DESPITE TEMPORARY CLOSURES, severe financial losses, widespread layoffs, and racial reckonings at art museums and cultural institutions, dozens of Black curators were appointed to a variety of new posts this year. In a field where people of color have historically had limited access and remain underrepresented, this 2020 listing of curatorial and arts leadership appointments shows some progress. From San Francisco to St. Louis, New York and London, notable new hires were announced.
After leading the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem, Kevin Young was named director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. Terri Lee Freeman departed the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis to run the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture in Baltimore. Meanwhile, Andrea Barnwell Brownlee, the longstanding director of the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art in Atlanta, now helms the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens in Jacksonville, Fla.
Black women are heading up daily museum operations at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. They are also leading the education department at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and public programs at the forthcoming Lucas Museum of Narrative Art in Los Angeles.
Yesomi Umolu is joining The Serpentine in London as director of curatorial affairs and public practice, a newly created position. The San Francisco Art Commission hired Ralph Remington as director of cultural affairs. Courtney Willis Blair is now a partner at Mitchell-Innes & Nash in New York. A Black art dealer with a stake in a prominent White-owned commercial gallery is nearly unheard of in the United States.
Signs of the pandemic times are reflected in cancelled art fairs, postponed biennales, and open letters outlining pent up frustrations with toxic work environments at museums.
The Met is one of many American museums accused by staff in recent months of cultivating a “deeply rooted” culture of racism and white supremacy. The museum’s leadership responded with steps it planned to take to address diversity and racism issues, including hiring a chief diversity officer. Lavita McMath Turner was appointed to the position in November. Last week, the Saint Louis Art Museum announced Renée Brummell Franklin would serve as its chief diversity officer. Both are newly created positions.
Round ups of new appointments were published by Culture Type in 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019. A selection of 2020 curatorial and arts leader appointments follows (ordered by month, with no hirings included for May or August). The list is by no means comprehensive, but it is representative:
Zoé Whitley. | Photo by James Gifford Mead
Zoé Whitley, Director | Chisenhale Gallery, London
Chisenhale Gallery announced the appointment of Zoé Whitley as director on Jan. 17. She had been serving as senior curator at Hayward Gallery since April 2019 and curated the British Pavilion at the 58th Venice Biennale (2019), presenting a solo show of Irish artist Cathy Wilkes. Previously, Whitley was curator of international art at Tate Modern, where she co-organized “Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power.” She started at Chisenhale in March.
FIND MORE about Zoe Whitley curating the British Pavilion at the Venice Biennale on Culture Type
Nicole Haas was named chief of staff at Pratt Institute on Jan. 23. She works closely with Frances Bronet, president of the Brooklyn, N.Y.-based art and design school, which counts artists Nina Chanel Abney, Mickalene Thomas, and Derrick Adams among its alumni. Since 2000, Haas had worked at Brooklyn College, serving in executive positions, including chief of staff. Previously, she worked at the City University of New York (CUNY), New York Public Interest Research Group, and for a private art dealer in Canada. Haas officially joined Pratt Feb. 24.
Corey Serrant, Administrator, African American Art Department | Swann Auction Galleries, New York, N.Y.
In January, Corey Serrant joined the African American Art department at Swann Auction Galleries as administrator, working with consignors, collectors, and institutions. The two-member department is directed by Nigel Freeman and usually conducts two sales annually. Serrant previously worked as a gallery assistant at Salon 94 and Joshua Liner Gallery, and an archival intern at Jack Shainman Gallery, all in New York.
On Jan. 28, Howard University announced the appointment of Lisa E. Farrington as associate dean of the Division of Fine Arts in the College of Arts and Sciences. She arrived as the program prepares to become an independent College of Fine Arts. Farrington is the author of several books, including “African American Art: A Visual and Cultural History” and “Creating Their Own Image: The History of African American Women Artists.” A Howard alum, she holds a Ph.D., in art history from the City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate Center.
Niama Safia Sandy was named director of curatorial affairs at Jenkins Johnson Gallery on Jan. 31. The Black-owned gallery was founded by Karen Jenkins Johnson in San Francisco and opened a second space in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 2017. Sandy’s tenure at Jenkins Johnson New York concluded in May 2020. (In March, the gallery closed both its locations due to COVID-19. The temporary closure is ongoing in Brooklyn. Since June, the San Francisco space has been open by appointment.) A curator, writer, and musician, Sandy is a visiting professor of fine arts at Pratt Institute and curator-in-residence at Fridman Gallery in New York. She is also a member of the Resistance Revival Chorus, and The Blacksmiths, a coalition of creatives that just released new open-source racial equity tools.
