With generous support from the Ford and Mellon Foundations, the Center for Curatorial Leadership and the Studio Museum in Harlem partnered in 2021-2023 to establish the CCL/Studio Museum in Harlem Curators’ Forum, a pilot program founded in recognition of the profound contributions that curators of African descent have made to American art museums. To support the further professional growth of Black curators, the program provided a select cohort of twenty-six individuals with advice, networking opportunities, mentorship, instruction, and personal development at a critical moment in their careers. The participants—whose areas of expertise ranged from seventh-century Egypt to contemporary global art—joined from a wide range of museums across the country.
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Mary and Michael Jaharis Associate Curator of Byzantine Art
Dr. Andrea Myers Achi specializes in late antique and Byzantine art, manuscript studies, and late Roman ceramics. She received her bachelor’s degree in ancient studies from Barnard College and her doctorate in the History of Art from the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University. Since joining the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2018 as Assistant Curator, she has co-curated the exhibitions Arts and Peoples of Kharga Oasis and Crossroads: Power and Piety. Her current projects include writing on the monastic economy in medieval Egypt, exploring translations of Byzantine art and culture by local and foreign artists working in Africa from the fourth through fifteenth centuries, and curating medieval northeast African art through the lens of critical race theory. In addition to her art historical research and curatorial work, Dr. Achi is an archaeological ceramicist and has been involved with numerous excavations in Egypt and Italy.
Theodore E. Stebbins Jr. Associate Curator of American Art
Horace D. Ballard (Ph.D. Brown) investigates the art, ideas, and visual cultures of the United States and the Americas. His research interests include the legibilities of gender and race in 18th- and 19th-century portraiture; colonial men’s fashion; and the visual and material cultures of religion. Before arriving at the Harvard Art Museums, Ballard held positions in the curatorial, education, and interpretation departments of the Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA); Yale University Art Gallery; the Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design (RISD); Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson; and the Birmingham Museum of Art.
Curator and Department Head, Contemporary Art
Jessica Bell Brown is the Curator and Department Head of Contemporary Art at the Baltimore Museum of Art. Prior to joining the BMA, Brown has helmed roles at Gracie Mansion Conservancy, Creative Time, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and MoMA. A Ph.D. candidate in Modern and Contemporary Art at Princeton, her writing has appeared in various publications including Flash Art, Artforum, Art Papers, and The Brooklyn Rail. Brown is the recipient of the 2020 Warhol Foundation Curatorial Fellowship for her forthcoming exhibition The Great Migration Project.
Deputy Director of Curatorial Affairs
Makeda Best is the Deputy Director of Curatorial Affairs at the Oakland Museum of California, where she oversees the Curatorial, Collections and Production departments. Formerly a curator and head of the Division of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Harvard Art Museums, her exhibitions included Time is Now: Photography and Social Change in James Baldwin’s Americaand Devour the Land: War and American Landscape Photography Since 1970. She also conceived of Reframe, an initiative to reimagine collecting and curatorial projects through wider historical interpretations, and perspectives of equity, and transparency. The catalogue for Devour the Landwas awarded 2022 Photography Catalogue of the Year by Aperture/Paris Photo. Best has contributed to numerous exhibition catalogues, journals and scholarly publications. She is the author of Elevate the Masses: Alexander Gardner, Photography and Democracy in 19th Century Americaand co-editor of Conflict and Identity in American Art. In addition to serving on many juries, panels, and advisory teams, she is a co-founder and current board member of Museums Moving Forward, an independent, limited-life organization devoted to envisioning and creating a more just museum sector by 2030. She holds an MFA from CalArts and PhD from Harvard University.
Jordan Carter is a Curator at Dia Art Foundation. He previously served as the Associate Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Art Institute of Chicago. He has curated and co-curated exhibitions including “Shahryar Nashat: Raw Is the Red” (2022–23); “Ray Johnson c/o” (2021–22); “Benjamin Patterson: When Elephants Fight, It Is the Frogs That Suffer—A Sonic Graffiti” (2019); “Mounira Al Solh: I strongly believe in our right to be frivolous” (2018) and "Richard Hunt: Scholar’s Rock or Stone of Hope or Love of Bronze” (2020–21), among others. With Ann Goldstein, Carter is co-organizing stanley brouwn's first U.S. solo exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago, and he is curating a concurrent, focused exhibition of the artist's work at Dia Beacon.
