In August 2015, LACMA hosted the inaugural National Convening of the Mellon Undergraduate Curatorial Fellows. The two-day event was an opportunity for the first class of fellows to meet one another, expand their professional experience by meeting representatives from the partner museums as well as guest speakers, and explore Los Angeles along with LACMA’s collection. The fellows—who are currently hosted at one of the partner museums: Art Institute of Chicago, High Museum of Art in Atlanta, LACMA, Museum of Fine Art, Houston, and Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City—had previously only corresponded online. The event allowed these promising young curators a chance to forge their own network, one which we hope they will sustain in the future as they embark on their museum careers. It was an honor to welcome the fellows to Los Angeles—for many, it was the first visit to our city—and introduce them to our amazing institution.
During the event, the fellows made presentations about their fellowship-related projects or an art historical research topic. Issac Logsdon, a fellow at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, shared details with everyone about his role as curator, with the assistance of his mentor Stephanie Knappe, Samuel Sosland Curator of American art, of the exhibition American Art—In Preparation. Art Institute of Chicago fellow Sheridan Tucker told us about her experience assisting her mentor Sarah Kelly Oehler, associate curator for American art, in researching the artist Charles White and writing an online piece about his Portrait of a Woman. One of LACMA’s fellows, Lilia Taboada, relayed how she learned about the printmaking process and LACMA’s collection over the academic year with her mentor Leslie Jones, curator of prints and drawings, in order to have the skills to organize and catalogue objects from the Self-Help Graphics archive, during her full-time summer internship at the museum. Following the fellows’ presentations, two art historians met with the group: Harvard University professor and author Dr. Sarah Lewis focused her discussion on her recent book, The Rise; and University of Texas at Austin PhD candidate Kimberli Gant shared advice on the graduate school application process. With the serious business of the event concluded, the group enjoyed tours of LACMA. The fellows went on an educator-led tour of 50 for 50: Gifts on the Occasion of LACMA’s 50th Anniversary to view artwork given to LACMA by our many benefactors to mark its semicentennial, followed by a curator-led tour of objects from the major civilizations of ancient Mexico installed in bold galleries designed by the contemporary artist Jorge Pardo.
As a reminder, this is how the first class of fellows got to the National Convening. First the students applied to a Summer Academy at one of the partner museums. Then, following the Summer Academy, each participant decided whether to pursue a fellowship and submitted supplemental material for consideration of one of the two posts. Next, each was selected and awarded a two-year fellowship, and, after their first year of being mentored by a curator at their host museum, they came to LACMA to participate in the National Convening. The National Convening will occur on an annual basis, with the location rotating to another partner museum, and next year the event will include the first and second classes of fellows.
We wish to extend our gratitude to The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for its generous support of this initiative. We are also pleased to announce that the partner museums will offer a 2016 Summer Academy as a part of this program.