FIND MORE about Niama Safia Sandy on Instagram
Vivian Crockett. | Photo by Naima Green
Vivian Crockett, Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art | Dallas Museum of Art in Dallas, Texas
The Dallas Museum of Art (DMA) announced the appointment of Vivian Crockett as the Nancy and Tim Hanley Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art on Feb. 13. Crockett had been serving as the Joan Tisch Teaching Fellow at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. Previously, she was the Andrew W. Mellon Museum Research Consortium Fellow (2017-18) in the department of Media and Performance Art at the Museum of Modern Art. At the DMA, she co-curated “To Be Determined” and commissioned two paintings by artist Jammie Holmes for the exhibition. Crockett began her new role March 9.
FIND MORE about Vivian Crockett on her website
Deana Haggag was appointed artistic director of the Seattle Art Fair on Feb. 18, a role that involves overseeing the special projects and talks program and helping to select the galleries that will participate in the fair. Haggag is president and CEO of United States Artists, which provides funding support to individual artists and cultural practitioners. The Seattle Art Fair was scheduled to take place July 23-26, 2020. Two months after Haggag’s appointment was announced the fair was canceled, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
FIND MORE about Deana Haggag on her website
“Riffs and Relations: African American Artists and the European Modernist Tradition” opened Feb. 29 at the Phillips Collection. The exhibition is guest curated by Adrienne L. Childs. According to the museum, she is the first Black curator to organize an exhibition at The Phillips Collection since its founding a century ago. An independent art historian and curator, Childs is an associate of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University. In “Riffs and Relations,” she brings together modern and contemporary works by African American artists with early 20th century works by European artists. Childs edited the exhibition catalog and is the author of the forthcoming volume, “Ornamental Blackness: The Black Body in European Decorative Arts.”
FIND MORE about Adrienne L. Childs on her website
Steven Nelson. | © 2020 Board of Trustees, National Gallery of Art, Washington
Steven Nelson, Dean, Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts | National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
On March 6, Steven Nelson was named dean of the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts (CASVA) at National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. CASVA is “a research institute that fosters study of the production, use, and cultural meaning of art, artifacts, architecture, urbanism, photography, and film worldwide from prehistoric times to the present.” The appointment is historic. Nelson is the first non-white executive officer at the museum. On leave from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), where he was a longtime professor of African and African American art history and director of the UCLA African Studies Center, Nelson was serving as the Andrew W. Mellon Professor at CASVA (2018–2020) when he was appointed dean. His tenure began in July.
FIND MORE about Steven Nelson on his website
Ryan N. Dennis at Marron (Tony) Park in Houston, her favorite neighborhood park (March 1, 2019). | Photo by Naima Green
Ryan N. Dennis, Chief Curator and Artistic Director | Mississippi Museum of Art, Jackson, Miss.
The Mississippi Museum of Art named Ryan N. Dennis chief curator and artistic director of the Center for Art & Public Exchange (CAPE) on March 10. She will lead the museum’s curatorial team, organizing exhibitions and related public programming and overseeing acquisitions. She is also charged with initiating new ways to connect with and expand the museum’s audiences. Dennis joins the museum from Project Row Houses in Houston, where she had been curator and programs director since 2017. In October 2019, she was named co-curator and co-creative director with Evan Garza of the 2020 Texas Biennial, which was expected to take place in Austin. In late March, the biennial was postponed to 2021, due to COVID-19. Dennis began her new role at the Mississippi museum in June.
FIND MORE about Ryan N. Dennis on her website
Independent curator Larry Ossei-Mensah was named co-curator of the 2020 Athens Biennale on March 10. Titled ECLIPSE, the biennale was scheduled for Sept. 25-Nov. 29, 2020. Artists based in North and South America, the Caribbean, Africa, and Europe, were expected to participate, many showing in Greece for the first time. In June, the international exhibition was postponed until spring 2021, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Ossei-Mensah is co-founder and president of ARTNOIR, a New York-based global collective that develops collaborative platforms and designs cultural experiences for a new generation of creatives. Recently, he was elevated from guest curator to curator-at-large at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM). Ossei-Mensah’s latest project is “PARALLELS AND PERIPHERIES: Fractals and Fragments,” a group show he curated at Galleria Anna Marra in Rome, Italy.
FIND MORE about Larry Ossei-Mensah on Instagram
Lauren Haynes, Director of Artist Initiatives and Curator of Contemporary Art | Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and The Momentary, Bentonville, Ark.
On March 18, the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art announced a promotion and added responsibilities for Lauren Haynes. She is now director of artist initiatives and curator of contemporary art at Crystal Bridges and The Momentary, the museum’s satellite contemporary art space in downtown Bentonville. Her previous title was curator of contemporary art at Crystal Bridges and curator of visual arts for The Momentary. Prior to joining Crystal Bridges, Haynes spent a decade at the Studio Museum in Harlem.
