BENTONVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — The Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art is set to open “We the People: The Radical Notion of Democracy,” placing a rare, original print of the U.S. Constitution—there are just eleven known in the world—in conversation with works of art that provide “diverse perspectives on the nation’s founding principles.”

According to a press release, original prints of other founding documents, including the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and the proposed Bill of Rights, will also be displayed alongside works by influential historical and contemporary artists, including several new acquisitions, in the museum’s first exhibition organized by Polly Nordstrand, Crystal Bridges’ curator of Native American art.

“We the People: The Radical Notion of Democracy” will be on view from July 2 to January 2, 2023. The exhibition gives visitors the opportunity, through art, to explore the significance of the world’s longest-surviving written charter of government and reflect on the relevance of the U.S. Constitution in the lives of Americans today. 

The interplay of artworks spanning three centuries with the nation’s persevering documents acknowledges the long-contested space of rights, justice, and freedom and the important role of artistic expression in the related discourse throughout American history.

“Art has long been a powerful platform for uplifting the inherent ideals of the U.S. Constitution,” says Nordstrand. “We hope visitors see how artists have creatively engaged in the dialogue to demonstrate our rights and the greater aspirations of our nation to seek equality and justice for all.”

The museum’s first curator of Native American art, Nordstrand, is leading efforts to build relationships with Native nations, develop the early, modern and contemporary Native American art collection at Crystal Bridges, and provide a vision for the museum’s Native art program.

Highlighted works in the exhibition include historical paintings such as John Lee Douglas Mathies’s depiction of Seneca leader Red Jacket and John Trumbull’s portrait of Alexander Hamilton, as well as twentieth- and twenty-first century works by Mark Bradford, Elizabeth Catlett, Jacob Lawrence, Shelley Niro, Roger Shimomura, and others exploring constitutional themes of equality, freedom, and justice.

“This is a rare, must-see opportunity to experience such an inspiring and thought-provoking exhibition that speaks to Crystal Bridges’ mission to celebrate the American spirit through powerful art,” says museum executive director and chief diversity and inclusion officer Rod Bigelow. “The strength of our collection has allowed us to put forward a dynamic and inclusive exhibition that helps us see the ideals of the Constitution anew and envision ways to aspire to them.”

The museum is planning a full suite of educational and public programming to complement the exhibition, including panels, workshops, student tours, teacher resources, and programs co-developed with some of the nation’s leading civic education organizations, including the National Constitution Center, Bill of Rights Institute, and iCivics, and museum-wide activities to coincide with Constitution Day on Saturday, September 17. A virtual exhibition tour, interactive content, and other digital resources will be available on the museum’s website for visitors worldwide to explore and experience the exhibition remotely. More details will be shared at CrystalBridges.org.