Spelman College Establishes a Curatorial Studies Program

SpelmanSpelman College in Atlanta has announced the establishment of a new curatorial studies program to addresses a diversity gap in the museum industry. A recent survey found that only 4 percent of museum professionals are African Americans.

The program is operated by the department of art and art history and the Spelman College Museum of Fine Arts and is funded by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The initiative began this semester with nine Spelman students and one from nearby Morehouse College. According to the college, the curatorial studies program is the first of its kind at a historically Black college of university.

Students in the program will take courses over the next two years and participate in internships with leading museums in major American cities during the summer month.

Andrea_creditAndrea Barnwell Brownlee, the director of the Spelman College Museum of Fine Arts, stated that “there’s been an overwhelming interest in understanding what a curator does. Students need to know what to do in order to explore that career path. If just five of our 10 students go on to graduate school and work in this profession, we’ve already made an extraordinary contribution to the field. We’re really excited about the potential to make a difference.”

Dr. Brownlee is a 1993 graduate of Spelman College and holds a Ph.D. in art history from Duke University.

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  1. Congratulations Spelman. Great news. I’ll graduate next Saturday with my Masters of Arts in Museum Studies with a concentration in Management. Collection and Curation. As a Research Diversity Fellow I decided as my masters project thesis to research Buffalo’s first African American architect, John Edmonston Brent (1889-1962). The 2.5 years of research cuculminated a 6-month exhibition at the Burchfield Penney Art Center (Buffalo) and a mini documentary about the pioneering architect. Its such a good feeling to know our black colleges and universities are implementing this exciting new career field.

    • Happy Commencement, Christine Parker. Thanks for taking the time to share kind words for Spelman College—especially as you are in the midst of celebrating your awesome milestone.

      Spelman College is the optimal place to launch a Curatorial Studies Program. Although we are in the pilot phase, we are already certain that it will make a significant impact on the field. As our students prepare to participate in internships in various museums, we can almost taste the promise of this moment.

      I’m delighted to learn of your important research and exhibition on John Edmonston Brent. How mutually beneficial that you are a part of the Burchfield Penney Art Center community. Is your mini documentary available? Let’s be in touch? I’d like to hear about the triumphs and lessons learned as well as what is on deck for you. I’d also like to keep you apprised of our students’ successes. To be continued.

      Best wishes, Christine.


      Andrea Barnwell Brownlee

  2. Curators have the choice of what to do. Sometimes even professionalism and competence is outweighed by what is compelling. After all that you may encounter, remember your genius loci – the streams that converge and meet in you, the questions that are your questions. Trust them. The arts are key for cultural change. So much is yet to be done.
    Will I ever know the relation of Nuo Masks to African Masks? Will you?

  3. Congrats to Spelman for growing and expanding. For years I thought Hampton University had the only Museum Studies program among black colleges.

  4. Southern University, a historically black university in Baton Rouge, LA, has had a museum studies program for years. Congratulations to Spelman but they are not the first.

  5. Congratulations to Spelman College for creating an undergraduate program. Morgan State University has graduated candidates and continues to do so in their M.A. degree program in Museum Studies and Historic Preservation. In addition, there is a research specialty in Archival Administration available in their Ph.D. program in History.

  6. I was a history major in Spelman Class of 1975. Wish they’d
    had this program when I was there. I would have excelled in this field.
    I became an immigration lawyer instead.

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