FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
SHELBURNE MUSEUM ANNOUNCES MAJOR NATIVE AMERICAN INITIATIVE
PLANS INCLUDE NEW BUILDING DESIGNED BY ADJAYE ASSOCIATES
SHELBURNE, Vt. (May 8, 2023)—Shelburne Museum is undertaking a major initiative that includes stewardship of an important collection of Native American art and construction of a building and integrated landscape collaboratively designed to create a national resource for the study and care of Indigenous art. The initiative will reimagine the museum’s role in presenting American art and material culture, announced Thomas Denenberg, John Wilmerding Director and CEO of Shelburne Museum.
The Perry Center for Native American Art will be designed by internationally acclaimed Adjaye Associates and will be the 40th building on Shelburne Museum’s 45-acre campus. The Perry Center will house a significant collection of Native American art gathered by Anthony and Teressa Perry and gifted to the museum. When combined with the Indigenous art already stewarded by the museum, the collection will represent nearly 80 Tribes from coast to coast.
“Shelburne Museum has approached this project with an abiding awareness of the responsibility inherent in caring for a collection that represents living cultures. From the outset, partnerships with source communities have been a priority and focus of this initiative. To that end, the museum has worked to build relationships that will make the Perry Center for Native American Art a national resource for the study and care of Indigenous art that will reimagine the museum and its role in presenting American art and material culture,” Denenberg said.
The Perry Center for Native American Art is planned to be a 9,750-square-foot, highly sustainable pavilion designed to support the culturally appropriate interpretation and care of Indigenous material culture. Designed and realized through a rigorous process in partnership with Indigenous voices, the $12.6 million Perry Center will serve as a welcoming space for Tribal members and scholars to study and engage with the collection and will reimagine the museum experience for all visitors including the local community, schoolchildren and tourists.
“Our team is inspired by the potential of the Perry Center to not only enhance Shelburne Museum as a destination for education, but also to amplify and empower the Indigenous communities represented by the collection and to reconceptualize the role of a museum facility in the 21st century,” Adjaye Associates Founder and Principal David Adjaye said. “As the design architect for the new Perry Center, we intend to cultivate opportunities for transformation, storytelling and cross-cultural dialogue, ensuring the Perry Center contributes to the unique eclecticism and mission of Shelburne Museum.”
Rooted in Shelburne Museum founder Electra Havemeyer Webb’s early interest in Indigenous art, the Native American Initiative represents the most significant addition in scope, content and importance to Shelburne Museum since the institution’s founding in 1947. The project has received early public and private grant funding support including from the Henry Luce Foundation, State of Vermont, National Endowment for the Arts, Institute of Museum and Library Services and National Endowment for the Humanities, which recently awarded the project a $750,000 Infrastructure and Capacity Building Challenge Grant.
“We believe Shelburne is ideally suited for this initiative—not only is the site a traditional place of cultural exchange for Native people, Shelburne Museum is uniquely equipped to serve as a culturally competent steward of a nationally important collection,” said D. Scott Wise, chairman of the Shelburne Museum Board of Trustees.
Steps taken by the museum to ensure institutional cultural competency include:
- a National Advisory Committee made up of enrolled members of Native American Tribes, scholars, curators and culture bearers;
- an Exhibition Advisory Committee of source communicators on items in the collections;
- a cultural competency seminar funded by the National Endowment for the Arts;
- engagement with one of the premier Indigenous consultants to building projects in Canada;
- the addition of an Associate Curator of Native American Art funded by the Henry Luce Foundation.
Among those consulted was the leadership of the four bands of state-recognized Abenaki Tribe, including Don Stevens, Chief of the Nulhegan Band of the Coosuk – Abenaki Nation, who served on the National Advisory Committee and who praised the museum’s collaborations with Indigenous communities.
