Spelman College campus in Atlanta.
A GRANT FROM THE WALTON FAMILY FOUNDATION positions Spelman College to become an incubator for African American curators. The five-year, $5.4 million grant will inaugurate the Atlanta University Center Collective for the Study of Art History and Curatorial Studies.
An art history major and curatorial studies minor will be established as a result of the initiative, beginning fall 2019. At the outset, most of the courses will be offered by Spelman, but through cross registration they are open to students at Morehouse College and Clark Atlanta University, as well. The degree programs are being developed with faculty input from all three campuses.
Previously announced grants from the Walton Family Foundation are funding scholarships at Morehouse College and Clark Atlanta University. In addition, the Getty Research Institute has launched an African American Art History Initiative focused on acquiring archives, conducting oral histories, establishing internships and fellowships, and partnering with other institutions, including HBCUs. Spelman is an initial Getty partner.
The multiple grants and complementary institutional efforts among the Atlanta schools are designed encourage innovation and collaboration and create an educational pipeline into the curatorial field and museum leadership that better represents the nation’s diversity.
Figures from a 2015 demographic study of art museum staff conducted by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation highlights the dearth of curators of color. Among museum curators, conservators, educators and leaders, only 4 percent are African-American, and 3 percent are Hispanic. Meanwhile, only 16 percent of leadership positions at art museums are held by people of color.
To begin to address the yawning gap between representation in the field and the wider population, select foundations, museums and universities have come together to provide the scholarships and training necessary to develop a diverse slate of next generation curators.
“The Atlanta University Center has a rich history of excellence in the arts. Atlanta University was the home to the first art department at a historically Black college and university and their Art Annuals event was one of the most prestigious exhibitions for black artists. The Spelman College Museum of Fine Art and Clark Atlanta University Art Museum are national treasures,” Spelman President Mary Schmidt Campbell said in a statement.
“The Walton Family Foundation grant builds on this history. We applaud the foundation’s commitment to closing the diversity gap to ensure that leadership at the nation’s cultural institutions begins to reflect the shifting demographic profile of the communities they serve.”
“The Atlanta University Center has a rich history of excellence in the arts. …“The Walton Family Foundation grant builds on this history. We applaud the foundation’s commitment to closing the diversity gap to ensure that leadership at the nation’s cultural institutions begins to reflect the shifting demographic profile of the communities they serve.”
— Spelman President Mary Schmidt Campbell
Campbell joined Spelman in 2015. As the Atlanta University Center Collective pursues its goals, she brings a unique academic, public policy, and a curatorial lens to table. Her extensive background in the arts includes leading the Studio Museum in Harlem (1977-1987), serving as New York City’s cultural affairs commissioner and dean of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. President Obama appointed her vice chair of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities in 2009. Over the course of her career, she has authored and edited many books and catalogs. Her latest, “An American Odyssey: The Life and Work of Romare Bearden,” was published last month.
Over the five-year period, the Walton Family Foundation grant will support an array of priorities, including:
- Scholarships for AUC students to encourage enrollment in the art history major and curatorial studies minor and for art history majors to minor in fields such as business and technology
- Opportunities for paid internships at major museums, archives and other cultural institutions nationwide
- Hiring a distinguished visiting professor/director, a visiting associate professor of art history and curator-in-residence
- A 2019 lecture series, featuring at least three guest speakers who will deliver public lectures in the field of art history and museum professions on all three campuses
- An intensive summer program for high school students, starting in 2019, to cultivate a pre-college pipeline of students interested in pursuing museum careers
- Hosting guest faculty members in art history for each academic year
TOP IMAGE: Spelman College campus with Giles Hall in the background. | Photo by Chris Shinn, Spelman College
One of Mary Schmidt Campbell’s early books “Harlem Renaissance: Art of Black America,” explored a pivotal period in American art history. Her new book “An American Odyssey: The Life and Work of Romare Bearden,” presents “a full and vibrant account of Bearden’s life.”
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