Art of United States

Conversations Between Collections: The Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Whatcom Museum

February 1, 2020 - March 7, 2021

Lightcatcher Building

The Whatcom Museum is pleased to kick off a five-year exhibition partnership with the Smithsonian American Art Museum, as we present three masterworks from one of the nation’s most treasured collections of American art. Made possible through the support of Art Bridges and the Terra Foundation for American Art, two exhibitions titled Conversations Between Collections highlight the three works on view from the Smithsonian American Art Museum in conversation with works from the Whatcom Museum’s permanent collection.

Fritz Scholder’s Indian and Contemporary Chair (1970) and Jaune Quick-to-See Smith’s State Names (2000) upend traditional narratives and romanticized portrayals of Native Americans. These two works offer new insights while in dialogue with the Museum’s People of the Sea and Cedar exhibition, which explores the vibrant living history, culture, and art of regional Coast Salish tribes. The two masterworks present themes of identity and power dynamics in the American West and prompt examination and critique of dominant narratives.

The Coast of Genoa (1854), by Hudson River School painter Jasper Francis Cropsey, is featured alongside landscapes from prominent Northwest artists including works by Richard Gilkey, Nell Bradshaw, and Victoria Adams. With the intent to stimulate discussion between what is familiar and what is foreign in a landscape, visitors can observe and share how elements of each work denote place and, specifically, our place within the Pacific Northwest, and how the landscapes we love are deeply rooted to a sense of self.

All three outstanding works on loan from the Smithsonian American Art Museum allow for fresh perspectives around investigations of place and identity that emphasize the preservation and celebration of storytelling.

This is one in a series of American art exhibitions created through a multi-year, multi-institutional partnership formed by the Smithsonian American Art Museum as part of the Art Bridges + Terra Foundation Initiative. For more information about this five-year collaborative project, visit

AB + TF logo

Conversations Between Collections is generously sponsored by Peoples Bank, with additional support from Heritage Bank.

The Whatcom Museum acknowledges that we gather on the traditional territory of the Lhaq’temish – Lummi People – and the Nuxwsá7aq – Nooksack People – who have lived in the Coast Salish region from time immemorial. The Museum honors our relationship with all of our Coast Salish neighbors and our shared responsibilities to their homeland where we all reside today.



Take a virtual gallery tour with Curator of Art Amy Chaloupka. These video tours are presented in two parts. The first focuses on the work of Jasper Francis Cropsey among highlighted Museum collection pieces. The second looks at the works of Fritz Scholder and Jaune Quick-To-See Smith in the People of the Sea and Cedar Gallery.