Fifth Class Of The Andrew W. Mellon Undergraduate Curatorial Fellows Announced By Six Major U.S. Museums

The Art Institute of Chicago, the High Museum of Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH), The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art are pleased to announce the 20192021 class of fellows designated for The Andrew W. Mellon Undergraduate Curatorial Fellowship Program. The fellowship provides specialized training to students across the United States from historically underrepresented groups in the curatorial field and supports the goal of promoting inclusive, pluralistic museums. The students began their fellowships this fall. (More information about the need for a diverse educational pipeline into the curatorial field is available in the 2018 Art Museum Staff Demographic Survey.)

Fellows participate in The Andrew W. Mellon Undergraduate Curatorial Fellowship Program during their undergraduate career, with the goal of continuing their education through graduate work. The two-year fellowship provides students with hands-on experience in a museum setting, assisting curators and staff on exhibitions, collections, and programs. Fellows are matched with a curatorial mentor at each museum who works to enrich the academic experience and to increase exposure to the museum context while broadening a fellow’s understanding of art and art history. Fellowships include regular engagement during the academic school year followed by full-time engagement over the summer.

Since the program began in 2014, 30 fellows have completed the Mellon Undergraduate Curatorial Fellowship program. Two fellows have started the PhD program in art history at Harvard University, while nine others have completed Master’s degrees or are enrolled in graduate programs at the Courtauld Institute of Art; University of Chicago; University of Texas, Austin; University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies; Arizona State University; the Maryland Institute College of Art; the American University in Cairo; Cornell University; and the University of Southern California. Nearly half of the alumni are working in the arts either in staff positions or in other fellowship opportunities. 

The 2019-2021 Andrew W. Mellon Undergraduate Curatorial Fellows:

Art Institute of Chicago: Iris Haastrup is a second-year student at Wellesley College double-majoring in art history and architecture. Haastrup is from the South Side of Chicago with familial ties to Mississippi and Nigeria. In her time at Wellesley, she is the lecture chair for the black student association, on the programming committee of the Davis Museum student advisory board, and a member of TZE arts and music society. Academically, Haastrup is interested in research regarding black women artists, the relationship between art and activism, equity in the arts, and the effects of sustainability in architecture. She is inspired by the works of Toni Morrison, Lorraine Hansberry, and Carrie Mae Weems. In her personal life, she enjoys making crafts and zines, skateboarding, and watching movies. For the 2019–20 academic year, Haastrup will be mentored by Constantine Petridis, Chair of the Department of the Arts of Africa and the Americas and Curator of African Art.

Kyndal Gragg is a third-year student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) studying art history and urban planning. Gragg developed a passion for museums early in her academic career and believes that museums are like books in their storytelling capacity. Gragg is passionate about advocating for narratives from indigenous communities and the African diaspora so that they may be recognized for the longevity of their artistic contribution and seen as contemporary practitioners. Currently, Gragg is a collections assistant at UIUC’s Spurlock Museum and a research assistant for Krannert Art Museum where she researches and digitizes Andean materials for an upcoming reinstallation. Gragg is interested in supporting the collective history of the world and emphasizing a pluralistic appreciation for art. For the 2019–20 academic year, Gragg will be mentored by Andrew Hamilton, Associate Curator of Art of the Americas in the Department of the Arts of Africa and the Americas.

It’s an honor to once again have the support of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in the ambitious work of developing our next generation of curatorial leaders. Our Mellon Fellows continue to bring fresh perspectives to the museum and we are excited to see participants from our first cohort embarking on graduate studies and beginning careers at cultural institutions across the country. We look forward to following their future accomplishments,” said James Rondeau, President and Eloise W. Martin Director at the Art Institute of Chicago.

