Tess Lukey, a curator and Aquinnah Wampanoag tribal member, has been named The Trustees of Reservations’ first associate curator of Native American art. In an announcement last week, Jessica May, the Trustees’ managing director of art and exhibitions, said Lukey’s arrival marked the beginning of “a new period in the history of this organization.” She added that Trustees’ staff at the many museum and historic properties under the organization’s umbrella were “eager to learn from her, to work with her, and to support her as she develops new partnerships with Native artists and communities throughout North America.” May is also artistic director at the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum in Lincoln.
Lukey joins the organization as the field of Native American art is undergoing a significant reconsideration at museums nationwide. Several institutions have added land acknowledgments in recent years, recognizing the ancestral lands of the Indigenous nations on which they are built, and everything from the collecting to the display of Indigenous art is under increasing scrutiny. The Museum of Fine Arts Boston hired its first curator of Native American art, Marina Tyquiengco, last year; the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem reinstalled its American collection earlier this year, integrating its colonial and Native American art collections for the first time in its history.
Lukey, who worked as a curatorial research associate at the MFA and was a curatorial fellow in Native American art at PEM, brings a depth of experience to the Trustees at a critical time in its evolution. Last year, the organization was stung by a controversy at its Fruitlands Museum in Harvardover an exhibition beset by allegations that both an artist in the show and its co-curator had not verified their claims of Indigenous heritage. Both eventually withdrew from it.
The Trustees of Reservations has significant holdings in both historical Native American art as well as a robust contemporary agenda. “Infinite Indigenous Queer Love,” a solo exhibition of Choctaw-Cherokee artist Jeffrey Gibson, was featured earlier this year at the Trustees’ deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum. Lukey sees her role as spanning both priorities: Her goal, she said in a statement, “is to help expand the narratives, examine stereotypes, and confront biases.” She called the moment, “a critical and unique inflection point for museums,” and said she was grateful that cultural organizations were hiring Native American staff “to more fully tell Indigenous stories.”
The Trustees also announced that Sarah Montross, its senior curator, had been promoted to chief curator.
Lukey takes up her post at the Trustees on Oct. 11.