Director of Curatorial Affairs
Rhea L. Combs is a curator, writer, and public scholar. She is the Director of Curatorial Affairs at the National Portrait Gallery. As the supervisory museum curator of photography and film, and director of the Earl W. and Amanda Stafford Center for African American Media Arts at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), Combs’s work intersected her interests in African American Studies, film and photography, gender and sexuality studies. She has curated and co-curated several nationally recognized exhibitions and most recently worked on two exhibitions: Politics of Style (2021) and Regeneration: Black Cinema, 1898–1971 (2022)––a co-curated project with the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures.
Combs has delivered lectures nationally and internationally on a range of topics including: the power of the image, African American image-makers, and Black cinema. Her writings have appeared in the Smithsonian’s photography book series, Double Exposure, the Public Historian, Aperture, as well numerous anthologies, academic journals, and exhibition catalogues. Combs has previously held positions at the Chicago Historical Museum and Spelman Museum of Fine Art. She has a BA from Howard University, MA from Cornell University, and PhD from Emory University. In 2019 Time Magazine listed her as one of the top cultural leaders helping to change the field.
Vivian Crockett joined the New Museum as Curator in 2022, where she has curated Doreen Lynette Garner: REVOLTED (2022), Screen Series: Zahy Guajajara (2022), Tuan Andrew Nguyen: Radiant Remembrance (2023), and Puppies Puppies (Jade Guanaro Kuriki-Olivo): Nothing New (2023) and co-curated the Museum’s landmark solo exhibition, Wangechi Mutu: Intertwined (2023). Before joining the New Museum, Crockett was the Nancy and Tim Hanley Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art at the Dallas Museum of Art, where she curated solo projects with Guadalupe Rosales (2021-23) and Jammie Holmes (2020), developed Ja’Tovia Gary: I KNOW IT WAS THE BLOOD (2023), and co-curated Slip Zone: A New Look at Postwar Abstraction in the Americas and East Asia, two permanent collection exhibitions, and a presentation of Arthur Jafa: Love is the Message, The Message is Death. Previously, she was a Joan Tisch Teaching Fellow at the Whitney Museum of American Art and an Andrew W. Mellon Museum Research Consortium Fellow in the department of Media and Performance Art at The Museum of Modern Art. She previously worked as a research associate at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and as an independent curator with organizations including Visual AIDS, for whom she co-curated the 2017 Day With(out) Art: Alternate Endings, Radical Beginnings. A PhD candidate in art history at Columbia University, Crockett holds a BA in art history from Stanford University and an MA and MPhil in art history from Columbia.
Assistant Curator of Native American Art
Dr. Denene De Quintal is Assistant Curator for Native American Art at Detroit Institute of Arts, where she is reengaging the Indigenous and Detroit communities with the Native American Art collection, strategically acquiring contemporary and historical art, addressing NAGPRA compliance, and enacting best practices for the display of Native American Art. In her position she created a Native American Advisory Council that assists the museum with addressing the concerns of the Native American community and is augmenting the contemporary Native American Art collection by purchasing works by Marie Watt, Cannupa Hanska Luger, Nicholas Galanin, and Kelly Church, among others. Dr. De Quintal also formed an interdepartmental Cultural Stewardship Taskforce that is developing policies and procedures for the care, housing, handling, research, and display of the Native American Art collection. She led the development of a traveling exhibition, Vitality and Continuity: Art in the Experiences of Anishinaabe, Inuit, and Pueblo Women, which celebrates some of the critical roles Anishinaabe, Inuit, and Pueblo women fulfill in their families, their communities, the art world, and beyond. She received a Terra Foundation grant for planning the reinstallation of the Detroit Institute of Arts’ Native American Galleries, and Luce Foundation Museum Partners for Social Justice grant.
Senior Curator and Director of Public Initiatives
Ryan N. Dennis currently serves as the as the Senior Curator and Director of Public Initiatives at the Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston. Previousely, she was the Chief Curator and Artistic Director of the Center for Art & Public Exchange (CAPE) at the Mississippi Museum of Art (MMA). Most recently, Dennis co-curated, with Jessica Bell Brown, the critically acclaimed exhibition, A Movement in Every Direction: Legacies of the Great Migration, currently on view at Brooklyn Museum and traveling nationwide through 2024. Her recent projects include Leonardo Drew’s City in the Garden (2020), Betye Saar: Call & Response (2021), Dusti Bonge: Piercing the Inner Wall (2021) and organizing CAPE artist-in-residence Shani Peter’s Collective Care for Black Mothers and Caretakers (2022) with the local Jackson community. Before joining MMA, she served as the Curator and Programs Director at Project Row Houses (PRH) in Houston, where she worked with over 100 BIPOC artists to exhibit their work in PRH’s shotgun houses. She led the creation of the 2:2:2 Exchange Residency Program with the Hyde Park Art Center in Chicago and established Project/Site, a temporary, site-specific, commission-based public art program. In 2017, she launched the PRH Fellowship with the Center for Art and Social Engagement at the University of Houston’s Kathrine G. McGovern College of the Arts. Dennis earned her Master’s degree in Arts and Cultural Management from Pratt Institute, focusing on Curatorial Practice. Her writings have appeared in online and print catalogs, journals, and international publications. She has been a visiting lecturer and critic at numerous art schools and institutions and has taught courses on community-based practices and contemporary art at the University of Houston. Dennis was a Class of 2019 Fellow at the Center for Curatorial Leadership, a program that offers leadership training to art museum curators. Recently she was the co-curator of the 2021 Texas Biennial, A New Landscape, A Possible Horizon (2021), and the guest art editor for Gulf Coast: A Journal of Literature and Fine Arts.