The Art Institute of Chicago is a world-renowned art museum housing one of the largest permanent collections in the United States. An encyclopedic museum, the Art Institute collects, preserves, and displays works in every medium from all cultures and historical periods as well as hosts special exhibitions. With a collection of approximately 300,000 works of art, the museum has particularly strong holdings in Impressionist and Post-Impressionist painting, early 20th century European painting and sculpture, contemporary art, Japanese prints, and photography. The museum’s 2009 addition, the Modern Wing, features the latest in green museum technology and 264,000 square feet dedicated to modern and contemporary art, photography, architecture and design, and new learning and public engagement facilities. In addition to displaying its permanent collection, the Art Institute mounts approximately 35 special exhibitions per year and features lectures, gallery tours, and special performances on a daily basis. Location and Contact: 111 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL 60603 | 312 443-3600 | www.artic.edu

High Museum of Art: Destinee Filmore is a third-year student from Tampa, Florida studying art history and international studies at Spelman College. On campus, she is an active member and leader of several organizations, most notably, the Bonner Scholar Program, Social Justice Program, and Curatorial Studies Program. Filmore is interested in a wide range of research topics but is most intrigued by the impact made by African American artists on communities abroad during their voluntary or involuntary departures from the United States. Filmore intends to pursue a doctorate degree in art history following her time at Spelman and aspires to become a curator. She is also interested in advocating for the accessibility of arts-based education programs for low-income students and students of color as such programs were vital to her success. As a Mellon Undergraduate Curatorial Fellow at the High Museum of Art, Filmore is receiving mentorship from Katherine Jentleson, Merrie and Dan Boone Curator of Folk and Self-Taught Art.

Adeja Sterling is a third-year student at Emory University studying art history in hopes of becoming a curator, art writer, and one day a museum director. Originally from New Orleans, Louisiana, but now residing in Atlanta, Georgia, Sterling has had a range of experiences in the Atlanta art scene, previously interning at ART PAPERS magazine, and with the Museum of Contemporary Art Georgia (MOCA GA). As a Mellon Undergraduate Curatorial Fellow at the High Museum, Adeja will be mentored by Stephanie Heydt, Margaret and Terry Stent, Curator of American Art.

As we welcome a new class of Mellon Fellows to the High, we reflect on the remarkable impact this program has had on our institution, but also look forward to how it will continue to shape the future of the field,” said Rand Suffolk, Nancy and Holcombe T. Green, Jr., director of the High Museum of Art. “Bringing diverse perspectives to museum leadership will help to ensure that our organizations remain relevant and essential in our communities. We are honored to continue this important work with the support of the Mellon Foundation.”

The High is the leading art museum in the southeastern United States, housed within facilities designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architects Richard Meier and Renzo Piano. With more than 16,000 works of art, the High Museum of Art has an extensive anthology of 19th- and 20th-century American fine and decorative arts; major holdings of photography and folk and self-taught work, especially that reflective of the American south; burgeoning collections of modern and contemporary art including paintings, sculpture, new media, and design; a growing collection of African art with work dating from pre-history to the present day; and significant holdings of European paintings and works on paper. The High is dedicated to a program reflective of the diversity of its communities, offering a variety of exhibitions and educational programs as well as a host of new experiences that engage visitors with the world of art, the lives of artists and the creative process. Location and Contact: 1280 Peachtree Street, N.E., Atlanta, GA 30309 | 404 733-4400 | www.high.org

Los Angeles County Museum of Art: Emily Le is a third-year student at the University of Southern California (USC), double majoring in art history and creative writing. Throughout her time at USC thus far, she has been working as a collections associate for the school’s Archaeology Lab and has also had the opportunity to co-curate an exhibit for the USC Fisher Museum, entitled Suppression, Subversion, and the Surreal: The Art of Czechoslovakian Resistance. As a first-generation college student and a child of Vietnamese immigrants, Le was not exposed to art, art history, or museums until later in life. Coming from this background, she wants to bring greater accessibility and diversity to the museum world, breaking down the idea of art as being a “cultural privilege.” Her curatorial mentor is Hollis Goodall, Curator of Japanese Art.

Jackeline Lopez is a third-year student majoring in anthropology with a focus in archaeology, as well as art history at the University of California, Los Angeles. Born and raised in South Central Los Angeles, she strives to apply anthropology to curatorial work and is particularly interested in the process of making exhibitions accessible to underrepresented communities. Her goal as an aspiring archaeologist and curator is to protect and preserve cultural patrimony, and to encourage cross-cultural connections. Lopez is currently involved in an archaeological project based in Portugal and recently completed her second field season there. Along with writing an honors thesis based on the project’s research, she plans to co-curate an exhibition with the site director to make their findings accessible to the local, rural community. Stephen Little, Florence & Harry Sloan Curator of Chinese Art and Department Head, Chinese, Korean, South and Southeast Asian Art, will be her curatorial mentor during her first year in the program.

