American Dream – The Elusive Promise of the Pursuit of Happiness

Since 1776, when Thomas Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence, which demanded the right to “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” the notion of the American Dream has captured the imaginations of millions. For revolutionaries such as Raynham Hall’s Townsends, it promised liberty and self-determination. For others, including the people the Townsends enslaved, as well as indigenous Americans deprived of their lives, their lands, and their cultures, the American Dream was a cruel fantasy of democratic equality, collective freedom, and individual advancement, built on their own subjugation. For waves of immigrants in the centuries that followed, it has meant the promise of economic and social opportunity. But of course, even for those who would seem to be best positioned to pursue happiness, the dream has, by its very nature, proved elusive, the promise possibly illusory.

This exhibition invites contemporary artists to explore the American Dream in all its many complexities. Displayed within the historic spaces of Raynham Hall, it offers a multifaceted, vibrant, even subversive examination of ideas that have long captured our national consciousness and shaped our identities. Simultaneously, American Dream invites you to experience and participate in new conversations about how the ideals represented in the founding documents and the painstakingly wrought framework of our government set the stage for us to imagine what happiness might look like, and how the balance between the American Dream and the experienced reality sometimes lives on a knife’s edge.

Meredith Brown

Exhibition hours: April 12 – Sept 15 | Tue thru Sun | 1:00- 5:00 p.m.

20 West Main Street Oyster Bay, NY 11771

Raynham Hall Museum, Oyster Bay, NY :: Home of Revolutionary War spy Robert Townsend.