Newark, New Jersey has long been a place to visit to honor and celebrate local arts and culture. The Newark Museum of Art (NMOA), located at 49 Washington Street, has been a part of the city’s history for over 100 years and continues to serve the community’s need for artistic expression and cultural exploration. The Montclair Girl recently spent the afternoon visiting this North Jersey gem. Read on to learn more about the history, current exhibits, and how to spend a day at the Newark Museum of Art.
The Newark Museum of Art was founded in 1909 as a part of the Newark Public Library. Founding Director John Cotton Dana believed that museums were a great way to promote the appreciation, understanding, and enjoyment of the arts and sciences. He, along with a group of public officials, prominent business people, and local collectors, started the Museum.
As a part of its mission, NMOA believes in the importance of diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion as art is meant for all people to enjoy. The leaders of the Museum have upheld the mission to forge meaningful relationships by ensuring every exhibit is accessible and reflects the diverse makeup of the community.
Twenty years after its initial founding, NMOA moved into a new building outside of the library with just two exhibitions, one devoted to art and one to science. Throughout the last century, the NMOA has been known to showcase some of the most highly regarded art and science exhibits and collections in the country.
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Building a Collection
To ensure all perspectives are showcased, John and his team worked tirelessly to engage various stakeholders in the community in the Museum’s exhibition choices. He wanted to make sure American artists, who had long been dismissed in other parts of the world, had a place to shine. One of the Museum’s early exhibitions highlighted the work of New Jersey’s textile and clay industries to benefit the families of skilled laborers. His belief that museums should be a beacon of education and information, like a library, for the public guided the Museum’s choices well after his death in 1929. His successors made sure to place an emphasis on the Black community and children of the city when choosing exhibitions.
Through the Great Depression, John’s former assistant, Beatrice Wisner, became director. She used the exhibitions in the Museum to highlight the unprecedented unemployment rates while also hosting workshops on painting, sketching, and drawing for those who were experiencing, what she called, “an excess of forced leisure.” By 1953, the Museum installed the state’s first planetarium, which is still serving attendees to this day.
The NMOA is overflowing with exciting and thought-provoking exhibits for all visitors to enjoy. Now through May 2024, visitors can experience the highly acclaimed Animal Kingdom exhibit on the museum’s third floor. This exhibit has received accolades from major publications and media outlets like Time Out, NJ Monthly, and PBS to name a few. This interactive exhibit teaches about all types of wild and sea life. There’s even an opportunity to color photos of sea life creatures to add to the exhibit. The entire museum has interactive elements throughout.
Unexpected Color: A Journey Through Glass is a unique, 360-degree, virtual tour of the scient behind colored glass from the 20th century. The exhibit gives historical context for this art form along with information on the artists. Other, ongoing exhibits include Jewelry of the Southwest, Seeing American: 18th and 19th Centuries, and The Caribbean Boy. Upcoming exhibits include Visible: LatinX Artists in Focus, and Diversity in Sand and Clay: New Jersey.
The NOMA also features a 50-seat Planetarium. The Planetarium is currently showing The Stars of the Pharaohs, which takes viewers on a journey through ancient Egypt and how the people of the time used the stars and sky to help determine time, connect with the gods, and make sense of various elements of life. The show combines a pre-recorded video along with an interactive lesson from a Museum staff member. Viewers can look up at the simulated night sky to get a close-up of constellations and planets. Be sure to check the museum schedule when arriving for showtimes and updates on the featured presentation.
History woven into the arts and sciences is what visitors can always expect from the Newark Museum of Art. Be sure to check out the gift shop and café on the way out for the full experience.
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Visiting the Museum
The NMOA welcomes thousands of guests each year. The museum is located at 49 Washington Street in Newark. It’s easily accessible via ride share from all forms of public transportation to Newark Penn Station. The museum is open Thursdays through Sundays from 10AM-11AM for members only and from 11AM-5PM to all visitors. The museum is closed Mondays through Wednesdays and on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. The museum is also closed on Federal Holidays except for Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Juneteenth.
Admission for adults is $10 and children, students, senior citizens (ages 65+), and teachers are $8. Free admission is offered to members, children under two years old, Newark residents, active-duty military, veterans, and their families, and students attending college/university in Newark with a valid ID. Free admission is also available on selected weekends for certain bank or credit card holders and employees and members of selected organizations. To check out the full list to see who qualifies for free admission, click here. Admission to the planetarium is included with museum admission but does have limited seating and runs on a first-come, first-served basis.