FIND MORE about Lauren Haynes on Instagram
The Greater Reston Arts Center (GRACE) appointed Jaynelle Hazard executive director and curator. The news was announced March 20. She started in April. Hazard joins GRACE from Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton, Va., where she was director of exhibitions. Previously, Hazard served as art collection administrator for the UBS art collection in New York. She has also worked at Blank Projects, an art gallery in Cape Town, South Africa.
FIND MORE about Jaynelle Hazard on her website
Meme Omogbai has been appointed executive director and CEO of the College Art Association (CAA). The news was announced March 30. CAA is the oldest and largest U.S. organization dedicated to professionals in the visual arts, focusing on scholarship and career development for students and art historians. Omogbai brings extensive leadership and management experience to CAA. She was the first black chair of the American Alliance of Museums, and also served as board chair of the New Jersey Historic Trust and COO of the Newark Museum in New Jersey. She studied global museum executive leadership at the J. Paul Getty Trust Museum Leadership Institute and also served on the faculty at the institute. Omogbai officially started at CAA on March 30.
Johnnetta Betsch Cole. | Photo by Boston Photography
Johnnetta Betsch Cole, Special Counsel on Strategic Initiatives | Baltimore Museum of Art in Baltimore, Md.
On April 23, the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) announced Johnnetta Betsch Cole would serve as special counsel on strategic initiatives. She will provide strategic guidance to the board, director, and senior staff as the museum continues to center “social equity and civic engagement” in its long-term vision and all aspects of its programming. Cole has had an expansive career in higher education, the museum sector, and diversity leadership. She is national chair of the National Council of Negro Women and recently retired from Cook Ross, a firm that advises organizations on diversity and inclusion initiatives, where she served as a principal consultant. She was director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art from 2009-17. During her tenure, she served a term as president of the Association of Art Museum Directors (2015-16). Earlier in her career, Cole was the first Black female president of Spelman College in Atlanta (1987-1997) and later served as president of Bennett College in Greensboro, N.C. (2002-07). Both are African American women’s colleges. Cole is working with BMA for three years on a pro-bono basis.
Christine Checinska, Curator of African and African Diaspora Fashion | Victoria & Albert Museum, London
Christine Checinska joined the Victoria & Albert Museum in June. She is the museum’s first curator of African and African diaspora fashion. A womenswear designer and art historian, she works at the intersection of contemporary art, fashion, and textiles. Checinska is a research associate at the University of Johannesburg’s Visual Identities in Art and Design (VIAD) Research Center and a visiting lecturer at the Royal College of Art in London. A few years ago, she gave a TEDx Talk about how she “sees fashion as a way of pushing back against stereotypes and resisting limitations.”
FIND MORE about Christine Checinska on Instagram
Yvette Mutumba was named curator-at-large for the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam on June 8. An editor, curator, and educator, Mutumba is a co-founder and editor-in-chief of Contemporary And (C&) and Contemporary And América Latina (C&AL), dynamic platforms focused on contemporary art throughout Africa and the global diaspora. Stedelijk described the appointment as part of the museum’s strategy to “question its own established knowledge and engage with a multiplicity of narratives that transcend Western European modernism, and thus examine the museum’s own foundations.”
Maya Brooks joined the North Carolina Museum of Art (NCMA) as Mellon Foundation Assistant Curator in June. The newly created role was made possible by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The appointment of Brooks was shared on Dec. 15, when the museum announced seven new hires made during 2020. Brooks previously worked for the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture in Charlotte, N.C.; the City of Greensboro; and the North Carolina Collection Gallery in Chapel Hill. She also interned at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh.
FIND MORE about Maya Brooks on her website
Janice Bond. | Photo by Collete Presley
The Contemporary Arts Museum Houston (CAMH) hired Janice Bond as deputy director. The news was announced July 8. She had started working at CAMH June 23. Her new leadership role spans museum operations across departments, including internal collaborations and external partnerships, and the institution’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. An artist, curator, and gallerist, Bond has worked internationally in the areas of artist advocacy, community activism and engagement, and administrative leadership in the contemporary arts. She is the founder of Bond Creative Advisors, a Chicago consulting practice that has helped artists and institutions realize large-scale projects, including artist-in-residence programs, public art programming, and The Art Allies, an initiative focused on educating and developing collectors and arts entrepreneurs.
FIND MORE about Janice Bond on her website
Leslie K. Johnson. | Photo by Ramona Trent
On July 9, Skirball Cultural Center announced the appointment of Leslie K. Johnson as executive vice president. She officially joined the museum on July 1. Johnson is overseeing the Skirball’s exhibitions, programs, and day-to-day operations. She was previously director of social strategy, innovation, and impact at Center Theatre Group, a large nonprofit regional theater in Los Angeles where she also functioned as chief diversity officer.
