CCL Selects Inaugural Class of the CCL/Mellon Foundation Seminar in Curatorial Practice

Mellon Seminar - Photo with Kara Walker
Artist Kara Walker discusses her public installation "A Subtlety" with CCL/Mellon Foundation Seminar students. Jeremy Ross

Mellon Seminar - Group Photo
CCL/Mellon Foundation Seminar Class of 2014 Jeremy Ross

The Center for Curatorial Leadership (CCL) announced today the inaugural class of the CCL/Mellon Foundation Seminar in Curatorial Practice, a new program that exposes art history doctoral students to the daily challenges and strategic questions of museum practice. Generously supported by a two-year grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Seminar began on June 9th in New York City.

The 2014 class is comprised of sixteen students selected by a committee of senior curators and CCL alumni from a pool of nearly two hundred applications. These talented scholars represent a wide cross-section of universities and art historical fields, and have distinguished themselves by pursuing innovative approaches to academic and professional work.

This new Seminar builds on the arc of training that the CCL has provided for curatorial professionals since its founding by Agnes Gund and Elizabeth Easton in 2008. The program will strengthen the graduate students in their academic careers, and provide opportunities for collaboration and exchange among scholars and curators from around the country.

Elizabeth W. Easton, director and co-founder of the CCL, reflected on week one of the Seminar by noting: “The students are keenly observant and sophisticated; they are asking probing questions, tweeting around the globe, crossing and uprooting historically entrenched boundaries. It’s thrilling to consider how they will transform the field. They are also stimulating the CCL to think of this program as the beginning of new paths in curatorial practice.”

The program incorporates the voices of experts from every corner of the field; museum sessions are taught by curators, conservators, registrars, educators, and trustees, among others. The cohort is traveling to institutions large and small, specialized and encyclopedic, in order to understand the landscape of museums across the city, the differences in program, and the nuances in mission.

Over the course of the two weeks, the students will learn from specialists at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Brooklyn Museum, The Museum of Modern Art, The Morgan Library & Museum, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and the Studio Museum in Harlem. Week one of the Seminar will cover the care of the permanent collection; Week two, the mounting of special exhibitions.

Sessions will also take place outside institutional walls; during week one, students met with the artist Kara Walker and Anne Pasternak, president and artistic director of Creative Time, in Walker’s groundbreaking installation, “A Subtlety,” at the Domino Sugar Factory. Additionally, the group traveled to Philadelphia to visit the Barnes Foundation and met with CCL alumna, Judith Dolkart, deputy director of Art and Archival Collections and Gund Family Chief Curator.

Through classes led by two professors from Columbia Business School, students were exposed to fundamental business principles in order to expand their understanding of organizational models, strategies of negotiation, and decision making.

Participants were also assigned a team project that challenges them to consider real-world issues in four New York museums: The Jewish Museum, The Asia Society, The Rubin Museum of Art, and the Museum of the City of New York. The students will focus, among other things, on the visitor experience, and how mission, program, and messages are calibrated.

Based on the CCL model, and in order to bolster career preparation, each student has been matched with a senior curator in the field for several mentoring sessions.

Mariët Westermann, Vice-President of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, remarked on the significance of this pilot program: “The new CCL Program addresses one of the Foundation’s abiding concerns. By giving some of the nation’s most outstanding doctoral students in art history intensive exposure to the challenges and pleasures of curatorial work, the program can help transform the relationship between the worlds of the academy and the museum.”


Hannah Howe
Center for Curatorial Leadership


Press Release - CCL Announces 2014 CCL/Mellon Foundation Seminar Students (download)