New exhibit at FIA displays American realism and the evolution of America’s identity

FLINT, Michigan — On September 9, the Flint Institute of Arts (FIA) unveiled its newest exhibition, 'American Realism: Visions of America.' The collection features a wide range of American realism through the lens of various paintings, drawings on paper, and sculptures to capture the maturation of America’s identity.

“We hope to show the public the vast collection of American art that is held within the state’s museums but also educate the public on the history and themes found in American art during the early 20th century,” said Rachael Holstege, FIA Associate Curator.

This unique art collection is located in FIA’s Hodge and Henry galleries and gives an overview of Ameria's history through paintings, sculptures, and works on paper. Holstege expressed that visitors may feel a sense of nostalgia for the everyday scenes that are indicative of life in the United States.

The inspiration for the exhibit began in 2015 when the FIA, the Muskegon Museum of Art (MMA), and the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts (KIA) worked closely to design an exhibition titled 'Common Ground.' This exhibit intentionally highlighted artworks by African-American artists from all three institutions. According to Holstege, this idea was a great way for three Michigan institutions to showcase the artworks in their collections.

After a positive experience of collaborating, Art Martin, the Muskegon Museum of Art Curator, reached out to FIA again, interested in collaborating on another project to spotlight diversity in experience and artwork.

“We jumped at the opportunity,” said Holstege. “The FIA, KIA, and MMA all have extensive American art collections so it was a great chance to work together again and show off the depth of artworks within Michigan.”

Glenn O. Coleman, American, 1887 - 1932. Brooklyn Bridge, ca. 1930. Oil on canvas Framed: 29 3/4 x 41 1/2 in.
'American Realism' also aims to capture a transformative time in history by fully immersing visitors in the various experiences of artists navigating life from 1900 to 1950.

The art was curated collectively by the FIA, KIA, and MMA, all bringing together lists of their artworks by American artists that best fit the exhibition's theme. The three museums then worked together to pick the pieces featured in the exhibition.

Visitors can look forward to experiencing 85 artworks by 53 artists, emphasizing Black and female artists of the time who challenged the artistic status quo. Well-known artists from the exhibition include Robert Henri, John Sloan, Jacob Lawrence, Hughie Lee-Smith, Regional Marsh, Isabel Bishop, and Minna Citron.

“My favorite thing about the exhibition is the vast amount of artworks on view. There is something for everyone, whether they are interested in industrial scenes, domestic scenes, or portraits,” shared Holstege.

The exhibition is on view at the FIA from September 9 through December 30, 2023. It will then travel to its final destination at the KIA from January 21–April 14, 2024. 

Entrance is always free to the FIA for Genesee County residents thanks to the Genesee County Arts Education and Cultural Enrichment Millage. Saturday is free, courtesy of Huntington Bank.

To learn more about FIA’s newest exhibit and upcoming events, visit:
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Read more articles by Brianna Nargiso.