Moving On Up: 34 Museum Curators and Arts Leaders Who Took on New Appointments in First Half of 2023

Yoshiko Yap

Table of Contents

 

NEARLY THREE DOZEN Black curators and arts leaders accepted new appointments at an array of museums and arts institutions in the first half of 2023. Notably, Brooke A. Minto was appointed executive director and CEO of the Columbus Art Museum in Ohio. She joined the museum from the Black Trustee Alliance for Art Museums, where she was the inaugural executive director, playing a critical role in the influential organization’s foundational work to diversify art museum boards. Michelle Commander became deputy director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., and Jova Lynne returned to the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit as artistic director.

Culture Type began reporting annually on new appointments of Black curators and arts leaders in 2016, in order to get a sense of representation in museums, with an emphasis on art museums. Museum leaders, curators, conservators, and educators shape the management and intellectual direction of institutions, determine the art visitors see and the programming they experience and, by extension, whether audiences of color feel welcome.

 


RECENT APPOINTMENTS: Clockwise, from top left: Renée Mussai (The Walther Collection), Rasu Jilani (Brooklyn Arts Council), Lauren Cross (The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens), Brooke A. Minto (Columbus Museum of Art), Gamynne Guillotte (San Francisco Museum of Modern Art), Tandazani Dhlakama (Zeitz Museum of Contemporary African Art), Jordana Moore Saggese (David C. Driskell Center), and Ryan N. Dennis (Contemporary Arts Museum Houston)

 

The Mellon Foundation and Ithaka S+R have been researching staff demographics in North American art museums since 2014. Their most recent report was published in November 2022. “Though progress remains slow and uneven, the demographics of museum employees across the country are becoming more reflective of the diverse communities their organizations serve,” Mellon Foundation President Elizabeth Alexander said in the foreword. The summary findings stated:

    Museum leadership and conservation positions, while growing more diverse, have not exceeded one-fifth POC representation overall. Over 40 percent of younger staff and newer hires are POC. In the aggregate, the demographic changes in museum staff are primarily due to increases in staff from three backgrounds: Hispanic, Asian, and those who are Two or More Races. While there has not been a significant increase in Black staff in the aggregate, between 2015 and 2022, the number of Black staff in museum leadership has more than doubled, while tripling in information technology and quadrupling in curatorial positions.

Last year, Culture Type’s list of new appointments was biannual for the first time, divided into two parts. This approach continues in 2023. This first installment covers announcements made from January through June. In addition to museums, the roundup notes appointments at a selection of nonprofits and publicly funded organizations, including foundations and scholarly institutions that support and train artists and participate in the larger art ecosystem.

For instance, the International Center of Photography (ICP) in New York named Colette Veasey-Cullors dean and deputy director of its school. ICP described Veasey-Cullors as the “first BIPOC leader of ICP’s school.” Renée Mussai is the first-ever artistic director and new chief curator at the Walther Collection, the photography-focused art foundation based in Germany and New York. Rasu Jilani joined the Brooklyn Arts Council as executive director. At the University of Maryland’s David C. Driskell Center, Jordana Moore Saggese was brought on as director.

The following Culture Type list of new curatorial and arts leadership appointments focuses on U.S. institutions and includes a handful of international organizations. This first installment of 2023 appointments features 34 new hires and promotions. The vast majority are women. (The appointments are arranged in chronological order according to announcement dates). The list is not comprehensive, but it is representative:

 

JANUARY

 


Taylor Jasper. | Photo by Natalie Zeta

 

Taylor Jasper, Assistant Curator of Visual Arts. | Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minn.

At the start of the New Year, the Walker Art Center announced Taylor Jasper was joining the museum as assistant curator of visual art. Previously, she was a curatorial associate at The Momentary. Located in downtown Bentonville, Ark., The Momentary is a contemporary satellite of the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Prior to The Momentary, Jasper served as a curatorial research assistant at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond (2017-20). Her appointment at the Walker was announced on Jan. 10 and she officially started on Jan. 25.