Amanda Hunt. | Photo by Ian Spanier
Amanda Hunt, Director of Public Programs and Creative Practice | Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, Los Angeles
The Lucas Museum of Narrative Art announced several new hires on July 9, including Amanda Hunt who joined the forthcoming museum as director of public programs and creative practice. Hunt was previously director of education and senior curator of programs at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (MOCA). Earlier, she held curatorial positions at the Studio Museum in Harlem and LAXART. Hunt also co-curated the 2019 Desert X Biennial in Palm Springs.
Taylor Renee Aldridge. | Photo by Paper Monday
Taylor Renee Aldridge, Visual Arts Curator and Program Manager | California African American Museum, Los Angeles
On July 23, the California African American Museum (CAAM) announced the appointment of Taylor Renee Aldridge as visual arts curator and program manager. A Detroit-based independent curator and writer, she recently organized exhibitions and programming at the Cranbrook Art Museum and Detroit Artist Market. From 2016-18, Aldridge served as an assistant curator of contemporary art at the Detroit Institute of Arts. She also co-founded ARTS.BLACK, an online journal for art criticism from a Black perspective. Aldridge started at CAAM in August.
FIND MORE about Taylor Renee Aldridge on her website
Susan D. Anderson. | Courtesy CAAM
Susan D. Anderson, History Curator and Program Manager | California African American Museum, Los Angeles
Susan D. Anderson joined the California African American Museum (CAAM) as history curator and program manager. The news was announced July 23, the same month she assumed the new role. A public historian and curator from San Francisco, Anderson previously served as director of library, collections, exhibitions, and programs at the California Historical Society in San Francisco; interim chief curator at the African American Museum & Library at Oakland (2017-18); and a curator at the UCLA Library Special Collections (2009-14).
FIND MORE about Susan D. Anderson in a CAAM video
Sheila McDaniel. | Photo by Erich Camping
Sheila McDaniel, Administrator | National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
On July 27, the National Gallery of Art (NGA) announced a major appointment. Sheila McDaniel joined the museum as administrator, leading teams critical to the museum’s operations: administrative support, architecture and capital improvement, facilities, horticulture, personnel, procurement, and security. Her appointment is historic. McDaniel is the first Black woman to hold an executive officer post at the museum on the National Mall since its founding, nearly 80 years ago. McDaniel previously served as deputy director of finance and operations at the Studio Museum in Harlem, dating back to 2004. Her tenure at NGA began Sept. 14.
On Sept. 10, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame announced the promotion of Nwaka Onwusa to vice president and chief curator. In her new senior leadership role, she oversees the museum’s curatorial division, including permanent, traveling and digital exhibitions; museum redesign and creative projects; acquisitions and collections; and the library and archives. Onwusa joined the museum last year as director of curatorial affairs. She previously spent a decade at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles, where she served as curator.
FIND MORE about Nwaka Onwusa on Instagram
In September, Jova Lynne returned to the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD) as Susanne Feld Hilberry Senior Curator, a position she previously held before being laid off early in the COVID-19 pandemic. She ultimately left the museum because of the toxic environment dozens former staff members and interns later accused then-director Elysia Borowy-Reeder of creating in an open letter issued in July 3. The letter cites Lynne, who said due to “the racism, disempowerment, and oppression I faced and witnessed at MOCAD” she could not return under the leadership of Borowy-Reeder. After an investigation into the allegations of racist behavior and exploitive labor practices, the museum’s board of directors dismissed Borowy-Reeder in late July. A curator, photographer, and multidisciplinary artist, Lynne originally joined MOCAD as a Ford Foundation Curatorial Fellow in 2017. She was named curator in December 2019. Previously, she worked at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco. Lynne was rehired as MOCAD begins to chart a new path which it says is focused on equity. In December, the museum named an interim director and a search for a permanent one is underway.
FIND MORE about Jova Lynne on her website
Kyla McMillan, 2020. | Courtesy David Zwirner
Kyla McMillan, Director | David Zwirner Gallery, New York, N.Y.
On Sept. 16, David Zwirner announced Kyla McMillan was joining the gallery as a director focused on artist management and sales. McMillan previously served as a director at Gavin Brown’s enterprise in New York, working as an artist liaison with 11 artists until the gallery closed in July. She officially started at David Zwirner Oct. 15.
