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Saturday, April 20, 2024

Gorman Museum of Native American Art recognized as one of top 10 native art events of 2023 by First American Art Magazine

The museum recently celebrated its expansion and continues to highlight Contemporary Native American art while engaging the local community 


By MADISON PETERS — campus@theaggie.org


The Gorman Museum of Native American Art was recently recognized as one of the top 10 native art events of 2023 by the First American Art Magazine.

Run by Native American artist and publisher America Meredith, the First American Art Magazine is a publication that serves to expand knowledge of art by indigenous peoples of the Americas. The Executive Director of the Gorman Museum, Veronica Passalacqua, spoke on the significance of this recognition.

“We are really thrilled that [Meredith] included the Gorman in that list,” Passalacqua said. “Even though we are a small university museum, it demonstrates our place within the larger field of Native American art.”

The Gorman Museum was established in 1973 in honor of one of the founders of the Department of Native American Studies at UC Davis — Carl Nelson Gorman. Originally based in Hunt Hall, the museum started from a collection of artwork that Gorman himself brought to the campus.

After a large push from those involved with the museum and 10 years of renovation, the Gorman Museum recently celebrated both its grand opening and 50th anniversary on Sep. 22 and 23 of last year at its new location on Shields Avenue, according to Passalacqua. 

 “We knew that the museum could be a lot more than it was if we had more space, [it] was just a matter of convincing everyone else of the vision that we had,” Passalacqua said when asked about the transformation of the museum.  

Passalacqua revealed that the new location is four times the size of the original museum and the amount of staff is expected to increase as well. 

Passalacqua elaborated on what this expansion means for the future of the museum.

“I’m really excited to be able to really support our exhibitions with more programming and events and activities that reach across the board,” Passalacqua said.

The current collection of the museum contains around 2,250 works created by a range of Native American artists such as Oscar Howe, George Morrison, Allan Houser, Kay WalkingStick, Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, Robert Davidson, Bill Reid, Kenojuak Ashevak, Rick Bartow, Lucy Lewis, D.Y. Begay and Lee Marmon.

The Gorman Museum is unique in that it is only one of two museums in the United States dedicated exclusively to displaying Contemporary Native American art, according to the First American Art Magazine. This means the museum works with living artists whose programming focuses on current social, political and cultural activities, according to Passalacqua. 

“[It is] artwork that’s created by and for Native American and First Nations’ communities,” Passalacqua said. “We don’t show work about Native artists, we show work by Native artists. There aren’t spaces for what we do so it’s unique in that way to have a focus. This is a space for Native artists to show their work and those [spaces] are needed to succeed.”

The Gorman Museum has put on 225 group and 88 solo exhibitions, in addition to collaborating with local student and community groups. 

Passalacqua spoke on one meaningful collaboration with the Arboretum’s Learning and Leading Program in which students, local Native American communities and the Cache Creek Tending and Gathering Garden planted a wall of native plants along the front of the museum.

“It demonstrates how [because] we moved to this new place we can really do other campus collaborations that we just couldn’t do before,” Passalacqua said.

When asked about future plans and inventions for the museum, Passalacqua said that she hopes people will continue to visit and experience the art that they proudly display.

“We just want people to come on by,” Passalacqua said. “Everyone is welcome. It’s a place that even though we are representing Native American art, we want it to be a place where everyone feels welcome and comfortable and maybe learns a little something”.


Written by: Madison Peters — campus@theaggie.org



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