 


Michelle Commander. | Photos Courtesy Smithsonian NMAAHC

 

Michelle Commander, Deputy Director. | Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History & Culture, Washington, D.C.

The National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) announced a new deputy director on Jan. 10. Michelle Commander officially joined the Smithsonian museum in the No. 2 role on Jan. 30. She helps lead the overall management and strategic planning and development of NMAAHC. Previously, Commander spent four and a half years at the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem, serving most recently as deputy director of research and strategic initiatives. In an earlier role, she was a tenured associate professor of English and Africana studies at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.

 


Tawanda Appiah. | Photo by Lamia Karić

 

Tawanda Appiah, Curator 2023-2025. | Skånes konstförening, Malmö, Sweden

On Jan. 11, Skånes konstförening announced Tawanda Appiah would serve as curator 2023–2025. The curator position at the nonprofit art association is a time-limited opportunity, allowing the vision of each curator to shape the artistic direction and main exhibition program during their tenure. An independent curator, researcher and writer from Zimbabwe, Appiah is based in Malmö. He has previously worked on projects at Skånes konstförening, collaborating with curator Simona Dumitriu (2018-20) and organizing To Where Are We Beautifully Going, a series of performative talks, lectures, and film screenings in September and October 2022. Appiah’s first exhibition as curator at Skånes konstförening opens at the end of September.

“I am so honored to return to Skånes konstförening, the place that has in so many ways rooted me in Malmö. I am excited to create a dynamic and engaging programme that fosters collaboration and serves as a platform for artists and art practitioners to work and experiment. I believe that art has the power to rouse curiosity, interrogate, and reveal complexities, and I hope to actively support these processes. I am looking forward to opening doors to the audience and adding to the vibrant city of Malmö.”
— Tawanda Appiah

 


Sheree Carter-Galvan

 

Sheree Carter-Galvan, Chief Legal Officer. | Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, New York, N.Y.

The Mellon Foundation hired Sheree Carter-Galvan as chief legal officer and secretary of the board of trustees. Her appointment was announced in early January. Carter-Galvan joined the foundation from the American Museum of Natural History in New York, where she served as senior vice president and general counsel. Previously, she was senior associate general counsel at Yale University. Mellon makes transformational investments in the arts on a variety of fronts, among them, providing grants for new public monuments, preservation of historic sites, Latinx artists, and artists impacted by incarceration. Mellon has also served as lead funder of initiatives to diversify art museum leadership, study demographic representation in art museum staffing, and acquire and digitize the Ebony and Jet Photography Archive.

 


Chantal Drake. | Courtesy Birmingham Museum of Art

 

Chantal Drake, Deputy Director. | Birmingham Museum of Art, Birmingham, Ala.

A native of Huntsville, Ala., Chantal Drake joined the Birmingham Museum of Art (BMA) as James Milton and Sallie R. Johnson Deputy Director on Jan. 17. Since 2019, Drake was director of development and communications at the Dixon Gallery and Gardens in Memphis, Tenn. Previously, she served as director of communications and communications associate at Dixon. At BMA, Drake oversees the Finance and Facilities, People and Culture, and Design and Technology departments. The news was announced on Jan. 13.

 


Douglas Gilmore. | Courtesy Museum of London Docklands

 

Douglas Gilmore, Managing Director. | Museum of London Docklands, London, UK

On Jan. 13, the Museum of London named Douglas Gilmore managing director of the Museum of London Docklands. He started in April. Gilmore leads daily management and strategy for the Docklands museum, which “tells the story of the port, river and city—focusing on trade, migration and commerce in London” and houses the London, Sugar and Slavery gallery, exploring the history of the transatlantic slave trade in the UK. In previous roles, Gilmore has worked at Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology and the National Gallery, where he was trading director (2009-2020).

