Museum Receives Mellon Foundation Grant to Fund Contemporary Curator

The curator will develop new exhibitions and raise museum’s profile in contemporary art world.

Mellon Grant
Jon Eric Riis, Congressional Constraint Tapestry, 2012. Silk, metallic thread, horsehair, coral and gold beads. (Photo courtesy of The Textile Museum)
March 31, 2016

Thanks to a $500,000 award from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum will create a new curatorial position committed to contemporary textile art. The grant will support the first five years of the position.

“We are truly grateful to the Mellon Foundation for its support and endorsement of our new museum and its commitment to student and faculty engagement,” said John Wetenhall, director of the museum. “This exciting gift expands the museum’s global, historical scope to embrace issues and aesthetics that are relevant to our time—as the museum joins GW’s commitment to serve living artists.”

The grant will enable the museum to build on its commitment to contemporary textile art, which includes exhibitions such as the upcoming “Stories of Migration: Contemporary Artists Interpret Diaspora” and 2011’s “Green: The Color and the Cause” as well as its Voices of American Design lecture series, which features prominent designers and artists. 

In addition to developing new exhibitions, the curator will leverage the museum’s diverse collections and engage students and faculty in developing exhibition content and programs that fulfill the museum’s educational mission. The curator will collaborate with GW academic departments and help develop lectures, programs and other special events to build an audience for contemporary art within the university and the general public.

The new curator will work with museum board members, staff and experts to develop a plan to build a collection of contemporary fiber art at the museum. The grant will provide funds to allow the curator to visit studios and galleries and travel to art fairs and major exhibitions. Additionally, the curator will cultivate relationships with collectors and donors to build acquisition funds while soliciting work from collectors and, in some instances, artists themselves.

“The museum has done a superb job bringing textiles and the stories they tell to GW and the greater arts and culture communities,” said Forrest Maltzman, interim provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. “Having this curatorial position will enable the museum to connect with even more people, including many of our students and faculty.”

Contemporary art abounds in D.C., and the curator will work to establish a distinct niche for the museum’s contemporary art activities. To that end, the curator will draw on GW partners, including the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design and the Luther W. Brady Gallery, and forge relationships with institutions in Washington and beyond.

The curator’s responsibilities will also include creating opportunities for student and faculty research, academic projects and museum career training. The museum aims to fill the position this summer.