Engell Speyer Curator and Director of Curatorial Affairs
Adrienne Edwards is Engell Speyer Curator and Director of Curatorial Affairs at the Whitney Museum. She was co-curator of the 2022 Whitney Biennial with David Breslin. Edwards curated Jason Moran, the artist’s first museum show, which originated at the Walker in 2018, and traveled nationally. She organized the event and video commencing the construction of David Hammons’s Day’s End, and Moved by the Motion: Sudden Rise with WuTsang, boychild, and Fred Moten. She curated Dave McKenzie’s first solo museum project in New York City and My Barbarian’s twenty-year survey, both presented in 2021.
While at the Walker, Edwards co-led the Mellon Foundation Interdisciplinary Initiative, commissioning, contextualizing, and collecting cross-disciplinary works. For Performa, she realized boundary-defying commissions, as well as pathfinding conferences and film programs with over forty international artists. Edwards’s curatorial projects include the critically acclaimed 2016 exhibition and catalogue Blackness in Abstraction, as well as Frieze’s 2018 Artist Award and the Live program ASSEMBLY in New York. Edwards is Visiting Critic at the University of Pennsylvania, and taught art history at New York University and The New School. She contributes to numerous artist monographs, exhibition catalogues, and academic journals.
Jennifer Evans serves as exhibitions manager at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. She received her Bachelor of Arts from the University of Michigan in Film and Video studies and her Master of Arts from Wayne State University in Media studies. She is interested in film history, theory, and teaching history through cinema.
Curator of African Art
Dr. Ndubuisi C. Ezeluomba is the Curator of African Art of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. He specializes in the visual cultures of Olokun shrines and holds a PhD in art history from the University of Florida, Gainesville. While at UF he served as a research assistant at the Harn Museum of Art for the Kongo Across the Watersexhibition. Later Dr. Ezeluomba was the Andrew W. Mellon research specialist in African Art at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts on a project that studies the African collection at the museum. Recently, he has become active in the conversations for the repatriation of African cultural patrimony and has delivered lectures and contributed book chapters and articles on the topic. He was the Franciose Billion Richardson Curator of African Art at the New Orleans Museum of Art before returning to the VMFA.
Associate Curator of African American and Afro-Diasporic Art
Kanitra Fletcher is Associate Curator of African American and Afro-Diasporic Art at the National Gallery of Art. Fletcher came to Washington from the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, where she oversaw the presentation of such major traveling exhibitions as Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power and Odyssey: Jack Whitten Sculpture and organized the U.S. tour of Afro-Atlantic Histories. Fletcher’s previous museum experience includes the Bronx Museum of the Arts, Museum of Modern Art, and New Museum of Contemporary Art. Since 2013, she has curated the video art program for Landmarks, the public art program of the University of Texas at Austin. She received a PhD in History of Art from Cornell University.
Director of Curatorial Affairs and Programs
Lauren Haynes is the Director of Curatorial Affairs and Programs at the Queens Museum. Previously, she was the Patsy R. and Raymond D. Nasher Senior Curator of Contemporary Art at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University. Prior to joining the Nasher, Haynes was Director of Artist Initiatives and Curator, Contemporary Art at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and the Momentary in Bentonville, Arkansas. Haynes led the curatorial team for State of the Art 2020, the second iteration of State of the Art: Discovering American Art Now (2014), which opened at both Crystal Bridges and the Momentary in February 2020. Haynes’s recent curatorial projects include Kenny Rivero: The Floor is Crooked (2021); Crystal Bridges at 10 (2021); Sarah Cain: In Nature (2021); Crystals in Art: Ancient to Today (2019) and The Beyond: Georgia O’Keeffe and Contemporary Art (2018). Prior to joining Crystal Bridges, Haynes spent nearly a decade at The Studio Museum in Harlem. As a specialist in African-American contemporary art, Haynes curated dozens of exhibitions at the Studio Museum and contemporary art institutions in New York. Haynes was a 2018 Center for Curatorial Leadership fellow and a recipient of a 2020 ArtTable New Leadership Award.