FIND MORE about Kyla McMillan on Instagram
Heidi Holder. | Photo via Queens Museum
Heidi Holder, Chair of Education | Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, N.Y.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art announced a new appointment on Sept. 18, naming Heidi Holder as Frederick P. and Sandra P. Rose chair of education. She previously served as director of education at the Queens Museum. In a prior role, she was director of education at the Museum for African Art in New York, which is now known as The Africa Center. Holder joined The Met in October.
On Sept. 23, Glasgow Life, the entity that manages Glasgow Museums, announced the appointment of its first curator focused on the legacies of slavery and empire. Miles Greenwood was named to the post, which is funded for two years. He is charged with developing programming and undertaking research designed to “reshape understandings” of the connections between the transatlantic slave trade and the British Empire and their contemporary legacies. Greenwood previously held a visitor studies position at the Paisley Museum in Paisley, Scotland, and served in a research role at the Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights (CRER) in Glasgow.
READ MORE from Miles Greenwood about his appointment
Charl Landvreugd, Head of Research and Curatorial Practice | Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam in Amsterdam, The Netherlands
On Sept. 24, the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam announced the appointment of Charl Landvreugd as head of research and curatorial practice. Landvreugd is an artist, researcher, exhibition maker, educator and lecturer, who was born in Paramaribo, Suriname, and grew up in Rotterdam. His research has focused on “migration history, culture and power relations and ways of expressing cultural citizenship and belonging within the world of the visual arts.” He is a pathway leader of the master’s program in Visual Arts & Post Contemporary Practices at the St. Joost School for Art & Design in Den Bosch and recently served as advisor to the Dutch Council for Culture. Landvreugd began his new role at Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam on Oct. 1.
FIND MORE about Charl Landvreugd on his website
Ebony L. Haynes, 2020. | Photo by Elliott Jerome Brown Jr.
Ebony L. Haynes, Director | David Zwirner Gallery, New York, N.Y.
David Zwirner announced the appointment of Ebony L. Haynes as director on Sept. 28. She is joining the gallery under a unique arrangement in which she will inaugurate and program a new exhibition space with an all-Black staff. The goal is to create a pipeline of Black talent in the commercial gallery sector. The Manhattan location is expected to open in Spring 2021. A curator, writer, and art dealer, Haynes previously served as a director at Martos Gallery in New York and its sister space Shoot the Lobster, with locations in New York and Los Angeles. Earlier, she was an associate director and artist liaison at Mitchell-Innes & Nash gallery. She started at David Zwirner Oct. 1.
FIND MORE about Ebony L. Haynes on her website
Kevin Young. | Photo by Melanie Dunea, Courtesy Smithsonian
Kevin Young, Director | Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Washington, D.C.
On Sept. 29, the Smithsonian announced Kevin Young would be the next leader of the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC). Young is succeeding NMAAHC founding director Lonnie G. Bunch III who was appointed secretary of the Smithsonian in May 2019. Spencer Crew has been serving as interim director while the search for a permanent one was conducted. Young is currently director of the Schomburg Center for Research of Black Culture in Harlem, a post he’s held since 2016. He also serves as poetry editor at The New Yorker. Young officially begins at NMAAHC Jan. 11, 2021.
FIND MORE about Kevin Young on his website
On Sept. 29, the National Gallery of Zimbabwe (NGZ) announced the elevation of Raphael Chikukwa to executive director. His promotion was effective Sept. 9. NGZ is a center for national culture dedicated to the presentation and preservation of Zimbabwe’s historic and contemporary visual heritage. Chikukwa previously served as chief curator and deputy director of NGZ. He joined the museum a decade ago as chief curator of contemporary art. Chikukwa curated Zimbabwe’s inaugural Pavilion at the 54th Venice Biennale (2011) and has organized the country’s representation at the international exhibition in subsequent years (2013, 2015, 2017 and 2019).
Andrea Barnwell Brownlee. | Photo Courtesy Cummer Museum
Andrea Barnwell Brownlee, Director and CEO | Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens, Jacksonville, Fla.
The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens hired a new leader, announcing on Oct. 7 that Andrea Barnwell Brownlee was joining the Jacksonville, Fla., museum as George W. and Kathleen I. Gibbs Director and CEO. For nearly two decades, Brownlee has been serving as director of the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art in Atlanta. A museum leader, curator, art historian, and writer, she was named director of the Spelman Museum in 2001, shortly after its founding in 1996. Brownlee officially started at the Cummer Museum earlier this month.