 

FEBRUARY

 


Tifferney M. White. | Photo Courtesy Association of Children’s Museums

 

Tifferney M. White, CEO. | Louisiana Children’s Museum, New Orleans, La.

The Louisiana Children’s Museum (LCM) announced the appointment of its new CEO, Tifferney M. White, on Feb. 1. Previously, White was chief learning officer of Discovery Place, which includes four museums located in and around Charlotte, N.C., focused on science and the natural world. In an earlier role, she was president and CEO of Discovery Children’s Museum in Las Vegas. White is a member of the executive committee of the Association of Children’s Museums, where she serves as governance and nominating chair. She started at LCM on March 1.

 


Lauren Cross. | Photo courtesy The Huntington

 

Lauren Cross, Associate Curator of American Decorative Arts. | The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens, San Marino, Calif.

On Feb. 6, The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens announced the appointment of Lauren Cross as the Gail-Oxford Associate Curator of American Decorative Arts. The museum’s decorative arts collection includes furniture, sculpture, ceramic, glass, metalwork and textiles from the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. Previously, Cross was an assistant professor and program coordinator of interdisciplinary art and design studies at University of North Texas in Denton, Texas. She started at The Huntington near Los Angeles, in January.

“I have always admired the range and quality of The Huntington’s decorative arts collection. At the same time, I am thrilled to join the team at this important moment to help build out areas of the collection and fill important gaps with respect to representation. I’m looking forward to creating new stories with the Gail-Oxford collection and working collaboratively with curators at The Huntington to help visitors—both on-site and online—better understand and appreciate the nuances of American decorative arts.” — Lauren Cross

 


Leah Van der Mei. | Courtesy California Academy of Sciences

 

Leah Van der Mei, COO and Head of Government Affairs. | California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco, Calif.

On Feb. 9, the California Academy of Sciences named Leah Van der Mei chief operating officer and head of government affairs. Van der Mei has worked at the Academy since 2008 and was serving as director of public operations and access when she was promoted to her current role. Based in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, the Academy is a research institute and natural history museum that houses a world-class aquarium and planetarium.

 


Renée Mussai, 2022. | Photo © Christa Holka

 

Renée Mussai, Artistic Director and Chief Curator. | The Walther Collection, Neu-Ulm, Germany and New York, N.Y.

London-based curator, writer, and art historian Renée Mussai joined The Walther Collection as its inaugural artistic director and new chief curator. The appointment was announced Feb. 17. Mussai has dedicated her career to African and Afro-diasporic Black feminist and queer visual arts. Over the past two decades, she was senior curator and head of curatorial and collection at Autograph, London, where major projects focused on Zanele Muholi, Phoebe Boswell, the Black presence in 19th and 20th century Britain, and the first-ever retrospective of James Barnor (2010). At the same time, Mussai developed a notable independent practice that spans international curating, publishing, writing, and teaching. She has also served as a curatorial adviser to The Walther Collection, which focuses on modern and contemporary African and European photography. Based in Neu-Ulm, Germany, the art foundation has a project space in New York City, and presents traveling exhibitions worldwide.

“I am thrilled to be joining The Walther Collection and feel both honored and privileged to lead the next chapter of this remarkable cultural resource, building on the foundation’s profound commitment to supporting a diverse constituency of artists working in lens-based media, and amplifying the collection’s exceptional dual scholarly and curatorial remit.”
— Renée Mussai

 

MARCH

 


Brooke A. Minto. | Photo courtesy Brooke A. Minto

 

Brooke A. Minto, Executive Director and CEO. | Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus, Ohio

On March 13, the Columbus Museum of Art tapped Brooke A. Minto to lead the institution. She started as executive director and CEO on May 15. Minto is an arts administrator, art historian and educator with two decades of experience across museums and arts organizations. Most recently, she served as inaugural executive director of Black Trustees Alliance for Art Museums in New York.

