Project will reinterpret American art in relation to ecology and environmental history

PRINCETON, N.J. – The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) announced today that it has awarded the Princeton University Art Museum an Art Works award of $50,000 to support Nature's Nation: American Art and Environment, an exhibition, publication and companion programming exploring the evolving human understanding of, and relation to, the natural world. Offering a major reinterpretation of American art across three centuries, the project will examine for the first time how American artists have reflected and shaped environmental perception while contributing to the emergence of a modern ecological consciousness.

“This project has the potential to fundamentally change and enrich the way we look at American art – from glorious landscape painting to furniture representing the height of craftsmanship – by considering it in the light of our changing views on the environment,” said James Steward, Nancy A. Nasher-David J. Haemisegger, Class of 1976, Director of the Princeton University Art Museum. “We are thrilled to have the financial support, and imprimatur, of the National Endowment for the Arts.”

NEA Chairman Jane Chu said, “The arts are part of our everyday lives – no matter who you are or where you live – they have the power to transform individuals, spark economic vibrancy in communities and transcend the boundaries across diverse sectors of society. Supporting projects like the one from the Princeton University Art Museum offers more opportunities to engage in the arts every day.”

The Art Works category supports the creation of work and presentation of both new and existing work, lifelong learning in the arts and public engagement with the arts through 13 arts disciplines or fields.

The exhibition Nature’s Nation: American Art and Environment – which will open in February 2018 – is curated by Karl Kusserow, John Wilmerding Curator of American Art at the Princeton University Art Museum, and Alan C. Braddock, Ralph H. Wark Associate Professor of Art History and American Studies at the College of William & Mary. It will consist of over 100 works of art, including paintings, sculptures, prints, drawings, photographs and decorative art works from the 18th century to the present, drawn from collections around the country as well as Princeton’s own holdings.

Using an interdisciplinary approach informed by American environmental history and the emerging discourse of ecocriticism, the project will explore a range of genres and historical contexts – including colonial furniture, the art of Jeffersonian natural science, Hudson River landscape painting, Gilded Age portraiture, Dust Bowl regionalism, modernist abstraction and postwar environmental activism – to highlight the evolving ecological implications of materials, techniques, subjects and contexts of creation, thereby telling a new, environmental history of American art.

On view in Princeton from February to June 2018, the exhibition will also benefit national audiences, via a planned tour to two additional cities, and international audiences, via a symposium, publication and web-based materials.

In its first 50 years, the NEA awarded more than $5 billion in grants to recipients in every state and U.S. jurisdiction, the only arts funder in the nation to do so. Today, the NEA announced awards totaling more than $27.6 million in its first funding round of fiscal year 2016, including this Art Works award to the Princeton University Art Museum.