FIND MORE about Andrea Barnwell Brownlee on Instagram
Jacqueline Stewart, Chief Artistic and Programming Officer | Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, Los Angeles
Jacqueline Stewart was appointed chief artistic and programming officer at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, where she will lead curatorial, educational, and public programming at the forthcoming museum. The news was announced Oct. 19. A scholar, programmer, and educator, Stewart is joining the museum from University of Chicago Department of Cinema and Media Studies, where she is a professor of American film history, specializing in African American cinema from the silent era to the present and serves as director of Arts + Public Life. Stewart also hosts the weekly programming series Silent Sunday Nights on the Turner Classic Movies network. She starts at the Academy Museum in January 2021. Scheduled to debut in April 2021, the museum’s opening was postponed to September 2021 this week, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
April Freely is the new executive director of the Fire Island Artist Residency (FIAR). Her appointment was announced Oct. 20. The residency is self-described as the first of its kind in the United States exclusively for emerging artists and poets who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer. Her previous administrative roles include serving as program coordinator at the Vermont Studio Center in St. Johnson, Vt., which is considered the largest residency for artists and writers in the United States. A poet and writer, Freely is a professor at Bard College. She joined FIAR immediately. Applications open in February 2021.
FIND MORE about April Freely on her website
Gwendolyn Perry Davis. | Photo by Maria Ponce
Gwendolyn Perry Davis, Senior Director of Operations | Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago in Chicago, Ill.
The Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) Chicago named Gwendolyn Perry Davis senior director of operations on Oct. 12. She was promoted from within. Perry Davis joined MCA Chicago in 2011 as deputy director of development and had been serving as senior director of development since 2019 when her latest appointment was announced. In her new role, she is overseeing both strategic and creative aspects of museum operations. Her portfolio includes the collections and exhibitions department and the human resources, information technology, facilities, and security divisions. Perry Davis had been directing MCA Chicago’s planning and response to the COVID-19 pandemic and continues to do so in her new position.
FIND MORE about Gwendolyn Perry Davis on her website
Lauren Tate Baeza. | Photo by Gabriela Arp, Courtesy High Museum of Art
Lauren Tate Baeza, Curator of African Art | High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Ga.
On Oct. 27, the High Museum of Art announced the appointment of Lauren Tate Baeza as its Fred and Rita Richman Curator of African Art. Baeza will oversee the High’s African art department, managing exhibitions, programming, acquisitions, and a collection of more 1,100 objects, dating from ancient times to the present. A curator and Africanist with experience working with museums and international aid organizations, she had been serving as the director of exhibitions at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta since 2018. Previously, she was executive director of Atlanta’s APEX Museum. Baeza started at the High Museum on Nov. 9.
FIND MORE about Lauren Tate Baeza on Instagram
Julie Crooks, Curator, Arts of Global Africa and the Diaspora | Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, Canada
On Oct. 29, Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) announced it was establishing a new Department of Arts of Global Africa and the Diaspora and appointed Julie Crooks to lead it. Crooks had been serving as AGO’s associate curator of photography. Inauguration of the new department formalizes and expands work that the museum has been investing in for several years, exemplified by the 2019 acquisition of The Montgomery Collection of Caribbean Photographs, a cache of more than 3,500 historic images. Crooks joined AGO in 2017 as assistant curator of photography.
FIND MORE about Julie Crooks on Instagram
Moses T. Alexander Greene, Director of Film and Performing Arts | North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, N.C.
Moses T. Alexander Greene joined the North Carolina Museum of Art as director of film and performing arts in October. His appointment was officially announced on Dec. 15, when the museum shared seven new hires made this year. Greene leads music, dance, theater, and film programming, both inside and outside the museum’s galleries. He brings two decades of experience to the position, spanning communications, performing arts, and multimedia production. He recently served as director of the African American Cultural Center at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, N.C.
FIND MORE about Moses T. Greene on Instagram
Brittany Webb, Curator of Twentieth Century Art | Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, Pa.
On Nov. 2, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) in Philadelphia appointed Brittany Webb to the position of Will Kaplan Curator of Twentieth Century Art. Since 2018, Webb has been serving as curator of the John Rhoden Collection at PAFA, a role she will continue in her new position. Based on the museum’s holdings of nearly 300 sculptures by John Rhoden (1916-2001), she is organizing a major retrospective and catalog of the artist, planned for 2022. Prior to joining PAFA, Webb was on the curatorial staff at the African American Museum in Philadelphia.
READ MORE about Brittany Webb and the Rhoden Collection on Culture Type
Ralph Remington, Director of Cultural Affairs | San Francisco Arts Commission, San Francisco, Calif.
Ralph Remington was appointed director of Cultural Affairs for the San Francisco Arts Commission (SFAC) on Nov. 6. A playwright, actor, screenwriter, and Howard University alum, Remington was serving as deputy director for Arts and Culture for the City of Tempe in Arizona when his new role with SFAC was announced. He officially starts in January 2021.
Calinda Lee, Head of Programs and Exhibitions | National Center for Civil and Human Rights, Atlanta, Ga.