“I am inspired and energized by the prospect of engaging a new cultural community rich with history and driven by excellence. I am honored to lead an institution that is deeply embedded in its community, committed to positive social change and dedicated to nurturing creativity and imagination. I look forward to partnering with the staff, board and community to ensure that CMA remains a relevant and meaningful institution for generations to come.” — Brooke A. Minto

 


Suhaly Bautista-Carolina. | Photo Courtesy American LGBTQ+ Museum

 

Suhaly Bautista‑Carolina, Director of Public Programs and Partnerships. | American LGBTQ+ Museum, New York, N.Y.

Suhaly Bautista‑Carolina joined the American LGBTQ+ Museum as inaugural director of public programs and partnerships. The appointment was announced on March 13. A community organizer and arts educator, Bautista‑Carolina was previously senior managing educator of audience development and engagement at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The LGBTQ+ Museum is in its early stages and currently incubating with the New-York Historical Society. The Ford Foundation and Swann Auction Galleries are among its institutional supporters.

“I am thrilled to join the incredible team at the American LGBTQ+ Museum, and to contribute to the vision and mission of what will undeniably be a space of learning, joy, liberation, transformation, and community. Together, we will co-create a Museum where public programs and partnerships are an authentic reflection of our core principles.” – Suhaly Bautista-Carolina

 


Rasu Jilani. | Photo by Stephanie Mei-Ling

 

Rasu Jilani, Executive Director. | Brooklyn Arts Council, Brooklyn, N.Y.

The Brooklyn Arts Council announced on March 13 that Rasu Jilani was the organization’s new executive director. An independent curator and producer, Jilani brings more than 15 years of experience working in Brooklyn’s cultural sector and creative community. Previously, he was a cultural network curator at the Lambent Foundation and director of recruitment and community engagement at NEW INC, the New Museum’s art and tech incubator. As the founder of Coup d’état Arts, he has also organized exhibitions and served as a producer for Afropunk.

 


Joey Quiñones. | Photo by Destini Ross

 

Joey Quiñones, Head of Fiber Department. | Cranbrook Academy of Art, Bloomfield Hills, Mich.

Cranbrook Academy of Art named Joey Quiñones head of the Fiber Department and artist-in-residence. The news was announced March 23. They start in September. An artist and educator, Quiñones works with variety of materials exploring African American and Caribbean history and complexity of Afro-Latinx identity. Quiñones is joining Cranbrook from Alfred University in Alfred, N.Y., where they served as assistant professor of sculpture and founded Fibers and Mixed Media Studio in Sculpture/Dimensional Studies Division. Previously, Quiñones taught English for 17 years at Earlham College in Richmond, Ind.

 


Jade Packer. | Photo by J Caldwell, Courtesy Nasher Museum of Art

 

Jade Packer, Director of Community Initiatives. | Nasher Museum of Art, Duke University, Durham, N.C.

Duke University’s Nasher Museum of Art appointed Jade Packer director of community initiatives, effective March 1. She previously handled strategic engagement in PBS North Carolina’s education and innovation department. In a newly created role at the Nasher Museum, Packer is “building and sustaining meaningful relationships and partnerships, with a focus on leaders and organizations that serve diverse communities in Durham.” The news was announced on March 27.

 


Redell Hearn. | Courtesy New Orleans Museum of Art

 

Redell Hearn, Chief Educator. | New Orleans Museum of Art, New Orleans, La.

On March 27, Redell Hearn was named chief educator at the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA), a newly created position leading the museum’s Learning and Engagement department. Previously, Hearn was founding director of the Department of Academic Affairs at the Mississippi Museum of Art in Jackson. Earlier, she was curator of history at the California African American Museum in Los Angeles. Her first day at NOMA was Feb. 6.

 


Jova Lynne. | Photo by Clare Gatto

 

Jova Lynne, Artistic Director. | Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, Detroit, Mich.

