CCL/Mellon Foundation Seminar in Curatorial Practice

2015 Mellon group portrait - Whitney
Seminar class of 2015. From top left: Elizabeth Williams, Phil Taylor, Emilie Boone, Jamin An, Sara E. Cole, Andrea Achi, Rachel Boyd, Sydney Skelton SImon, Daniella Berman, Rachel Kreiter, Yve Chavez, Orin Zahra, Emily Warner, Stephanie Tung, Craig Lee. Photo by Isaac James

2015 Mellon Whitney tour
Whitney’s Carter Foster, Steven and Ann Ames Curator of Drawing, leads 2015 Seminar students through the museum's new building and discusses the collaborative process and curatorial considerations behind the inaugural exhibition, “America is Hard to See.” Photo by Isaac James

Mellon Seminar - Group Photo
Seminar class of 2014 at Kara Walker's installation "A Subtlety," presented by Creative Time at the Domino Sugar Factory. Photo by Jeremy Ross

Mellon Seminar - Photo with Kara Walker
Artist Kara Walker discusses her sources of inspiration for "A Subtlety" with the 2014 seminar participants. Photo by Jeremy Ross

About the Seminar

In 2014, CCL launched a pilot program for Ph.D. art history students as part of its initiative to expand training opportunities for curatorial professionals. Supported by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the CCL/Mellon Foundation Seminar in Curatorial Practice introduces students from across the United States, in all fields of specialty, to museums and object-based learning. The program collaborates with institutions in and around New York City, offering ten to fifteen students an unprecedented opportunity to be mentored by senior curators and to observe, analyze, and participate in the museum’s activities.


Candidates for the seminar should be full-time students enrolled in a doctoral program (or its equivalent) in art history. Eligible candidates will have completed their oral examinations before the program begins and will have determined the topic of their dissertation research. We seek a diverse group of individuals from around the United States. The ideal candidate has a strong academic record and demonstrates intellectual and professional curiosity, an interest in exploring the curatorial field, and the ability to work well with others. Previous museum experience is not required.


The seminar features two weeklong units that expose students to the critical responsibilities of a curator. Week one will focus on the acquisition, care, interpretation, and display of permanent collections. Week two will focus on the development of temporary exhibitions. Sessions are held in museum galleries and behind the scenes of art institutions across New York City. Students are taught by directors, curators, conservators, registrars, educators, and trustees, among others, and introduced to the wide variety of roles that contribute to the operations of museums today.

During the seminar, participants are assigned a team project that challenges them to consider a real-world museum issue, analyze the solutions New York City institutions have implemented, and formulate new ideas and approaches. This exercise is complemented by two courses led by professors from Columbia Business School. In these sessions, students learn about fundamental business principles in order to expand their understanding of organizational models and managerial leadership.

The program also includes a mentorship with a curator from a New York City museum.

Program Schedule

The 2016 CCL/Mellon Foundation Seminar will take place from July 10 - 22, 2016. The schedule includes programming Monday to Friday, from approximately 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day. Some activities will also take place in the evening, so students should not make other plans during the two-week program until they receive the full schedule.


Housing in dormitories will be provided by CCL for students not currently residing in New York City for the duration of the program. Round-trip travel for students not currently residing in the city will be provided by CCL. In addition, each student will receive a metrocard for transportation during the program and a stipend to cover the costs of meals not organized by CCL.