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Spelman College has received a $5.4 million grant from the Walton Family Foundation to establish the Atlanta University Center Collective for the Study of Art History and Curatorial Studies. In conjunction with Walton Family Foundation grants to fund scholarships at Morehouse College and Clark Atlanta University, the new initiative will result in the creation of an art history major and curatorial studies minor at the Atlanta University Center.

The goal of the package of grants is to foster more diversity in art museum leadership. A 2015 demographic survey of U.S. art museums by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation found that only 16 percent of museum leadership positions are held by minorities. Among art museum curators, conservators, educators and leaders, only four percent are African American and three percent are Hispanic, the study reported.

Spelman President Dr. Mary Schmidt Campbell says the grant will help ensure museum leadership at top cultural institutions becomes more diverse. (Courtesy Spelman College)

“We applaud the foundation’s commitment to closing the diversity gap to ensure that leadership at the nation’s cultural institutions begins to reflect the shifting demographic profile of the communities they serve,” said Spelman President Dr. Mary Schmidt Campbell.

With the five-year Walton Family Foundation grant, Spelman will create an art history major and elevate its curatorial studies program to a minor that will begin enrolling students from  Spelman, Morehouse College and Clark Atlanta University in fall 2019. The initiative began this fall with planning for enhanced coursework in art history and curatorial studies, guest lectures and other efforts to raise awareness of the new course offerings and attract current and prospective students to the new program.

“For many decades Spelman alumnae have thrived as curators, museum educators, administrators and directors,” said Spelman College Museum of Fine Art Director Andrea Barnwell Brownlee. “The Walton Family Foundation grant is transformative and, coupled with our collaborations with current and future partners, aids us in extending experiential learning opportunities and supports our commitment to leading the critical charge to create pathways for the next generation of museum professionals.”

Over the course of the Walton Family Foundation grant, the funding will support:

  • Scholarships for AUC students to incentivize their enrollment in the art history major and curatorial studies minor and for art history majors to minor in fields such as business and technology;
  • Opportunities for hands-on experiences through paid internships at major museums, archives and other cultural institutions across the country;
  • Hiring a distinguished visiting professor/director, a visiting associate professor of art history and a curator-in-residence;
  • A 2019 lecture series, featuring at least three guest lecturers who will deliver public lectures in the field of art history and museum professions on all three campuses;
  • An intensive summer program for high school students, starting in 2019, to cultivate a pipeline of talented, diverse students interested in pursuing museum careers; and
  • Bringing in guest faculty members in art history for each academic year.
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