Jova Lynne is the inaugural artistic director of the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD). Announced on March 28, the appointment was effective April 3 and marked a return to the museum for Lynne. She first joined MOCAD as a Ford Foundation curatorial fellow in 2017 and became Susanne Feld Hilberry Senior Curator in 2019. Through the pandemic and against the backdrop of MOCAD coming to terms with a leadership problem and staff complaints about racism and “exploitative labor practices,” Lynne departed in spring 2020. After the museum’s board vowed to bring about change with a focus on equity, she returned to her position as senior curator in September 2020. In February 2022, Lynne joined Temple University in Philadelphia as director of exhibitions and public programs at the Tyler School of Art and Architecture. In her current role, she is co-leading MOCAD with Marie Madison-Patton, who has served as the museum’s COO since Jan. 1.

“Detroit is a city that is close to my heart and has played an integral role in my growth as a curator and artist. Returning to a city and institution that I love and that has shaped the trajectory of my practice is a great honor. I am thrilled to rejoin the museum and its hard working team as we present our Spring 2023 exhibition program. And I look forward to working with Marie as we steward MOCAD’s legacy of presenting the best in contemporary art.” — Jova Lynne

 


Shakia Gullette Warren. | Photo courtesy Black History Museum & Cultural Center of Virginia

 

Shakia Gullette Warren, Executive Director. | Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia, Richmond, Va.

On March 29, the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia (BHMVA) announced a new executive director. After a yearlong search, Shakia Gullette Warren joined the museum as it marked its 40th anniversary and faced critical decisions about what to do with 13 Confederate monuments removed from display throughout Richmond. In 2021, the city officially transferred ownership of the contentious public symbols to BHMVA. A graduate of Fisk University with more than a decade of experience as a public historian, Warren previously served as director at The Concord House Museum and Historic Site in Prince George’s County, Md. She started a BHMVA on May 1.

“I am truly honored to serve in this capacity and follow in the footsteps of the changemakers who came before me. BHMVA is a remarkable institution with an extremely talented team with deep roots in Richmond’s community, and I look forward to fully immersing myself into Virginia’s rich culture and leading the institution into its next transformational stage.” — Shakia Gullette Warren

 


Colette Veasey-Cullors. | Photo by Jay Gould

 

Colette Veasey-Cullors, Dean and Deputy Director. | International Center of Photography, New York, N.Y.

The International Center of Photography (ICP) announced on March 29 that Colette Veasey-Cullors had been named dean and deputy director of ICP’s school. She brings three decades of experience as an educator, artist, and photographer, joining ICP from the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) in Baltimore, where she was interim vice provost for undergraduate studies. Previously, Veasey-Cullors was associate dean for the Division of Design and Media and chair of the Photography Department at MICA. Earlier, she was a tenured associate professor and Photography Area coordinator at Howard University. ICP described Veasey-Cullors as the “first BIPOC leader of ICP’s school.” She started June 15.

 

APRIL

 


Tandazani Dhlakama. | Courtesy Zeitz MOCAA

 

Tandazani Dhlakama, Curator. | Zeitz Museum of Contemporary African Art (MOCAA), Cape Town, South Africa

After more than three years as an assistant curator at Zeitz MOCAA, Tandazani Dhlakama was elevated to curator in February. She first joined the museum in 2017 as education manager. Her promotion was one of four appointments announced by the museum in April. At Zeitz MOCAA, Dhlakama curated “Five Bhobh: Painting at the End of an Era” (2018), assisted with the retrospective “Tracey Rose: Shooting Down Babylon” (2022), and co-curated “When We See Us: A Century of Black Figuration in Painting,” a sweeping exhibition currently on view through Sept. 3. Dhlakama co-curated the 13th edition of Bamako Encounters, the African Biennale of Photography (2022). Previously, she was curator of education and public programming at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe.

