Black and white linocut block print of a Mexican man on a three-wheeled "vaquero" motorcycle with a fox and boar animal head up front and a flag that says "Como el Coyote Libre"

Many Wests: Artists Shape an American Idea

March 19 - August 21, 2022; Lightcatcher building

A light brown skin female appearance person standing with arms crossed wearing a black sleeveless dress with short hair with a fire red and orange sky behind

Angel Rodríguez-Díaz, The Protagonist of an Endless Story, 1993, oil on canvas, 72 x 57 7/8 in. (182.9 x 147.0 cm.), Museum purchase made possible in part by the Smithsonian Latino Initiatives Pool and the Smithsonian Institution Collections Acquisition Program, 1996.19, © 1993, Angel Rodriguez-Diaz

Ideas about the American West, both in popular culture and in commonly accepted historical narratives, are often based on a past that never was, and fail to take into account important events that actually occurred. The exhibition Many Wests: Artists Shape an American Idea, examines the perspectives of 48 modern and contemporary artists who offer a broader and more inclusive view of this region. This exhibition presents an opportunity to examine previous misconceptions, question racist clichés and highlight the multiple communities and histories that continue to form this iconic region of the United States. Working in various media, from painting and sculpture to photography and mixed media, the artists featured in the exhibition bring a nuanced and multifaceted history into view. Among the many voices and communities highlighted in this exhibition, Many Wests showcases artworks by artists who are Black, white, women, men, LGBTQ+, Native American, Asian American and Latinx.

The exhibition is organized jointly by the Smithsonian American Art Museum and four nationally accredited art museums located in some of the fastest growing cities and states in the western region of the United States. It is the culmination of a five-year exhibition partnership made possible by the Art Bridges Foundation. The partner museums are the Boise Art Museum in Idaho; the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art in Eugene, Oregon; the Utah Museum of Fine Arts in Salt Lake City; and the Whatcom Museum. E. Carmen Ramos, acting chief curator and curator of Latinx art at the Smithsonian American Art Museum has led the collaborative curatorial effort.

Acrylic horizontal aspect painting of a silhouette of a soldier with binoculars looking through windows down to people around buildings in a Japanese American internment camp

Roger Shimomura; American Infamy #2, 2006; Acrylic on canvas: 72 x 120 in. Boise Art Museum Permanent Collection. Purchased with donations to the Roger Shimomura Acquisitions Fund.

Many Wests features artwork drawn from the permanent collections of all five collaborating museums and the exhibition will be presented at all five venues. The multi-city national tour begins at the Boise Art Museum (July 31 to Feb. 13, 2022). The exhibition then travels to the Whatcom Museum (March 19, 2022, to Aug. 21, 2022), the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art (Sept. 26, 2022, to Dec. 31, 2022) and the Utah Museum of Fine Arts (Feb. 4, 2023, to June 11, 2023). The Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., will be the final stop on the tour, where the exhibition will be on view from July 28, 2023, to Jan. 14, 2024.

Learn more from the Smithsonian Voices blog or read a review about this exhibition from Essential West Magazine.

Top featured image credit: Juan de Dios Mora, Bien Arreglada (All Decked Out) (detail), 2010, Linocut, 22.375 x 30 in. Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase through the Frank K. Ribelin Endowment. ©2019 Juan de Dios Mora

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 Initiative.

Logos of black letters saying Art Bridges with a blue arch above the t and B followed by a plus sign followed by blue letters SAAM and Smithsonian American Art Museum spelled to the right of the letters


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.