Arnhold Associate Curator
Rujeko Hockley is the Arnhold Associate Curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art. She is the curator of the retrospective Julie Mehretu (March 2021), and co-curated the 2019 Whitney Biennial. Additional projects at the Whitney include Toyin Ojih Odutola: To Wander Determined(2017) and An Incomplete History of Protest: Selections from the Whitney’s Collection, 1940-2017(2017). Previously, she was Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art at the Brooklyn Museum, where she co-curated Crossing Brooklyn: Art from Bushwick, Bed-Stuy, and Beyond (2014) and was involved in exhibitions highlighting the permanent collection as well as artists LaToya Ruby Frazier, The Bruce High Quality Foundation, Kehinde Wiley, Tom Sachs, and others. She is the co-curator of We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965-85(2017), which originated at the Brooklyn Museum and travelled to three U.S. venues in 2017-18. She serves on the Board of Art Matters, as well as the Advisory Board of Recess.
Associate Curator, Contemporary Art
Ashley James is Associate Curator, Contemporary Art at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. She holds a Ph.D. from Yale University in English literature and African American Studies.
Manilow Senior Curator
Jamillah James is Manilow Senior Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. Previously, she was Senior Curator at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (ICA LA) and co-curator of the 2021 edition of the New Museum Triennial. Prior to joining ICA LA in 2016, James was Assistant Curator at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; and held curatorial positions at the Studio Museum in Harlem and Queens Museum, New York, in addition to producing exhibitions and programs at various alternative and artist-run spaces throughout the US and Canada since 2004. She has curated major surveys of Nayland Blake (No Wrong Holes: Thirty Years of Nayland Blake, 2019) and B. Wurtz (This Has No Name, 2018); and solo exhibitions of Lucas Blalock, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Alex Da Corte, rafa esparza, Maryam Jafri, Stanya Kahn, Simone Leigh, and Harold Mendez, among others. James is a recipient of a Curatorial Research Fellowship from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts (2021) and a VIA Art Foundation Curatorial Fellowship (2018). She has contributed to Artforum, Frieze, The International Review of African American Art, and numerous exhibition catalogues, and regularly lectures on contemporary art, curating, and professional development for emerging artists.
Curator of Media and Performance Art
Thomas (T.) Jean Lax is a curator, writer, and scholar specializing in black art globally and performance. At the Museum of Modern Art, they co-organized the exhibition Just Above Midtown: 1974 to the Present(2022) with Lilia Rocio Taboada in collaboration with JAM’s founder Linda Goode Bryant. In 2019, they worked with colleagues across MoMA on a major rehang of its collection and co-organized the exhibition Judson Dance Theater: The Work is Never Done (2018) with Ana Janevski and Martha Joseph. Their other collaboratively-organized exhibitions include the Projects Series for emerging artists; Unfinished Conversations, inspired by the cultural theorist Stuart Hall; the contemporary art quintennial, Greater New York; and commissions with artists including Neïl Beloufa, Maria Hassabi, and Steffani Jemison. Previously, they worked at The Studio Museum in Harlem for seven years, where they organized When the Stars Begin to Fall: Imagination and the American South and participated in the landmark “f show” contemporary art series.
Jova Lynne is an interdisciplinary arts practitioner. Lynne’s practice centers marginalized artists and community groups; her portfolio includes several large scale exhibitions and programs that affirm the legacies of liberation across the world. Each exhibition she produced has connected global phenomena to personal narrative. Her well-rounded curatorial, artistic and administrative practice is rooted in building a more equitable art world. Lynne is currently the Artistic Director at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit.
Associate Curator, Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Art
Denise Murrell is an Associate Curator, Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (January 2020-present). She was the curator of the 2018 exhibition Posing Modernity: The Black Model from Manet and Matisse to Today at Columbia University’s Wallach Art Gallery, as the Wallach’s Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Research Scholar (2014-2019).
She was a co-curator of the exhibition’s expansion at the Musée d’Orsay, Paris, as Le Modèle Noir de Géricault à Matisse and a guest lecturer for a final tour as Le Modèle Noir de Géricault à Picasso at the Memorial ACTe, Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe.