 


Lungi Morrison. | Courtesy Zeitz MOCAA

 

Lungi Morrison, Institutional Advancement Director. | Zeitz Museum of Contemporary African Art (MOCAA), Cape Town, South Africa

Zeitz MOCAA announced four new appointments in April, including Lungi Morrison the contemporary art museum’s new institutional advancement director. Over the past two decades, Morrison has held several senior roles in the international tourism and cultural sectors, among them country manager for South African Tourism in London and head of communications at Gauteng Tourism Authority in Johannesburg. Most recently, she was a project manager at the Goethe-Institut in Johannesburg. In the announcement, Zeitz said Morrison is “a Pan-African multi-linguist, passionate about contributing to thriving cultural creative economies and institutions throughout the Continent and Diaspora.” She joined the museum in March.

 


Nia Amadife. | Courtesy Dallas Museum of Art

 

Nia Amadife, Director of Human Resources. | Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, Texas

Nia Amadife joined the Dallas Museum of Art as director of human resources in January. Most recently, she was global HR business partner & practice lead at Childfund International, a nonprofit with a mission to help children around the world grow up healthy, educated, and safe from hunger, violence, disease, and neglect. In the April appointment announcement, the Dallas museum noted that key aspects of Amadife’s new role include being an “internal champion for staff” and driving the institution’s DEI initiatives and goals “to be inclusive, equitable, fair and welcoming to the entire community.”

 


Jordana Moore Saggese. | Photo courtesy David C. Driskell Center

 

Jordana Moore Saggese, Director. | David C. Driskell Center for the Visual Arts and Culture of African Americans and the African Diaspora, University of Maryland, College Park, Md.

The David C. Driskell Center hired Jordana Moore Saggese as its next director, effective July 1. Saggese is a professor of American art at the University of Maryland, expert on artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, and former editor-in-chief of the College Art Association’s Art Journal. She succeeded artist, printmaker, and educator Curlee R. Holton, who had led the center since 2012. The new appointment was announced April 14. Established in 2001 to honor the legacy of Driskell, a professor emeritus at the University of Maryland, the center focuses on the collection, documentation and presentation of African American art. The Driskell Center’s archives include the papers of Driskell, Alonzo Davis, and Michael D. Harris, among others. Recently on view at the center, the exhibition “RINGGOLD | SAAR: Meeting on the Matrix” was developed and curated by Saggese’s graduate students.

“David was among the first to write the history of African American art; he is a legend in our field. For that reason and so many more, this is an incredibly rewarding opportunity for me.… My goal is to capitalize on the incredible international reputation the center has at a moment when there is increased attention on the importance of research in Black studies and Black culture, and on the contributions of African American artists,” she said. “It’s an extremely exciting time to come on board.” — Jordana Moore Saggese

 


Denise Ryner. | Photo by Marcus Maddox

 

Denise Ryner, Curator. | Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pa.

On April 17, ICA Philly announced Denise Ryner had been appointed to the position of Andrea B. Laporte Curator, effective immediately. A Canadian curator and writer, Ryner was most recently director and curator at Or Gallery in Vancouver, Canada (2017-22). She also served concurrently as associate guest curator at Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW) in Berlin, beginning in 2016.

 


Ryan N. Dennis. | Photo by Charles A. Smith

 

Ryan N. Dennis, Senior Curator and Director of Public Initiatives. | Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, Houston, Texas

Contemporary Arts Museum Houston (CAMH) named Ryan N. Dennis senior curator and director of public initiatives on April 25. Previously, Dennis was chief curator and artistic director of the Center for Art & Public Exchange at the Mississippi Museum of Art (MMA) in Jackson, where she co-curated the traveling exhibition “A Movement in Every Direction: Legacies of the Great Migration.” In an earlier role, she served as curator and programs director at Project Row Houses in Houston. Dennis officially started at CAMH in June.

 


Gamynne Guillotte, 2019. | Photo by Christopher Myers, Courtesy SFMOMA

 

Gamynne Guillotte, Chief Education and Community Engagement Officer. | San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, Calif.