We are pleased to welcome the incoming class of Mellon Undergraduate Curatorial Fellows,” said Michael Govan, LACMA CEO and Wallis Annenberg Director. “Now in its sixth year, we are beginning to see the potential long-term impact of this important fellowship, expanding the canon and the voices we hear from for generations to come.”

Located on the Pacific Rim, LACMA is the largest art museum in the western United States, with a collection of nearly 142,000 objects that illuminate 6,000 years of artistic expression across the globe. Committed to showcasing a multitude of art histories, LACMA exhibits and interprets works of art from new and unexpected points of view that are informed by the region’s rich cultural heritage and diverse population. LACMA’s spirit of experimentation is reflected in its work with artists, technologists, and thought leaders as well as in its regional, national, and global partnerships to share collections and programs, create pioneering initiatives, and engage new audiences. Location and Contact: 5905 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90036 | 323 857-6000 | www.lacma.org

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Landmark Exhibition Exploring Beauty, Power, and Spiritual Resonance of Native Indian Art Opens at Metropolitan Museum March 9

A major exhibition (Exhibition location: Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Exhibition Hall, Second Floor, Gallery 999) featuring extraordinary works created by Native American people of the Plains region will go on view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, beginning March 9. Bringing together more than 150 iconic works from European and North American collections—many never before seen in a public exhibition in North America—The Plains Indians: Artists of Earth and Sky (made possible by the Enterprise Holdings Endowment, an Anonymous Foundation, and the Diane W. and James E. Burke Fund and organized by the Musée du quai Branly, Paris, in collaboration with The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and in partnership with The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City ) will explore the beauty, power, and spiritual resonance of Plains Indian art.  Ranging from an ancient stone pipe and painted robes to drawings, paintings, collages, photographs, and a contemporary video installation, the exhibition will reflect the significant place that Plains Indian culture holds in the heritage of North America and in European history. Many nations are represented—Osage, Quapaw, Omaha, Crow, Cheyenne, Arapaho, Lakota, Blackfeet, Pawnee, Kiowa, Comanche, Mesquakie, Kansa and others. It will also convey the continuum of hundreds of years of artistic tradition, maintained against a backdrop of monumental cultural change. A selection of modern and contemporary works not seen at other venues of the exhibition will provide a compelling narrative about the ongoing vitality of Plains art.  The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue, The Plains Indians: Artists of Earth and Sky.

The exhibition was previously on view at Musée du quai Branly, Paris (April 7–July 20, 2014) and The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City (September 19, 2014–January 11, 2015) before arriving in New York City. In New York, the walls of the galleries –as a special feature of the exhibition–will be decorated with panoramic photographs of earth and sky printed on theatrical scrim. The photographs were taken by Shania Hall, an enrolled member of the Blackfeet tribe, on Molly’s Nipple Road on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. Ms. Hall lives in Missoula, Montana.

Drawn from 81 institutions and private collections in France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Canada, and the United States, the exhibition will represent the art traditions of many Native Nations. The distinct Plains aesthetic will be revealed through an array of forms and media: sculptural works in stone, wood, antler, and shell; porcupine quill and glass-bead embroidery; feather work; painted robes; ornamented clothing; composite works; and ceremonial objects, works on paper, paintings, and photography. 

Organized chronologically, the first gallery will showcase pre-contact works, including important sculptural pieces in stone and shell. One of the highlights in this room will be the 2,000-year-oldHuman Effigy Pipe made of pipestone, depicting a deified ancestor or mythical hero. Influential works from adjacent regions are included in this section.   

The 19th-century works in the exhibition will include key pieces long associated with westward expansion. Among them are calumets, the long and elaborate pipes shared and given as gifts in the systems of protocol that were developed to establish diplomacy and trade between Europeans and the inhabitants of the “New World” whom they encountered on the Plains.

