Alice Walton at NYC Convening, AFA

Art Bridges, AFA and Studio Museum in HarlemPartner Story

Representatives from six museums came together at the American Federation of the Arts offices to explore the themes and ideas in Black Refractions: Highlights from the Studio Museum in Harlem.

Art Bridges’ First Convening

Art Bridges, The American Federation of Arts, and the Studio Museum in Harlem hosted a landmark event in June 2018: our very first Convening.

Representatives from six museums came together at the AFA offices to explore the themes and ideas in the upcoming show Black Refractions: Highlights from the Studio Museum in Harlem. The institutions, all part of Black Refractions 2019-2020 tour, found the opportunity to come together incredibly valuable.

The two-day convening of directors, curators, exhibitions professionals and museum educators from each venue included time for discussion about the tour at every level; from the collection itself to the programming ideas for each tour site. Through group conversation, the cohort identified assets in each venue that might be shared with others, and began to develop the overall strategy for deep visitor engagement at every museum.

The schedule

The program launched on Sunday, June 10, with a welcome dinner for all participants. On Monday, June 11, the day began with each of the 6 institutions sharing information about their museum, including their mission, the demographics of their community, and the reasons they have taken Black Refractions. The Studio Museum in Harlem then shared extensive information about the exhibition, the history of the museum itself, and the way this show came to be available. Great conversation around programming at the Studio Museum in Harlem followed, inspiring everyone in the group before a casual and fun dinner.

On the second day of the convening, the group received a visit from Art Bridges founder and chair, Alice Walton, during breakfast. Everyone was eager to hear about her vision for this new and growing foundation. Art Bridges then presented information on how to apply for Programming & Evaluation Projects, and a schedule for doing so. Individual meetings and discussions continued, and the entire group journeyed to Marcus Garvey Park to experience installations by Maren Hassinger.

Convening Participants

American Federation of Arts:

  • Pauline Willis, Director & CEO
  • Frances Wu Giarratano, Director of Exhibitions
  • Brian Keliher, Associate Director for Development
  • Margery King, Curator
  • Michael Neumeister, Curatorial Assistant
  • Shelley Wilson, Registrar

The Studio Museum in Harlem:

  • Charmaine Branch, Curatorial Fellow
  • Connie H. Choi, Associate Curator, Permanent Collection
  • Elizabeth Gwinn, Communications Director
  • Shanta Lawson, Education Director
  • Nico Wheadon, Director of Public Programs and Community Engagement

Frye Art Museum:

  • David Strand, Head of Exhibitions and Publications

Gibbes Museum of Art:

  • Angela Mack, President, CEO and Chief Curator
  • Lasley Steever, Director of Programs and Digital Engagement

Kalamazoo Institute of Arts:

  • Fari Nzinga, Post-Doctoral Curatorial Fellow
  • Michelle Stempien, Curator of Education

Museum of the African Diaspora:

  • Emily A. Kuhlmann, Director of Exhibitions and Curatorial Affairs
  • Soleil Summer, Exhibitions Associate

Smith College Museum of Art:

  • Emma Chubb, Charlotte Feng Ford ’83 Curator of Contemporary Art
  • Gina Hall, Associate Educator for School and Family Programs

Utah Museum of Fine Arts:

  • Whitney Tassie, Senior Curator and Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art

Art Bridges:

  • Niki Ciccotelli Stewart