Mellon Foundation Grant to Fund U.Va. Art Museum Academic Curatorship

October 11, 2011

October 11, 2011 — The University of Virginia Art Museum has received a four-year, $315,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to fund a new, full-time academic curator who will aid and expand the museum's curatorial and academic programming mission as a teaching museum. The curator will also play an essential role in developing initiatives that integrate the museum with innovation in the humanities across the University.

"The museum now stands poised to fulfill Thomas Jefferson's vision for a teaching museum," museum director Bruce Boucher said. "The new position will be at the center of the museum's expanded role as a powerful catalyst for academic pedagogy and research."

The academic curator will hold a joint appointment in the museum and the College of Arts & Sciences that will be funded by the grant for three years, after which the museum and the University will assume funding responsibility.

"The addition of the new position will enable the museum to collaborate with the College and other schools at a higher level across numerous disciplines," Boucher said.

Responsibilities of the position will include:

•    Teaching graduate and undergraduate courses in the McIntire Department of Art and the College's new humanities institute in conjunction with exhibitions and leading seminars that produce new knowledge about objects in the museum's collection;
•    Working directly with members of the University faculty to include the museum's temporary exhibitions and permanent collections in their classroom activities;
•    Organizing exhibitions for the museum with direct connection to and in collaboration with research interests of faculty and students in diverse departments;
•    Managing a new, for-credit student internship initiative in partnership with the Global Development Studies Program and the University's Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection, in which students will work at either the museum or the Kluge-Ruhe Collection;
•    Coordinating faculty- and student-curated exhibitions and research projects; and
•    Overseeing the museum's education department and its various outreach programs 

The new position will enable the museum to offer museum-based courses and continue to offer the museum as a laboratory for learning across disciplines, using its collection of more than 12,000 objects to analyze and create new knowledge, Boucher said.

The two-semester, six-credit University Museums Internship will bring together faculty and professionals at the museum and the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection to provide undergraduates a unique combination of academic and professional training in an accredited museum. Seven students are enrolled in the pilot program this year.

The museum's far-ranging collection includes 18th- through 20th-century American and European paintings, Old Master and modern prints and drawings, photography, East and South Asian painting, African, Pre-Columbian and Native American art and artifacts. The museum also collaborates with the University's Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection to showcase the most important collection of Australian Aboriginal art in the U.S.

A 2009 museum renovation allowed access to numerous works previously not on display through the new print and object study galleries and state-of-the-art technology.  Interactive Web-based programming expands the museum beyond its physical space and allows visitors from around the world to access the permanent collections and research individual objects.

The academic curator will build upon work spearheaded by Matthew Affron, professor of art history in the College and curator of modern art, who served as part-time academic curator beginning in 2009 and remains the acting academic curator. He fostered expansion of the academic programming and increased threefold the number of students using the museum as a classroom.

The number of departments using the museum to enrich their curriculum has risen to 17, including drama, religious studies, French, English and anthropology as well as art history, studio art, architecture, education and medicine. Last year 20 percent of the College's departments had a museum component in their curriculum and more than 1,200 of U.Va. undergraduates, or 8.4 percent, used the museum for some area of their academic work.

The Mellon Foundation has awarded a companion grant of $2.9 million to the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences to support initiatives in the humanities that focus on innovation and cross-disciplinary collaboration. The five-year grant will support the hiring of 10 faculty in the humanities and humanistic social sciences, recruitment fellowships for Ph.D. students in related fields, and a series of graduate student seminars to prepare them for teaching in universities and liberal arts colleges.

— by Jane Ford

Media Contact

Jane Ford

Senior News Officer U.Va. Media Relations