’s founding history provides a snapshot into the state—and stakes—of American art in the 1920s and 30s. Defining American Art: Then and Now is a two-part symposium that takes the Addison’s own formation as a case study to track evolving notions of American art over the last century, with special attention to questions of citizenship and national identity as they inform the field today.

This program is part of Lunder Institute@, co-presented by the Lunder Institute for American Art, an initiative of the Colby Museum of Art.

Lunder Institute@ brings together artists and leaders of prominent American art museums to look critically at American art, its history, its future, and its evolution, and to engage publicly with a single question: What is the state of American art? 


Panel 1:

The first panel takes up questions prompted by the Addison’s founding collection (a selection of which will be on view in an accompanying exhibition) and terms of trust. In particular, the panel will reflect on the specification that only works of art “produced by a native-born or naturalized citizen of the United States” can be acquired for the collection: What was the context of and intention behind this definition of American art? How was citizenship defined in this moment, and who was excluded? What exceptions were or have been made to this provision, and why? What is the relationship between nationality, national identity, and American art? 

Laying the Foundation installation view

Hardeep Dhillon, Assistant Professor of History, University of Pennsylvania: “The Legal and Bureaucratic Parameters of American Citizenship”
Andrew McClellan, Professor, History of Art and Architecture, Tufts University: “American Art @ American Museums, 1900–1925: Founding Paradigms”
Gordon Wilkins, Robert M. Walker Curator of American Art, Addison Gallery of American Art:  “Respice Artem Patriae: Nationalism and the Founding of the Addison Gallery of American Art”

Panel 2:

The second panel explores issues around the definition of American art in our present moment. How have definitions of American art changed over the past century, and what factors have impacted that notion over time? Data collected from a survey of American art museum collection practices will reveal trends in how institutions delimit the category of “American art,” and panelists will probe the challenges, considerations, and complexities of defining—and exhibiting—American art today.

Rachel Vogel, Assistant Curator, Addison Gallery of American Art: “How Do Museums Define American Art?”
Miguel Luciano, Artist: “Boricua Rising Signs”
Marina Tyquiengco (CHamoru), Ellyn McColgan Associate Curator of Native American Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston: “Shifting the Presentation of Native American Art at the MFA”
Stephanie Sparling Williams, Andrew W. Mellon Curator of American Art, Brooklyn Museum: “Toward Joy: New Frameworks for American Art”

Leading up to the program, Phillips Academy students in a variety of courses will explore and produce work centered around the key themes of the symposium, to be shared during intermission. A reception in the Addison Gallery will follow the symposium.

Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, Drive-Thru, 2002

Lunder Institute@ The Addison Gallery was made possible through the support and partnership of the Lunder Institute for American Art, the Colby College Museum of Art.

Lunder Institute, Colby Museum logos

About Lunder Institute@
Lunder Institute@, an initiative of the Colby College Museum of Art’s Lunder Institute for American Art, invites thought leaders at the nation’s most prominent art institutions to engage publicly with a single question: What is the state of American art? These convenings will promote discourse in an open and fertile space leading toward innovation, new areas of exploration, and possible answers to questions that continue to arise around what American art is and what impacts its production, its scholarship, and its research.

About the Lunder Institute for American Art
A collaborative initiative of the Colby College Museum of Art, located in central Maine, the Lunder Institute for American Art supports innovative research and creative production that expands the boundaries of American art. The Lunder Institute invites visiting artists, scholars, and museum professionals to engage across disciplines with Colby faculty and students, the College’s network of institutional partners, leading experts, and other creative collaborators. Through fellowships, workshops, symposia, and incubator grants, the Lunder Institute amplifies marginalized voices, challenges convention, and provides a platform for generative dialogue through art and scholarship.

Addison Artist Council logo

Bartlett H. Hayes Prize Recipients


Reggie Burrows Hodges

Exhibition | Residency | Publication | Acquisition


to be announced soon!

Exhibition | Residency | Publication | Acquisition