Detroit Institute of Arts Appoints Juana Williams Associate Curator of African American Art

THE DETROIT INSTITUTE OF ARTS (DIA) welcomes a new curator this week, naming Juana Williams Associate Curator of African American Art. An independent curator based in Detroit, she most recently served as director of exhibitions at the Library Street Collective and was an adjunct faculty member in art history at Wayne State University.

Williams joins the Detroit Institute of Arts after working at the museum as a research assistant several years ago (2016-17). His new DIA appointment took effect May 2.


Commissioner Juana Williams. | Photo courtesy Juana Williams

“I am thrilled to welcome Juana back to DIA,” said Valerie Mercer, curator and director of the DIA Center for African American Art, when the appointment was announced.

“His ties to Detroit, his extensive curatorial experience, and his deep understanding of contemporary African-American art will be instrumental in building and managing our extraordinary collection.”

“His ties to Detroit, his extensive curatorial experience, and his deep understanding of contemporary African-American art will be instrumental in building and managing our extraordinary collection.”
— Valerie Mercer, DIA Center for African American Art

A curator and writer, Williams has curated exhibitions in museums and galleries, participated in public lectures, and contributed to several publications. On her website, Williams said that “her curatorial practice focuses primarily on deconstructing cultural and social issues, transgressing traditional boundaries of art criticism and curation, and challenging anti -darkness in the arts“.

Prior to her role at the Library Street Collective, Williams curated exhibitions at the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts (UICA) in Grand Rapids, Michigan. In 2021, she was the inaugural curator with Art Mile + Independent Curators International in Detroit and is currently a member of Black Embodiments Studio, an art writing incubator and public programming initiative. She earned an undergraduate and master’s degree (art history) from Wayne State University in Detroit.

THE DIA IS ONE OF FEW ART MUSEUMS in the United States with a long-standing commitment to art-focused collecting and scholarship by African-American artists. The Center for African American Art, the museum’s curatorial department established in 2000, is one of the first of its kind in the country.

The museum also has collection galleries focused specifically on exhibiting African American art from its collection, over 600 works from the mid-19th century to be displayed in the form of paintings, sculptures, prints, drawings, and photographs. Artists represented in the collection include Robert Duncanson, Augusta Savage, Elizabeth Catlett, Romare Bearden, Benny Andrews, Jacob Lawrence, Ed Clark, Glenn Ligon, Mickalene Thomas and Kehinde Wiley, among many others.

The museum’s efforts are amplified by an auxiliary group called the Friends of African and African American Art (FAAA). Over the years, the FAAA has helped add more than 60 works of art to the DIA collections. Along with acquisitions, the group supports and organizes programming and events.

The origins of the FAAA are rooted in the founding of the museum’s African Art Gallery Committee in 1962. The committee’s focus expanded to include African American art in the late 1980s, officially becoming Friends of African and African American Art in 1992.

“I look forward to the opportunity to continue integrating African American art into the greatest canon in art history…” – Juana Williams

Currently, DIA presents “Shirley Woodson: Shield of the Nile Reflections,” the Detroit artist and educator’s first exhibition at her hometown museum, featuring 11 dreamlike paintings made between 1987 and 2014.

During her previous tenure at DIA, Williams worked with Mercer on the exhibition “Art of Rebellion: Black Art of the Civil Rights Movement”. The budding curator seizes the opportunity to return to the museum with additional experience and greater responsibility.

“I am thrilled to join the Detroit Institute of Arts team at such a crucial time. I look forward to contributing to the rich heritage of the DIA and the City of Detroit, and to working as a collaborator as the institution reinvents ideas about arts, culture and the role of museums,” said Williams. to Culture Type via email.

“I look forward to the opportunity to continue to bring African American art into the greatest canon of art history by bringing stunning works of art and awe-inspiring exhibitions, as well as by s building on the outstanding scholarship that the DIA consistently produces.” CT

READ MORE about Juana Williams on her website and Instagram

COMING SOON In the spring of 2023, the Detroit Institute of Arts will present “James Barnor: Accra/London: A Retrospective,” a six-decade survey of the British-Ghanaian photographer

BOOKSHELF
Juana Williams wrote the text for the exhibition catalog “Rashaun Rucker: Up From the Red Clay,” accompanying a 2021 exhibition at M Contemporary Art in Ferndale, Michigan. She also contributed an essay for “Senghor Reid: Shadowboxing,” another exhibition presented at the gallery last year. The Kresge Foundation has released “A Palette for the People: The Vibrant World of Shirley Woodson”, an 80-page monograph, on the occasion of Shirley Woodson’s nomination as a 2021 Kresge Distinguished Artist. Also consider “Harold Neal and Detroit African American Artists: 1945 through the Black Arts Movement,” which documents a recent exhibit at Eastern Michigan University Galleries.

TYPE OF SUPPORTING CULTURE
Do you like and appreciate the type of culture? Please consider supporting its ongoing production by making a donation. Culture Type is an independent art history project that requires countless hours and expenses to research, report, write and produce. To help support it, make a one-time donation or sign up for a recurring monthly contribution. It just takes a minute. Thank you very much for your support.

About Margaret L. Portillo

Check Also

Entrepreneur Shanyan Koder talks buying what she loves and living through art

“I grew up breathing art,” said Shanyan Koder. She is the eldest daughter of entrepreneur …