Master’s Program in Curatorial Practice and Exhibition Management
at Xavier University
The Helis Foundation awarded a grant to Xavier University of Louisiana to develop a new degree program leading to a Master’s in Curatorial Practice and Exhibition Management. At a time when museums and galleries are examining the ways they present history and culture, this grant will fund the development of a new degree program designed to increase diversity in the field of curatorial practices and museums.
“People of color have been underrepresented in the field of curatorial practices and in museum fields in general,” said Jessie Schott Haynes, Managing Director of The Helis Foundation. “It has been demonstrated that increasing diversity among curators and preparators will generate new ideas, innovation, and engagement with art and serve audiences in a more authentic way.”
While art history is a traditional humanities discipline, curatorial programs are still considerably young. The uniqueness of the Masters in Curatorial Practice and Exhibition Management program at Xavier is its development at a historically Black University that has an established collections management department, as well as an emerging gallery space. These active sites of curatorship are infused with an emphasis on African and African Diaspora art and the history, aesthetic appraisal, and socio-political culture that accompany the art objects.
Dr. Sarah Clunis, Director of African American & Diaspora Studies, and art professor Ron Bechet will take the lead on the development project.
“The new Masters in Curatorial Practice and Exhibition Management program will benefit other areas of study at Xavier such as Communications, Mass Communications, Business, Music, and Art by training students in skills that will allow them to do exhibition management for business expos, set design for theatres and movies, as well as general event planning,” said Clunis. “The program will also benefit those enrolled in the humanities as students can enhance their undergraduate degrees in such fields as history, philosophy, and theology with curatorial and exhibition management skills that will qualify them for work in a variety of museum fields.”
Clunis said that developing a program in curatorial practice and exhibition management is in line with keeping Xavier’s mission to prepare leaders to promote a more just and humane society. This will be achieved by incorporating more theoretical emphasis on issues affecting underrepresented populations, as well as training members of these populations for leadership roles in seminal institutions that promote visual culture, and therefore, representation.