Calinda Lee joined the National Center for Civil and Human Rights as head of programs and exhibitions, a newly created position. The news was announced Nov. 12. Lee’s portfolio includes education, training, exhibitions, and programmatic initiatives. She will also lead a new project called Truth and Transformation, which is focused on racial healing and understanding how race shaped the city of Atlanta and framed the nation’s narrative. Lee previously served as vice president and chief historian at the Atlanta History Center. She officially started at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights on Nov. 19.
On Nov. 13, Shirley Solomon was promoted to deputy director of the Bronx Museum of the Arts. Solomon previously served as director of government and institutional giving. She joined the Bronx museum in 2013 as manager of government and institutional affairs. Earlier in her career, Solomon was a fundraising consultant, working with museums and cultural institutions such as the Bronx River Art Center and The Noguchi Museum.
Curators for the 2021 Armory Show were announced Nov. 16, including Valerie Cassel Oliver who is chairing the art fair’s Curatorial Leadership Summit. The daylong, invitation-only event brings together curators from around the world for a public keynote address and closed-door session. The Armory Show is Sept. 9-12, 2021, at the Jacob Javits Center. In advance of the art fair, Cassel Oliver will also organize two virtual summit events. The Sydney and Frances Lewis Family Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) in Richmond, Cassel Oliver co-curated “Howardena Pindell: What Remains to be Seen.” Forthcoming in May 2021, she is presenting “The Dirty South: Contemporary Art, Material Culture and the Sonic Impulse” at the VMFA.
Yesomi Umolu. | Photo © Nicolette Nunez, Courtesy Serpentine Galleries
Yesomi Umolu, Director of Curatorial Affairs and Public Practice | The Serpentine, London
Yesomi Umolu is joining The Serpentine in London as director of curatorial affairs and public practice, overseeing curatorial, educational, and editorial programming. When the news was announced on Nov. 18, Umolu was serving as director and curator of Logan Center Exhibitions at the Logan Center for the Arts at the University of Chicago. She recently served as artistic director of the 2019 Chicago Architecture Biennial. Umolu officially starts the newly created role at Serpentine in January 2021. Under her direction, the curatorial mission will focus on civic engagement and a more inclusive and accessible audience experience.
FIND MORE about Yesomi Umolu on her website
Courtney Willis Blair has been named a partner at Mitchell-Innes & Nash. The commercial art gallery is based in New York with a second location in Miami. The Nov. 18 announcement is big news. As the gallery noted, few Black dealers have become partners in White-owned art galleries in the United States. A gallerist, writer, and cultural producer, Willis Blair joined Mitchell-Innes & Nash in 2016 as an artist liaison and became a director in 2017. The gallery represents 35 artists. During her tenure, Willis Blair has worked closely with Pope.L, Martha Rosler, Jessica Stockholder, Mary Kelly, Jacolby Satterwhite and Gideon Appah. The latter two artists she added to the gallery’s roster. Previously, Willis Blair was an assistant director at Mary Ryan Gallery. She is the founder of Entre Nous, a collective of Black female art dealers based in New York.
FIND MORE about Courtney Willis Blair in a conversation about artist Emma Amos on Culture Type
Lavita McMath Turner, Chief Diversity Officer | Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, N.Y.
On Nov. 23, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York announced the appointment of Lavita McMath Turner, the institution’s first chief diversity officer. For 14 years, Turner served in various roles at the City University of New York (CUNY), most recently as assistant dean for Equity, Inclusion, and Experiential Learning at CUNY’s Stella & Charles Guttman Community College. Previously, she was a government relations officer at the Brooklyn Museum. Turner joins The Met in January 2021 and will report directly to Daniel H. Weiss, the Met’s president and CEO.
Terri Lee Freeman, Director | Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture, Baltimore, Md.
On Dec. 3, the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture announced a new executive director. Terri Lee Freeman will lead the museum. She has been serving as president of the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, the site of the 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. For six years, Freeman has been commuting between Memphis and Baltimore and welcomes the opportunity to lead an institution close to home and her family. She takes the helm of the Lewis Museum on Feb. 15, 2021.
On Dec. 3, the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD) announced the appointment of Laura Hughes as interim director. In July, former MOCAD staff members and interns issued a public letter accusing then-director Elysia Borowy-Reeder of creating a toxic environment and calling for her dismissal. After an investigation into the allegations of racist behavior and exploitive labor practices, the museum’s board of directors terminated Borowy-Reeder, leaving the vacancy now temporarily filled by Hughes. A self-described change strategist, Hughes is the founder and principal of Gusto Partners LLC, which is dedicated to creating inclusive environments and social change. In 2019, she joined MOCAD’s board and was appointed to its executive committee two months ago. Hughes stepped down from the board to serve as interim director. A search for a permanent director of the museum is underway.
