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Museum Womxn to Watch

Updated: Mar 22, 2021

Womxn* make up the majority of museum staffs. For over a generation we have held a majority of museum staff positions; some have even gone so far as to call it a Pink-Collar Profession.[1] Regardless of the fact that I look better in blue, you can’t deny the facts. In a study in 2018 was completed by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Ithaka S+R, the Association of the Art Museum Directors, and the Alliance of American Museums. In this study, 61% of art museum employees were women, an increase of 2% from 2015[2]. We lead percentages as conservators, curators, educators, and even in leadership roles. Additionally, women of color are also seeing increased representation. In that same study, professionals of color have increased in art museums by four percent from 2015 to 2018. All of this is wonderful and shows that we’re moving in the right direction, but we cannot be done yet.


During Women’s History Month, Gallery Talk is highlighting women making waves in the museum field because we still have a lot to do. Some of these women are well established, while others are just beginning their careers. What they have in common is they are all women to watch.



Chiara Mannarino


Chiara Mannarino is making a name for herself. The list of her accomplishments grows daily. In 2020, Mannarino graduated from the Courtauld Institute of Art in London with a master’s degree in Art History. While at school, she co-curated several exhibits including, A Fractured Sigh at the BravineLee Gallery in New York City. In the midst of COVID-19, the exhibit focused on the concept of breath. Works touched on some freighting things such as air pollution but also the joy and necessity of the breath. Mannarino also spoke at the 2020 CHASE Feminist Network Conference hosted at the Foundling Museum in London. Currently, she is an assistant curator at Magazzino Italian Art.

More brilliance is sure to be on the way.


To keep up with Mannarino on her website: https://chiaramannarino.art/about



Amy Lonetree


An Associate Professor at the University of California Santa Cruz, Amy Lonetree centers herself in the intersection between indigenous history and museum studies. Much of her recent scholarship focused on decolonizing museums. One of the most noteworthy works is “Decolonizing Museums: Representing Native America in National and Tribal Museums.” According to the description in The University of North Carolina Press, the work “examines the complexities of these new relationships with an eye toward exploring how museums can grapple with centuries of unresolved trauma as they tell the stories of Native peoples. She investigates how museums can honor an Indigenous worldview and way of knowing, challenge stereotypical representations, and speak the hard truths of colonization within exhibition spaces.” Although the article is now eight years old, museums are still struggling with the concepts Lonetree addresses. As a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation, Lonetree is helping future generations by teaching several Native history courses.


More information about Lonetree is available at https://history.ucsc.edu/faculty/profiles/index.php?uid=lonetree



Jill Ahlberg Yohe


Since receiving her Ph.D. in 2008, Jill Ahlberg Yohe has dedicated herself to the Native American Art collection at the Minneapolis Institute of Art. Her goals for Mia include recreating their Native art curatorial practices. In helping to rehang the Native art galleries she made sure to focus on the art of women. In 2019, her exhibition “Hearts of Our People: Native Women Artists” made an impact. The exhibit was the first of its kind; after its national tour, it will surely not be the last. Yohe’s work even inspired one of our editor’s master’s thesis. She is one of our personal favorites.

To keep tabs on Yohe follow her at the Minneapolis Institute of Art: https://new.artsmia.org/arts-of-africa-and-the-americas/jill-ahlberg-yohe-phd/



La Tanya S. Autry


The “Museums are Not Neutral” is about as big as a museum movement you can get. Their hashtag has been used over a million times. One of the brains behind the operation is La Tanya S. Autry. She is not shy about what work is and is not. On Artstuffmatters.wordpress.com she collects her “explorations, advocacy, and organizing public culture in the arts.” Autry warns she is not about inclusion. A service announcement reads, “Several people assume that I give talks on inclusion. I do not. My abolitionist ethos involves dismantling the ideology of white supremacy in institutions. This orientation calls for a dismantling of anti-Blackness and colonialism. It is a deep structural liberatory project, unlike the inclusion paradigm. Please do not invite me to participate in, lead, or promote any inclusion machinations.” This chick is strong and proud. Autry also is the co-creator of The Art of Black Dissent. The program leads people to talk about the “African American liberation struggle.” She is currently finishing her Ph.D. You’ll be hearing about Autry for years to come.




Death to Museums


Trying to make an impact as a young woman in the museum field during a global pandemic is far from easy. Three women who have done this are the creators of the “Death to Museum” series: June Ahn, Rose Cannon, and Emma Turner-Trujillo. They met while working on their M.A.s in Museum Exhibition Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Their talks have given women a space to speak their truths about the museum world. They are calling for “actionable change” through monthly dialogue about the issues the field is facing.


Sign up to attend a monthly “Death to Museums” unconference at: https://deathtomuseums.com/about.html



*When we say women, we mean all women. If you identify as female this post is for you. Gallery Talk values women who are part of the LGBTQIA+ community. You are important to us and important to our field.

[1] https://docs.wixstatic.com/ugd/434074_6549b5054a474ac99b64d5780bc012b7.pdf [2] https://mellon.org/media/filer_public/b1/21/b1211ce7-5478-4a06-92df-3c88fa472446/sr-mellon-report-art-museum-staff-demographic-survey-01282019.pdf

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