On April 26, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) announced the appointment of Gamynne Guillotte, who joined the museum’s leadership team as Leanne and George Roberts Chief Education and Community Engagement Officer. Previously, Guillotte held several positions at the Baltimore Museum of Art, where her tenure began in 2013 and her most recent role was chief education officer (2018-23). She officially started at SFMOMA on June 23.

 

MAY

 


Aaron Myers. | Courtesy DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities

 

Aaron Myers, Executive Director. | DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, Washington, D.C.

The DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities (CAH) named Aaron Myers executive director. A jazz vocalist, pianist, educator, and activist, Myers is the founding board chair of the Capitol Hill Jazz Foundation. He had been serving as acting CAH commissioner since March 27 and was confirmed to a permanent appointment by the DC Council on May 2.

“I am excited to be given the opportunity to serve this community, in this capacity, at this moment… I look forward to working together, along with Mayor Muriel Bowser, to meet the moment for our creatives, and to truly reinforce to the world that DC is the District of Creatives, the Creative Capital of this Country.” — Aaron Myers

 


Keondra Bills Freemyn. | Courtesy Black Lunch Table

 

Keondra Bills Freemyn, Archives Director. | Black Lunch Table

On May 4, Black Lunch Table (BLT) announced a new archives director, welcoming Keondra Bills Freemyn. A Maryland-based archivist, published author and poet, and Wikipedian, she founded The Black Women Writers Project, a digital archive initiative. She is a Society of American Archivists Digital Archives Specialist, and has worked on oral history and archives projects with the Library of Congress, Smithsonian, New York Public Library, and DC Public Library. A U.S.-based, artist-founded nonprofit, BLT organizes artist roundtables and community roundtables, preserves the conversations in an online oral history archive, and hosts Wikipedia edit-a-thons focused on representation of significant Black figures in the visual art world.

 


Shadawn Smith. | Courtesy Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation

 

Shadawn Smith, Executive VP for Arts and Culture and Executive Director. | Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation and The Billie Holiday Theatre, Brooklyn, N.Y.

The Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation (Restoration) named Shadawn Smith executive vice president for arts and culture and executive director of The Billie Holiday Theatre in Brooklyn, effective June 1. The appointment was announced May 9. Established in 1967, Restoration is the nation’s first community development corporation. Smith is responsible for all arts and culture initiatives and programming on the campus of Restoration, across visual art, drama, music, and dance, including leadership of The Billie Holiday Theatre. In March, The Billie was awarded a National Medal of Arts by President Biden. Previously, Smith was a vice president at NYC & Company, the women’s clothing retailer, and served for five years as manager of government affairs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

 

JUNE

 


Katherine C.M. Adams. | Photo by Michael Valiquette/EMPAC

 

Katherine C.M. Adams, Assistant Curator. | Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, N.Y.

The Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC) appointed Katherine C.M. Adams as assistant curator. She will work on a variety of curatorial projects and public programming across performance and time-based arts. The news was announced June 1. Adams officially started at EMPAC in May. A curator, writer, and researcher, Adams was exhibition manager of New York’s inaugural The Immigration Artist Biennial (TIAB) in 2020 and is a co-curator of the forthcoming TIAB (September 2023). She has also been a curatorial fellow at the KW Institute for Contemporary Art in Berlin, Germany, and a curatorial research assistant at Hessel Museum of Art in Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y.

 


Michelle Ebanks. | © Shahar Azran, Courtesy The Apollo

 

Michelle Ebanks, President and CEO. | The Apollo, New York, N.Y.

On June 6, the Apollo, the historic theater in Harlem, announced Michelle Ebanks would become its next president and CEO. Ebanks started in July. She succeeded Jonelle Procope, who over the past two decades transformed the landmarked Apollo theater into a contemporary cultural and civic nonprofit institution embarking on a full-scale renovation. Ebanks spent more than 22 years at Essence Communications, rising to CEO of the magazine and media and communications company under Time Inc. She began her career at Time Inc., as general manager and financial director of Money magazine. Earlier, Ebanks was corporate business manager for 13 titles under Condé Nast.

