August 25, 2020–July 18, 2021

A collage of black and white square photograph of Juan Sánchez's family against backdrop of the Puerto Rican Flag.
Juan Sánchez (American, born 1954), Self-Portrait/ Trying to Trace Back to Find Myself, 2013, mixed-media collage on paper. Courtesy of Guariken Arts, Inc., Juan Sánchez.

About the Exhibition

Founding Narratives presents artworks produced in the United States between 1800 and today that offer opportunities to consider the role of art in creating, reinforcing, and challenging stories about national identity. Drawn entirely from the Mead Art Museum’s extensive collection of American art, the exhibition raises questions about representation and the absence of representation in national narratives and in the establishment of a national art, about the significance of “firsts,” and about the interpretative frameworks that museums offer about artists and artworks.

This yearlong exhibition, which has been modified for the spring 2021 semester, provides a foundation for public engagement with historical and contemporary US art. We welcome collaboration with students, faculty, and community members. Please contact Emily Potter-Ndiaye ( about course collaborations. For all else, contact the exhibition’s curator, Lisa Crossman (

Featured artists are Andrea Carlson, Elizabeth Catlett, Thomas Cole, Deborah Dancy, Robert S. Duncanson, June Edmonds, Lee Norman Friedlander, Martin Johnson Heade, Edward Hicks, Orra White Hitchcock, Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Georgia O’Keeffe, Robert Peckham, Juan Sánchez, Leon Polk Smith, Gilbert Stuart, Richard Yarde, and James Wayne Yazzie.

We're pleased to offer a virtual tour of the fall 2020 iteration of the exhibition. Click here to view art up close, read wall labels, listen to audio recordings, and watch video clips from Founding Narratives. The PDF includes artworks on view in the fall 2020 and spring 2021 installations.  

A Conversation with June Edmonds