Denise is the author of the Posing Modernity exhibition catalogue (Yale University Press and Wallach Art Gallery, 2018), which was based on her 2014 PhD dissertation at Columbia. The catalogue received CAA and Dedalus Foundation book awards. She was an essayist for the related Orsay exhibition catalogue. She held a Mellon pre-doctoral fellowship at Princeton University Art Museum (2012-2013) and taught art history at Columbia University in New York and in Paris.
She previously received an MBA from Harvard Business School and a BS degree from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and had an extended career in finance and consulting.
Executive Director and Chief Curator
Legacy Russell is a curator and writer. Born and raised in New York City, she is the Executive Director & Chief Curator of The Kitchen.
Formerly she was the Associate Curator of Exhibitions at The Studio Museum in Harlem. Russell holds an MRes with Distinction in Art History from Goldsmiths, University of London with a focus in Visual Culture. Her academic, curatorial, and creative work focuses on gender, performance, digital selfdom, internet idolatry, and new media ritual. Russell’s written work, interviews, and essays have been published internationally.
Recent exhibitions include Samora Pinderhughes: GRIEF (2022, The Kitchen); The Condition of Being Addressable (2022, ICA LA); Sadie Barnette: The New Eagle Creek Saloon(2022, The Kitchen); Projects: Kahlil Robert Irving (2021), Projects: Garrett Bradley (2020), and Projects: Michael Armitage (2019), all with The Studio Museum in Harlem in partnership with The Museum of Modern Art; (Never) As I Was, This Longing Vessel, and MOOD with Studio Museum in partnership with MoMA PS1; Thomas J Price: Witness (2021); Dozie Kanu: Function (2019), and Chloë Bass: Wayfinding (2019) at The Studio Museum in Harlem; LEAN with Performa’s Radical Broadcast online (2020) and in physical space at Kunsthall Stavanger (2021).
She is the recipient of the Thoma Foundation 2019 Arts Writing Award in Digital Art, a 2020 Rauschenberg Residency Fellow, and a recipient of the 2021 Creative Capital Award. Her first book is Glitch Feminism: A Manifesto (2020). Her second book, BLACK MEME, is forthcoming via Verso Books.
Cameron Shaw was appointed Executive Director of the California African American Museum (CAAM) in February 2021, after serving as Deputy Director and Chief Curator since September 2019. A native of Los Angeles, Shaw previously served as executive director of New Orleans-based Pelican Bomb, a non-profit contemporary art organization that presented a forum for exhibitions, public programs, and arts journalism. In addition to her institutional practice, Shaw has worked as a writer and editor since 2008. Her writing has been widely published, including in The New York Times, Art in America, the New Orleans Times-Picayune, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and BOMB Magazine, as well as in numerous books and exhibition catalogues. She was awarded a Creative Capital | Andy Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant for Short-Form Writing in 2009 and the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation | Art in America Writing Fellowship in 2015.
Associate Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art
Akili Tommasino joined The Metropolitan Museum of Art as Associate Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art in 2021. At The Met, he organized The Facade Commission: Nairy Baghramian, Scratching the Back (2023) and is planning forthcoming 2024 exhibitions Afterlives: Contemporary Art in the Byzantine Crypt (along with Dr. Andrea Achi) and Flight into Egypt: Black Artists and Ancient Egypt, 1876-Now. He was the 2023 Cynthia Hazen Polsky/ Metropolitan Museum of Art Visiting Curator at the American Academy in Rome. Previously, Tommasino held curatorial positions at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, where he organized the inaugural editions of The Banner Project featuring Lauren Halsey (2021) and Robert Pruitt (2019) and co-curated Frank Bowling’s Americas: New York, 1966-75(2022), and at The Museum of Modern Art where he organized Projects 107: Lone Wolf Recital Corps (2017). In 2017, he founded the Prep for Prep/ Sotheby’s Summer Art Academy to foster new generations of cultural leaders and in 2020, along with his wife, Dr. Amanda Herrera Tommasino, he launched Pana Projects, an arts and education initiative in the Caribbean. A former Fulbright Fellow at the Centre Pompidou, Tommasino is a PhD candidate at Harvard University, where he earned his MA and BA.
Andrew W. Mellon Curator of American Art
Stephanie Sparling Williams is the Andrew W. Mellon Curator of American Art at the Brooklyn Museum. Her curatorial practice is predicated on interdisciplinary research, writing, and teaching on American art, and foregrounds Black Feminist space-making. Her scholarly work is invested in the space of the museum, with a focus on African American art and culture, and the work of U.S.-based artists of color. Related interests include material histories, cross cultural exchange, strategies of address, and contemporary art that engages with the history of the United States.