“The museum’s collaborative approach to stewardship of the Native American collection and construction of the Perry Center for Native American Art is commendable,” Stevens said. “Like the museum, we see this project as an opportunity to bring more people to Shelburne and the region from across the country and internationally to study, learn about and experience Native American art and material culture. We also see the Perry Center as an enriching environment that teaches Vermont’s schoolchildren in a way that reshapes assumptions about Indigenous life in America.”
About Shelburne Museum: Shelburne Museum is the largest art and history museum in northern New England and Vermont’s foremost public resource for programming in the arts and humanities. Incorporated in 1947, the museum comprises 39 buildings and 22 gardens on a 45-acre campus. The museum stewards a collection of over 100,000 objects in unique and unparalleled installations of American art and material culture. Programming includes exhibitions and educational programs designed to creatively engage a broad spectrum of audiences and spark conversation and contemplation about the human condition.
Shelburne Museum attracts a multigenerational audience from the region with significant visitation from New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Quebec. The museum holds a special responsibility for serving the Vermont community. Approximately 8,000 students from 100 Vermont schools visit annually, comprising 10 percent of the state’s student population.
Shelburne Museum’s trailblazing founder Electra Havemeyer Webb (1888–1960) repeatedly called for expanding scholarly and popular understanding of American material life as one of the principal collectors who defined the field in the decades that bracketed World War II. A critical example of this impulse is Webb’s deep interest in, and engagement with, Indigenous art and culture, an aspect of Shelburne Museum’s program incompletely realized in her lifetime and of singular importance to the institution today.
About Adjaye Associates: Since establishing Adjaye Associates in 2000, David Adjaye has crafted a global team that is multicultural and stimulated by the broadest possible cultural discourse. The practice has studios in Accra, London and New York with work spanning the globe. Adjaye Associates’ most well-known commission to date, the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), opened in 2016 on the National Mall in Washington DC and was named “Cultural Event of the Year” by The New York Times.
Selected completed works by the firm include: the new George Street Plaza & Community Building with Indigenous artwork in Sydney’s Central Business District; the Abrahamic Family House, an interfaith complex in Abu Dhabi, UAE; 130 William, a high-rise residential tower in New York’s Financial District; 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, the new Public Member Spaces for the labor union’s headquarters in Manhattan; the Winter Park Library & Events Center, a knowledge and cultural campus in Florida; Ruby City, a contemporary art center in San Antonio, Texas; Sugar Hill Mixed-Use Development and Children’s Museum of Art and Storytelling in Harlem, New York; the Aïshti Foundation Arts and Shopping Complex in Beirut Lebanon; two LEED Gold neighborhood libraries in Washington DC; the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver in Colorado; the Nobel Peace Centre in Oslo, Norway; and the Idea Stores—two pioneering community libraries in London’s Tower Hamlets.
Today the portfolio continues to evolve with major cultural and civic projects that include The Africa Institute in Sharjah, UAE; District Hospitals in multiple locations across Ghana; the Edo Museum of West African Art (EMOWAA) in Benin City, Nigeria; the Thabo Mbeki Presidential Library in Johannesburg, South Africa; a new home for The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; a new facility for the Princeton University Art Museum; new headquarters for the International Financial Corporation (IFC) in Dakar, Senegal, anticipated to be net zero; the National Cathedral of Ghana in Accra; the 241-acre Marine Drive Accra master plan project in Accra, Ghana; and the Cuyahoga Riverfront Master Plan in Cleveland, Ohio.
The firm has received widespread recognition for its contributions to architecture. In 2022, David Adjaye was appointed to the Order of Merit, selected by Her Majesty the Queen, in recognition of distinguished service in his field. Adjaye was also announced the winner of the 2021 RIBA Royal Gold Medal, considered one of the highest honors in British architecture for significant contributions to the field internationally. In his award citation, the 2021 RIBA Honours Committee explained, “Through his work as an architect Sir David Adjaye speaks confidently across cultures, disciplines, politics and continents. His body of work is global and local, finely attuned as it reflects and responds to context and community, climate and culture.” For more information visit https://www.adjaye.com/.
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