Skip to main content

Bookmark an Artwork

In 2017, the museum created the IDEA (inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility) committee, whose goal is to foster diversity, inclusion, and accessibility within our workplace. The committee selected a handful of literary works that relate to themes of inclusion, accessibility, equity, and/or diversity, and paired them with artworks throughout our permanent collection.

Read on to find book recommendations based on paintings in the permanent collection, perfect gifts for art and literary lovers during the holidays:


Indian Land #4, Fritz Scholder // There, There by Tommy Orange

“We as a people fight against the idea that we’re historical…or to be Native you have to be this particular historical image. This book is trying to find ways to express a more dynamic and ranged type of Native people.” – Tommy Orange

Tommy Orange’s debut novel There There centers on the lives of a group of Native Americans and the tension they face between tradition and modern relevance. Without tradition, identity slips away. But without relevance, identity struggles to take hold.


Union Refugees, George W. Pettit // Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen by Jose Antonio Vargas

The issue of Union refugees—people fleeing the Southern states—was frequently discussed in Northern newspapers during the war. Who would take them in? What would be their fate? The subject remains relevant today, as refugees displaced by wars worldwide leave loved ones and belongings behind to seek a better life.


Winter Scene in Brooklyn, Francis Guy // When Brooklyn Was Queer: A History by Hugh Ryan

Inspired by the daily activity of his Brooklyn neighborhood, Francis Guy depicted specific buildings, people, and even animals as seen from the window of his second-floor residence, paying close attention to the diversity of the neighborhood and how each person contributed to the character of the place. In spite of this attention to detail of the daily activity in his Brooklyn neighborhood, Francis Guy missed a significant demographic of his neighbors, as the queer culture in the borough, shortly after this painting was created, remained hidden.


An Old Roadway, George Inness // The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

The subject of An Old Roadway—an African American woman with a walking stick and a pack over her shoulder interacting with a white boy tending sheep—likely relates to the migration of blacks from the South after the failure of Reconstruction. It also reminds viewers of slaves fleeing bondage before and during the conflict.


Silver Upper White River, Maya Lin // Ozarks Magic and Folklore by Vance Randolph

The Ozark region of Missouri and Arkansas has long been an enclave of resistance to innovation and “newfangled” ideas. Many of the old-time superstitions and customs have been nurtured and kept alive through the area’s relative isolation and the strong attachment of the hillfolk to these old attitudes. Maya Lin’s art focuses on humanity’s interaction with nature, underlining our collective responsibility to protect and preserve the world around us. Silver Upper White River represents a major waterway running 722 miles through Arkansas and Missouri that also serves as a source for drinking water for the people whose legends, beliefs, ritual verses and sayings, and odd practices are recorded in this book.


Our Town, Kerry James Marshall // The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

How did the Invisible Man seek to disassociate himself from his southern background and what were responses from individuals who recognized he was from the South? Within the canvas, how does Kerry James Marshall highlight the inequity that Black Americans thought they would escape from during the Great Migration?


This post was written by Brittany Johnson, Interpretation Specialist.