National Indo-American Museum to open in Lombard

Launched in 2008, the first museum in the U.S. by and for Indian Americans developed organically to tell the stories of the immigrant community. Now, the National Indo-American Museum will open its first building at 1 p.m. Oct. 16 at 815 S. Main St. in Lombard, with an art exhibition and special events open to the public.

NIAM unveils its new space with a major National Endowment for the Arts-supported exhibition, “E/MERGE: Art of the Indian Diaspora,” curated by Shaurya Kumar, showcasing contemporary and cutting-edge works from nine emerging Indian American visual artists from across the United States. The exhibition will run through March 27.

Thanks to the generosity of Umang and Paragi Patel, the National Indo-American Museum, which builds bridges across generations and connects cultures through the diverse colorful stories of Indian Americans, takes residence in its first brick-and-mortar home, the Umang and Paragi Patel Center, a news release stated.

Opening events

Doors will open at 1 p.m. Oct. 16. Storytelling will be presented by Jitesh Jaggi from 4:30 to 5 p.m. An artist talk titled “Unraveling the skeins to view the obscured” will be presented by Sarika Goulatia from 5 to 6 p.m. Admission is free on the opening weekend. People are asked to register for free tickets online at eventcombo.com/e/emerge-art-of-the-indian-diaspora-43982.

Curated by Shaurya Kumar, chair of faculty and associate professor at School of the Art Institute Chicago, the exhibition includes artists who have traversed international borders and adopted the United States as their new home.

In an essay for the exhibition’s catalog, Kumar wrote, “Works in the exhibition challenge the pre-conceptions of what and how diasporic artists represent themselves and their histories, and investigates the notions of origins, narratives of dispersal, and cultural differences under the conditions of globalism. Where do we, as members of the Indian diaspora in the U.S. and elsewhere, locate ourselves in a time of globalization and mass migration? How does the work of contemporary artists locate itself in time – past, present, or future? How does the meaning of a work change when an artist or an artwork attempts to unpack multiple and multi-site narratives beyond the binary of master and counter-narratives?”

These questions form the premise of “E/Merge.” The nine artists whose works appear in the exhibition are:

Tamara Biggs, director of exhibitions at the Chicago History Museum and a past president of NIAM’s board, is serving as producer of the “E/Merge” exhibition and catalog. She has been instrumental in NIAM’s initiative to open the Umang and Paragi Patel Center with a meaningful art exhibition, and has guided the process of developing the exhibition and opening the museum, the release stated. Monthly programming during the run of the exhibition is in development. Current plans call for artist talks, scholarly panels, family art-making days, and a dance performance featuring art-inspired original choreography.

NIAM has established the following mandatory COVID-19 protocols: Wear a mask or appropriate face covering over nose and mouth; maintain 6 feet social distance at all times; carry proof of vaccination and/or negative PCR test and produce when asked by museum officials; stay home if displaying flu-like symptoms or recently exposed to the virus; use hand sanitizers provided.

Regular hours

Museum/exhibition hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Group tours are available by appointment. Adult admission at the door costs $5, with a 10% discount for groups of 10 or more. Student admission costs $3, and is free for those attending art classes. Admission for children younger than 12 is free (except groups). Free parking is available. All programming is subject to change. For information, visit niam.org.

The National Indo-American Museum (NIAM) aims to document and exhibit the stories of diverse Indian communities across America, creating an archive of Indo-American history and culture for future generations. Founded in 2008 as the Indo-American Heritage Museum, NIAM grew organically from Chicago’s Indo-American Center’s education department. NIAM is the first museum of its kind to combine art, education, and digital technology to preserve the heritage and celebrate the contribution of Indian Americans to America’s cultural mosaic, the release stated.

NIAM is supported in part by the Arts Work Fund, Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, Ralla Klepak Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, Studio Institute, US Bank, and many individual donors.