“I’m thrilled to be joining the iconic Apollo at such an important time in its trajectory. The Apollo continues to have such a profound impact on Black culture—and American culture—locally, nationally and internationally. It is such an exciting time as it expands its physical footprint, doubles down on supporting artists at every stage in their careers, collaborates with partners across Harlem and the world, and offers a platform for the voices of African American artists across the diaspora.” — Michelle Ebanks

 


Lindsay Catherine Harris. | Photo by Jessye Herrell

 

Lindsay Catherine Harris, Co-Director. | Recess, Brooklyn, N.Y.

On June 8, Recess announced a new co-director: Lindsay Catherine Harris. Based in Brooklyn, N.Y., Recess provides community, resources, and an exhibition platform for underrepresented artists, including people of color, women, and those who identify as LGBTQ+ and non-gender conforming. Recess programs support the development of new work, critical writing commissions, and opportunities for young artists involved in the criminal justice system. Harris succeeds former co-director Allison Freedman Weisberg, who founded Recess in 2009, led the organization for 14 years, and stepped down in December 2022. An artist, social justice advocate, cultural worker, and educator, Harris spent nearly a decade at the Brooklyn Museum, first coordinating teen programming and then rising over the years to director of education. Harris’s tenure at Recess began in June, serving as co-director with artist Shaun Leonardo, who joined the organization in 2020.

 


Meg Onli. | Photo by Bryan Derballa, Courtesy Whitney Museum

 

Meg Onli, Curator-at-Large. | Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, N.Y.

The Whitney Museum of American Art announced the appointment of writer and curator Meg Onli as curator-at-large on June 20, the same day she officially started. Last fall, Onli was tapped as co-curator of the 2024 Whitney Biennial. Previously, she was director and curator of the Underground Museum, for a few months before the Los Angeles museum closed indefinitely in March 2022. In a prior position, Onli was an associate curator at the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) at the University of Pennsylvania.

“This is truly a dream job. I have always admired the Whitney’s long-standing history of field-defining exhibitions and support for emergent artist practices. I am very excited to be part of the life of the Whitney, and to collaborate and explore with the incredible team here. I am also so appreciative of the flexibility of the role, which affords me the opportunity to focus on the creative and bring new ideas and perspectives to the Museum.” — Meg Onli

 


Jennifer Francis. | © Museum of London

 

Jennifer Francis, Director of External Affairs. | Museum of London, London, UK

On June 23, the Museum of London announced the appointment of Jennifer Francis as director of external affairs, overseeing the communications, digital innovation, and development teams. Francis has worked internationally at several museums. Most recently, she was director of brand and marketing at Grounds For Sculpture in Hamilton, N.J. (2020-23). She also held positions at the Louvre Abu Dhabi, Philadelphia Museum of Art, and Royal Academy of Arts in London, where she was head of press and marketing for eight years. CT

 

EXPLORE MORE Culture Type appointment highlights from the first half and second half of 2022

EXPLORE MORE Culture Type has previously reported on annual curatorial and arts leader appointments, dating from 2016

 

FIND MORE In May, The Alice L. Walton Foundation, Ford Foundation, Mellon Foundation, and Pilot House Philanthropy committed $11 million over five years to fund a Leadership in Art Museums (LAM) initiative intended “to increase racial equity in leadership roles such as curators, conservators, collections managers, community engagement staff, educators and other senior leaders….” Nineteen museums received 2023 awards

 

FIND MORE In November 2022, the Mellon Foundation and Ithaka S+R released a third survey of North American art museum staff demographics. (Summary)

FIND MORE Also in November 2022, the Art Fund in the UK published “It’s about handing over power,” a report examining curatorial staff diversity in the UK arts and heritage sector, from 1998 to 2021 (Summary)

 

FIND MORE Another informative survey was conducted by The Art Newspaper in 2021, providing insights from more than a dozen museums about efforts to diversify staffs, exhibition programming, collections, and audiences

 

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