The Museum collects and exhibits historic and contemporary visual arts, with an emphasis on the Newport region.
The permanent collection of more than 2,300 works of American art concentrates on art from the late 19th century to the present day, and on those contemporary and historic works emphasizing the role played by Newport and New England artists, established and emerging, in the development of American art.
Notable are paintings and works on paper by William Trost Richards, Fitz Henry Lane, Kensett, George Bellows, and other 19th- and 20th-century artists. Newport's own Impressionists, Howard Gardiner Cushing and Helena Sturtevant, as is a growing collection of Rhode Island's most celebrated contemporary artists, including Dale Chihuly, Italo Scanga, Hugh Townley, Aaron Siskind, Toots Zynsky, and Sue McNally, among others.
The Museum organizes special exhibitions drawn from the permanent collection, the holdings of other museums and private collections.