The reintroduction of the horse to North America by the Spanish, beginning at the end of the 16th century, revolutionized Plains Indians cultures in many ways—particularly as a boon to the buffalo hunt. In the exhibition, there will be a section presenting some of the best examples of 19th-century horse gear, weapons, clothing, and shields associated with a florescence of culture in the area. One highlight among them is a Lakota horse effigy, believed to honor and memorialize a horse that died in battle as the result of multiple gunshot wounds.

The substantial changes brought on by reservation life, beginning in the 19th century, engendered various artistic responses, ranging from instances of assimilation to acts of resistance to confinement. They will be conveyed by several masterworks in the exhibition, including important regalia used for the practice of prophetic religions. Among them are an elaborate bead-embroidered Otoe-Missouria Faw Faw coat with symbols, associated with ceremonialism and the desire to restore balance in a world that had become untenable; and a richly painted Arapaho Ghost Dance dress with visionary symbols associated with ritual practices.

Record books, paper, pencils, and ink were introduced on the Plains during the last quarter of the 19th century by settlers and traders. Among many fine examples of those included in the exhibition, the highlight will be The Maffet Ledger, a book consisting of 105 drawings, created by more than 20 Northern and Southern Cheyenne warrior artists to record their exploits in battle.

Modern and contemporary works of art will be exhibited near the end of the exhibition. Traditional-style works were still produced in the early 20th century for Wild West shows, agricultural fairs, and Fourth of July parades, and for the powwow, inter-tribal opportunities for the celebration of culture, dance, and art. Watercolors and “easel paintings” grew from long-standing Plains graphic traditions and through dialogue with other Native North American regions by the mid-20th century. Many fine examples of  paintings from the era will be presented in the exhibition. Brilliantly executed beaded works by such artists as Joyce and Juanita Growing Thunder Fogarty (b. 1950 and b. 1969, both Assiniboine-Sioux), Rhonda Holy Bear (b. 1959), Sans Arc, Two Kettle and Hunkpapa Lakota), and Jodi Gillette (b. 1959, Hunkpapa Lakota) will also be included in the exhibition.

The final gallery will also shed new light on 20th- and 21st-century works by artists of Plains descent, as well as by Native American artists from outside the region who have been inspired by its traditions. On view in this gallery will be one element of Edgar Heap of Bird’s (b. 1954, Cheyenne and Arapaho) site-specific installation Building Minnesota (1990), as well as a captivating four-channel video installation piece by Dana Claxton (b. 1959, Hunkpapa Lakota) called Rattle (2003) that incorporates the rhythmic images, colors, and sounds of artistic and spiritual life on the Plains, a perspective that endures in the exhibition galleries through the application of 21st-century media.

Thomas P. Campbell, Director and CEO of the Metropolitan Museum, said: “Through outstanding works of art from the Plains region, this ambitious exhibition demonstrates the long history of change and creative adaptation that characterizes Native American art. It is an important opportunity to highlight the artistic traditions that are indigenous to North America and to present them in the context of the Met’s global collections.”

The Plains Indians: Artists of Earth and Sky is curated by Gaylord Torrence, Fred and Virginia Merrill Senior Curator of American Indian Art at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. In New York, the exhibition is organized by Judith Ostrowitz, Ph.D., Research Associate in the Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas at the Metropolitan Museum. In conjunction with the exhibition, an array of education programs will be offered, including a Sunday at the Met (March 15) panel discussion with contemporary artists Edgar Heap of Birds and Dana Claxton, moderated by Mario A. Caro. It will be followed by comments from Jodi Gillette, artist and Senior Policy Advisor for Native American Affairs for President Obama’s Domestic Policy Council, as well as by an original performance with video projections composed for the Metropolitan Museum by Ms. Claxton. A gallery talk by Native American artist Brad Kahlhamer (March 13) and a printmaking workshop by Edgar Heap of Birds (March 14) will also be presented. The Audio Guide program (supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies), offers a tour of the exhibition, the curators and contemporary Native artists discuss the rich artistic traditions of Plains culture as seen in painting, drawing, embroidery, and sculpture.