From its founding in 1914, the Montclair Art Museum (MAM) has maintained a vital presence in the surrounding community. The museum’s collection, which now numbers more than 12,000 works, began with gifts from prominent residents from Montclair, New Jersey. The collection included both American and Native American art to lay the foundation for the institution’s holdings.
The George Inness Gallery underscores the museum’s community ties and is the only gallery in the world dedicated to the work of George Inness, America’s greatest landscape painter who spent the last nine years of his life in Montclair. Other well-known artists followed in his footsteps cementing Montclair’s reputation as an intellectual center and an artists’ colony, a reputation it retains to this day. MAM’s recent launch of New Directions, a series of contemporary art exhibitions, features solo exhibitions of artists whose work engages the area.
Equally important for its community presence are the museum’s public and family programs and art school, serving everyone from toddlers to senior citizens. Collaborations with numerous cultural and community partners bring artists, performers and scholars to MAM on a regular basis. More than 10,000 k-12 students from 190 school districts visit every year. Free Family Days, which usually take place twice annually and are organized around special themes like powwow, attract thousands of patrons with art and cultural activities. The Family Learning Lab is an interactive space where participants learn more about the museum’s exhibitions through creative hands-on art activities. Since 2004, the monthly drop-in program MAM Park Bench has been providing an artistic social outing for families with toddlers. And programs such as Home School Days, LEGO Workshops and Birthday Art Parties allow families to experience art in various ways.
MAM’s collections, far from being off limits, are integrated into the family programs. Kids are especially fascinated by the permanent Native American collection comprised of artifacts highlighting the Plains and Southwest Indians, including fine displays of Sioux and Cheyenne dress. As the New Jersey affiliate of the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, MAM offers opportunities for creative teenagers to gain national recognition for their work. Programs for seniors and individuals with special needs are available, as well.
Now known as the Yard School of Art, MAM’s art school has been a part of the museum from nearly the beginning. It was founded in 1926 and has operated continuously since then. The art school provides courses year-round to kids, teens, adults and seniors. Nearly 200 studio art courses serve about 2,000 students annually whose work is often presented in student exhibitions. Courses cross the entire artistic spectrum, with disciplines such as drawing, painting, collage, pastel, printmaking and illustration. In 2011, the school launched two new areas: the Ceramics Studio and the Digital Media Lab. The only resource of its kind offered at a New Jersey museum, the Ceramics Studio boasts six potter’s wheels and two kilns with all the supplies needed to create pottery. Students learn wheel throwing, hand building, glazing techniques, surface decorating and glass fusing, creating both functional and decorative objects, such as plates, bowls, vases, cups and other creations. Courses in the state-of-the-art Digital Media Lab include digital photography, video production and animation, website design, video game design, smart phone apps and Photoshop.
MAM has always regarded its commitment to the community as fundamental to its mission. It continues to seek ways through its exhibition programs and educational offerings to inspire and inform ever-growing and ever-diverse audiences.
The Montclair Art Museum is located at 3 South Mountain Ave. in Montclair, New Jersey. More information and directions are available at www.montclairartmuseum.org and (973)746-5555.