The Frick Collection named Marie-Laure Buku Pongo assistant curator of decorative arts. She will oversee the museum’s collection of furniture, ceramics, textiles, enamels, clocks, and other objects. Buku Pongo recently worked on major projects and exhibitions with the Palace of Versailles, the Louvre Abu Dhabi, and Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. As senior assistant and acting head of service in the Mission Ameublement at the Mobilier National, she advised and managed the furnishing of the Élysée Palace (the official residence of the French President); the offices of President and First Lady, the Prime Minister, and several Secretaries of State; and the French Senate, the French Parliament, and French embassies around the world. Buku Pongo is completing a her Ph.D. in modern history and art history at Sorbonne Université in Paris. The Frick announcement was made on Dec. 3. She begins her new post in 2021.
On Dec. 9, BRIC announced the appointment of Seneca Mudd as chief operating officer and executive vice president. BRIC is a Brooklyn arts and media institution that works across visual and performing arts, media, and civic action. A native New Yorker and Brooklyn resident, Mudd has a background in business development, operational strategy, and digital media and will oversee BRIC’s growth strategy and daily operations. Previously, he operated an eponymous consulting group focusing on advertising and business development and served as vice president for global clients at Xaxis, an outcome-driven media firm.
James F. Blue III, Senior Vice President and Head of Smithsonian Channel | ViacomCBS, Washington, D.C./New York, N.Y.
James F. Blue III has been hired by MTV Entertainment Group, a division of ViacomCBS, as senior vice president and head of the Smithsonian Channel. The announcement was made Dec. 18. His mandate includes expanding and diversifying the Smithsonian Channel’s content. A veteran broadcast journalist, production executive, and multimedia storyteller, Blue will shape and overseee factual, unscripted, and nonfiction projects for the MTV Entertainment brands, including MTV, the Smithsonian Channel, Comedy Central, Paramount Network, Pop TV, CMT, VH1, TV Land, and Logo. He previously served as a producer and executive at PBS Newshour. He has also worked for Arise News and BET Networks and operated his own production company, Public Affairs Media Group, based in Washington, D.C. Earlier in his career, Blue was a producer on ABC’s Nightline. He is a trustee of the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore.
On Dec. 18, the Saint Louis Art Museum (SLAM) announced the promotion of Renée Brummell Franklin to chief diversity officer. Her appointment to the newly created position is effective Jan. 1, 2021. Franklin is charged with implementing a report on diversity, equity, access and inclusion adopted over the summer by the museum’s board of commissioners. She will oversee internal and external diversity measures and SLAM’s ongoing efforts to expand community programs and broaden and diversify its audiences. Franklin has worked at SLAM for more than two decades. During her tenure, she helped establish Friends of African American Art Collectors Circle and has long overseen the Romare Bearden Graduate Museum Fellowship. Franklin joined the museum in 1998 as coordinator of community outreach programs and has risen through the ranks, most recently serving as director of audience development. CT
READ MORE U.S. museum staff diversity has largely been gauged by a demographic surveys conducted by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Findings were published in 2015 and 2019. (A number of case studies were also released n 2017-18.)
READ MORE In June, in an effort to gauge the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on museums, the American Alliance of Museums published a survey of 750 museum directors. The findings showed one-third of directors indicated their museums faced a “significant risk” of permanent closure by fall, or they “didn’t know” if they would be able to endure and remain open.
Authored by Adrienne L. Childs, “Riffs and Relations: African American Artists and the European Modernist Tradition,” documents her exhibition at The Phillips Collection. Zoé Whitley co-edited the new exhibition catalog “Elijah Pierce’s America.” She also co-edited the exhibition catalog for “Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power” and authored “Meet the Artist (Frank Bowling),” a book for children. Andrea Barnwell Brownlee and Valerie Cassel Oliver co-authored “Cinema Remixed and Reloaded: Black Women and the Moving Image Since 1970.” Barnwell edited “Deborah Roberts: The Evolution of Mimi,” which was published to document the exhibition at Spelman College Museum of Fine Art. Cassel Oliver contributed an interview with Deborah Roberts to the catalog. “Howardena Pindell: What Remains To Be Seen” was co-edited by Cassel Oliver. Lauren Haynes edited “Speaking of People: Ebony, Jet and Contemporary Art” and co-edited “Alma Thomas,” which was published to accompany the exhibition at the Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College and the Studio Museum in Harlem. Finally, Kevin Young is the author of the recent volume “Bunk: The Rise of Hoaxes, Humbug, Plagiarists, Phonies, Post-Facts, and Fake News” and several books of poetry. He also edited a seminal new collection, “African American Poetry: 250 Years of Struggle & Song” (A Library of America Anthology).
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