Deana Dartt, Curator of Native American Art Steps Down

The Portland Art Museum announces that Deana Dartt, Ph.D., Curator of Native American Art, will be leaving the Museum to focus on scholarly pursuits, prioritize her daughter’s education and return to a more traditional, home-based lifestyle.

“This position has been incredibly meaningful for me, but with the loss of both parents over the last year, I have shifted my priorities. This position deserves 100 percent attention and commitment, and right now I want to dedicate myself to raising my girl in a way that honors my core values. It’s a difficult choice, but I don’t want to miss this important time in her life,” Dr. Dartt said.

Dr. Dartt’s last day will be September 15, after which she will focus on expanding her work examining how art, history, and anthropology institutions incorporate Native voices, including finishing her book Negotiating the Master Narrative, to be published by the University of Nebraska Press.

“I am proud of the work Deana has done at the Museum, making relevant a major part of our holdings and connecting our institution to key stakeholders.  Her impact will be felt for some time as we continue to celebrate our Native American collection with thoughtful, innovative scholarship and programs that she helped shape,” said Brian Ferriso, The Marilyn H. and Dr. Robert B. Pamplin Jr. Director.

Dr. Dartt’s five-year tenure is exemplified by her commitment to acquiring, commissioning, exhibiting, and elevating contemporary Native American artists. Under her leadership, the Museum quadrupled its holdings of work by contemporary Native artists. Notable works include David Boxley’s Tribute Chest and Tribute Panel, Wendy Red Star’s Motor Oil Buffalo Dress, and Clarissa Rizal’s Resilience Robe.

Dr. Dartt was responsible for the research, acquisition, cataloging, and exhibition of the 3,200-object permanent collection. In 2015 the Museum completed the three-year process of digitizing the entire Native American collection, which is now available online for researchers and tribes across the country to access.

In 2015 Dr. Dartt opened the Center for Contemporary Native Art—a dedicated gallery for presenting the work and perspectives of contemporary Native artists. Furthering her work to educate Museum visitors about the Native experience, Dr. Dartt co-curated, with photography curator Dr. Julia Dolan, the acclaimed Contemporary Native Photographers and the Edward Curtis Legacy, an exhibition that juxtaposed contemporary portraiture by Native American photographers alongside Edward Curtis’ renowned work. Dr. Dartt is also the host curator for the upcoming Native Fashion Now, an exhibition opening June 4 that celebrates the visual range, creative expression and political nuance of Native American fashion.

The work that Dr. Dartt has done to establish relationships with local, regional and national tribes has allowed the Museum to fulfill its Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act responsibilities. To date the Museum has repatriated items to the Crow in Montana, and there are 18 pending requests. Thanks to a four-year Mellon Foundation grant, the resources needed to continue the collections research and community outreach will continue after Dr. Dartt departs.

Prior to joining the Museum, Dr. Dartt served as Curator of Native American Ethnology at the University of Washington’s Burke Museum from 2008 to 2012. She will continue to be involved with the Museum as a consultant on Contemporary Native Photographers and the Edward Curtis Legacy traveling exhibition plans and book publication, and with the Portland-based Native Art Advisory Board, a group of Native artists and art professionals she created to help inform Native American art activities at the Museum.

A send-off celebration will be scheduled this September prior to Dartt’s departure, and a national search for her replacement will begin immediately.

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