THE DETROIT INSTITUTE OF ARTS (DIA) has named Denene De Quintal assistant curator of Native American art in the Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania and Indigenous Americas.

De Quintal is joining the DIA after serving for two years as the inaugural Andrew W. Mellon Post-Doctoral Curatorial Fellow in Native Arts at the Denver Art Museum. The DIA appointment is significant. She is filling a role that has been vacant for nearly a decade. The announcement was made Sept. 25.

DIA Director Salvador Salort-Pons emphasized the impact of hiring a curator focused on the museum’s Native American collections. “Native American history is a key component of Michigan’s elementary school curriculum, and the DIA’s galleries are the most visited by school groups,” he said in a statement.

“Having a dedicated curator of Dr. De Quintal’s expertise to research and recommend acquisitions for this collection will allow us to create more relevant connections with our indigenous communities, student groups, and our general visitors.”

“Having a dedicated curator of Dr. De Quintal’s expertise to research and recommend acquisitions for this collection will allow us to create more relevant connections with our indigenous communities, student groups, and our general visitors.”
— DIA Director Salvador Salort-Pons

During her tenure at the Denver Art Museum, De Quintal co-curated “Eyes On: Julie Buffalohead” (2018), featuring new works by Minnesota-based Julie Buffalohead, a citizen of the Ponca Tribe of Oklahoma. She was also on the team that produced “Stampede: Animals in Art” (2017), which showcased more than 300 works from the museum’s collections.

De Quintal received an undergraduate degree in cultural anthropology with concentrations in Native American studies and Latin American studies at Cornell University. She also earned an M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in cultural anthropology.

Her scholarly research has concentrated on Southern New England. For her doctoral dissertation, De Quintal focused on race and Native American identity in the region. Titled “‘Race,’ ‘Face,’ and American Indian Nations: Native American Identity in Southern New England,” completion of the project was aided by insights and mentorship from members of the Narragansett, Mohegan, Mashpee Wampanoag, Western Pequot, Eastern Pequot, Nipmuc, and Schaghticoke tribes. At the Denver Art Museum, she continued to study the region. Mining the museum’s collection, her research explored Southern New England Native American material objects, baskets in particular.

In addition to serving as a post-doctoral fellow at the Denver Art Museum, De Quintal was an adjunct professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and a fellow at the Smithsonian Institute for Museum Anthropology. She also interned at the Tomaquag Indian Memorial Museum in Rhode Island.

THE DIA HAS GONE WITHOUT a curator dedicated to Native American art since 2011 when David Penney departed after more than 30 years at the museum. He began at the DIA in 1980 as curator of Native American art and rose to chief curator and eventually vice president of exhibitions and collections strategies before leaving to join the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, where he inaugurated a new department focused on scholarship.

Penney is credited with directing the creation and development of the DIA’s highly regarded Native American collections. The holdings span 3,000 years and represent the United States, Canada, Mexico, Costa Rica, Peru and additional Central and South American countries. Nearly 3,900 objects are in the collection which includes terra cotta, wood and stone figures, masks, metalwork, ceramic and wooden utensils, textiles, and costumes.

With the arrival of De Quintal, the collections will get renewed attention and management. She officially starts at the DIA Oct. 7.

“The DIA has a dynamic collection of artworks from the Indigenous Americas,” De Quintal said in a statement. “I look forward to introducing different aspects of the collection to the public and working with local and international Indigenous communities to share the museum’s diverse and vibrant Indigenous artwork collection.” CT

 

SUPPORT CULTURE TYPE
Do you enjoy and value Culture Type? Please consider supporting its ongoing production by making a donation. Culture Type is a solo editorial project that requires countless hours and expense to research, report, write, and produce. To help sustain it, make a one-time donation or sign up for a recurring monthly contribution. It only takes a minute. Happy Holidays and Many Thanks for Your Support.