During undergrad, unsure of how I’d make a name on my college campus, I began writing reviews and columns about our neighboring art museum at Spelman College. After Spelman College Museum of Fine Art mounted the exhibit Maren Hassinger . . . Dreaming, which looked at the artist’s 40-year art career, I took the chance and wrote about it.
At the time, I was writing for Morehouse College’s campus paper The Maroon Tiger, which I just knew no one ever read, yet along picked up off the stands around campus. However, it took me by surprise when the co-curator of the show, Anne Collins-Smith, reached out to me via email to thank me for writing a review of the show:
Above: Bill Gaskins who generously took time to meet with Nalani Dowling Spelman C’2019 and myself C’2017.
Despite having studied art history in high school for four years and one at Morehouse, no one had ever asked what I thought about all the art I had been encountering then. Initially, the review began as an in-class assignment but I figured that the review I wrote was so good, because it was, that I would submit it to my editor for another opinion.
Turns out that writing that review changed my life in ways I couldn’t have imagined.
Months later, the museum, in partnership with Spelman, went on to launch a curatorial studies program to address the ever-apparent diversity gap in many art museums.Later, I’d receive an email from Makeba Dixon-Hill, Curator of Education, in early October of 2015 with the subject “I Hope You Apply” with the link to the application.
Above: The inaugural class of the Spelman College Curatorial Studies Program.
I applied, and a month later was accepted alongside ten other women who would become the inaugural class of the Spelman College Curatorial Studies Program. Together, we represented Art History, English, Political Science and other majors.Over the course of two years I received intense training on curatorial methods, practices, and theories. I spent two consecutive summers at world-class art museums working in curatorial departments putting to use my understanding and knowledge.
I’ve received mentorship both inside and outside of the classroom that has shaped me into the man I am today as I continue to learn about curatorial methods and practices. Aside from being the director of Spelman’s museum, curating, and teaching classes, Dr. Andrea Barnwell Brownlee still takes time to make sure I’m still level headed. Whether it be putting me in contact with curators who peek my interest or talking about graduate school, I’ve not felt alone in this journey because of those three women.
Dating back to elementary school, I’ve met incredible people who’ve led me through visual art and art history. Whether it be in regards to academia or being a Black male, and associating blackness as a sort of performance art — they’ve been at the forefront leading me along the way and making sure I got what I needed to succeed.
Above: Students of the inaugural class of the Spelman College Curatorial Studies Program.
Therefore, here’s a special shout out to those folk who’ve guided me along this journey in visual art/art history: Cynthia Tapia Greene; Jessica Scott-Felder; Emily Embrescia Joyce; Mora J. Beauchamp-Byrd, Ph.D; Maurine Akua McDaniel, Ph.D; Karen Lowe; Nancy Murnyack; Jennie Goldstein; Katie Fallen; Victoria Camblin; Julia Forbes; Stephanie Heydt, Ph.D ;Catherine Morris; Nicole F. Ledinek; Kristin Thompson-Smith; Allie Rickard; Carmen Hermo; Michael Rooks; Michael J. Roman; Scott Rothkopf; Cosmo Whyte; and many other colleagues who’ve been a part of this journey.
Above all, to the three women who’ve continued to guide me and allow me to experience the world through art and artists who’ve taken me in as their own. To Andrea Barnwell Brownlee, Ph.D, Makeba Dixon-Hill, and Anne Collins Smith.