In an effort to increase the representation of Black leaders in the art world, the Princeton University Art Museum has joined forces with the HBCU Alliance of Museums and Art Galleries for the creation of a program designed to expose students at historically Black colleges and universities throughout the country to career paths in art museum curation, Princeton University reported.
The program—dubbed the Curation, Leadership, Artistry and Practice Program (CLAP) —was developed as an avenue to teach participants the ins and outs of overseeing a university art museum. It delves into different elements that include the importance of academic research and analysis, curatorial preparation and training, art conservation, and how STEM intertwines with art. During the week-long program, students participate in forums led by guest lecturers, interact with artists at their studios, and go on art tours both on Princeton’s campus and at other institutions in New Jersey and New York. Students are also tasked with completing art-focused writing assignments. At the end of the program, participants have to create a proposal for an exhibition that highlights Black artistry which is then pitched to the faculty at Princeton as well as influential art leaders. This year, students pitched their work to Thelma Golden who serves as the director of the Studio Museum in Harlem.
Organizers of CLAP—which include diversity consultant Caryl McFarlane, Tuskegee University professor Jontyle Robinson, and James Steward who is the director of the Princeton University Art Museum—hope that students will take the knowledge they garnered during the program back to their schools and develop impactful exhibitions of their own. “The art museum field simply doesn’t look like the people of this country,” said Steward. “Working within the context of a leadership university, we feel the responsibility to afford opportunities to new generations of students, to introduce them to career paths they might not have considered, and thus to help ensure that museums and the humanities remain relevant.”
Programs like CLAP are needed. According to Art Net, less than three percent of museum acquisitions over the past ten years have been of work by Black artists. Diversifying the leadership in the art world could be instrumental in turning that around.