Harris Family Curator of the Arts of the Americas – Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University

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Position Summary

The Curator of the Arts of the Americas engages critically and dynamically with the Johnson Museum of Art’s collections spanning North, Central, and South America. We welcome candidates with expertise in the arts of one of these fields and whose curatorial practice invites connections between geographical areas and historical periods within the Americas. We particularly invite candidates who share our ongoing commitment to advancing diversity, equity, access and inclusion to apply.

This role offers an emerging or mid-career museum professional the opportunity to strengthen and expand the arts of the Americas within the Johnson Museum’s global collection, especially in areas that have been historically underrepresented. Currently these collections include 3,000 artworks from the United States and Canada to 1950, and approximately 1,500 works of art from Native North America, Indigenous Central and South America, Latin America, and the Caribbean from ancient times to the present. In addition to the care, research, documentation, and development of these collections, the Curator will develop special exhibitions and long-term gallery displays that incorporate the Museum’s holdings, temporary loans, and new commissions. The Curator will work with Museum education colleagues and Cornell faculty to integrate the collections and exhibitions into university teaching and to organize programs for public audiences.

This individual will actively pursue the advice and expertise of a broad network of scholars, museum colleagues, and source communities to effectively and imaginatively develop collections and related research and exhibition projects outside of their primary area of study. The incumbent will nurture and add to existing collaborative relationships around the arts of the Americas with campus partners in the History of Art and Visual Studies; American Studies; American Indian and Indigenous Studies Program (AIISP); the Latin American and Caribbean Studies Program (LACS); Africana Studies & Research Center; College of Art, Architecture and Planning; Cornell University Library; and Einhorn Center for Community Engagement; among others, as well as with museums and research institutes regionally and internationally. We seek a curator eager to develop new initiatives and exhibitions inspired by the Cornell curriculum or the product of partnerships with faculty, graduate students, other museums, research centers, cultural practitioners, and source communities.

The Harris Family Curator of the Arts of the Americas will join a team of five other curators: the Chief Curator/Judith H. Stoikov Curator of Asian Art; the Gale and Ira Drukier Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art; the Seymour R. Askin, Jr. ’47 Curator of Earlier European and American Art; the Gary and Ellen Davis Curator of Photography; and the Curator of the Global Arts of Africa. Working with the Director, Chief Curator, and curatorial team, they consider all acquisitions, loans, and gifts, and together set the collecting strategy and exhibitions agenda for the Johnson Museum of Art.

Art of the Americas Collections Highlights

The Johnson Museum’s permanent collection numbers 40,000 works from around the world and spanning six millennia. The Art of the Americas collection is particularly strong in 19th and early 20th century art of the United States, with the greatest strength in prints and drawings, along with significant holdings of paintings, and decorative arts that include Tiffany glass, American medallic art, and quilts. The Museum’s small but growing collection of works from Indigenous North American artists includes Pueblo pottery, masks from the Northwest coast and Alaska, and Navajo weaving, as well as work by modern and contemporary artists of Indigenous heritage including recent acquisitions by Haudenosaunee artists. A significant collection of pre-Columbian art spans much of ancient Mexico and Central and South America and includes ceramics, stone carvings, metalwork, and textiles. Areas of key strengths include ancient Ecuador and Peru, with representation from both coastal and highland cultures.

This position is typically performed on-site Monday through Friday, 8:00AM-5:00PM, with some flexibility for start and end times.  We expect flexibility for coverage of evening and weekend events, which are planned with advance notice and mutual agreement between you and your supervisor. The university reserves the right to modify, suspend, revoke or terminate the hybrid work arrangement at any time.

Responsibilities/Essential Functions

Collections care, research and documentation (30%)

  • Develops and implements a collecting strategy for the arts of the Americas.
  • Conducts and directs original research on the collections. Leads provenance research for arts of the Americas.
  • Researches and proposes acquisitions by purchase. This includes working collaboratively with other curators in areas where responsibilities overlap, such as in contemporary art or photography. Makes the case for deaccessioning as needed to refine the collections.
  • Assesses condition of collections and identifies vulnerable material for preservation and conservation. Works with conservators to support treatments and related research.
  • Works to increase access to collections of the arts of the Americas through documentation and digitization.
  • Hires, trains, and supervises undergraduate and graduate student interns.
  • Advises faculty, students, and outside researchers on queries related to the Museum’s collections from the United States and Canada, Native North America, Indigenous Central and South America, Latin America, and the Caribbean.
  • Develops and monitors the budget for this curatorial area.

Exhibitions, Publications (40%)

  • Proposes, plans and implements special exhibitions, including those that might involve a guest curator or faculty partner. Collaborates with curators on shared permanent collection galleries, exhibitions and other projects. Travels for archival, museum, and field-based research as required by project.
  • Curates rotating displays for the permanent collection galleries.
  • In partnership with Registrar, coordinate all activities involved in negotiating loans to and from the museum in areas of curatorial oversight.
  • Works closely with Editor on written materials and publications, and with Registrars, Preparators, and Curatorial Assistant to implement exhibitions, rotations, and other collections-related projects.

Teaching, campus impact and public engagement (20%)

  • Lectures, tours, and teaches with works from the collections for the public, for Cornell classes, and for classes from area colleges and schools.
  • Occasionally co-teaches semester-long courses with Cornell faculty partners.
  • Establishes interdisciplinary collaborations and partnerships with curators, faculty, staff, and students at Cornell through a wide range of outreach strategies.
  • Works with public programming and education staff to design and participate in a variety of programs and events, including lectures by artists, scholars, critics, and others to advance new scholarship and share fresh perspectives on the arts of the Americas.
  • Works with Editor to support virtual and social media platforms, with the goal of increasing the profile of the arts of the Americas on campus and more broadly.

Development (10%)

  • In partnership with Director of Development, works with donors and collectors to enhance the collections through gifts of artwork or financial support.
  • Occasionally travels to support stewardship efforts of the Johnson Museum of Art.
  • Participates actively in biannual Museum Advisory Council meetings and programs.
  • Writes grant proposals for temporary exhibition support, research and publication support and conservation support.

Required Qualifications

The qualified candidate should have at minimum an MA in art history, visual studies, anthropology, or a comparable discipline, with two years’ experience in a museum or related setting, or equivalent combination. The candidate should possess superior written and oral communication skills and experience in university-level teaching and public speaking. The candidate should have experience with museum documentation and discovery systems and interfaces, and be able to work in a team, prioritize tasks, and adapt to a fast-paced, changing environment.

Preferred Qualifications

Preferred qualifications include a PhD in art history or a comparable discipline, with demonstrated expertise in the history and theory of the arts of the Americas and a record of scholarly publications. As this position works closely with colleagues in both a university and museum setting, applicants whose professional, scholarly, or research background prepares them to approach museum collections from an interdisciplinary vantage point are strongly encouraged to apply. Knowledge of at least one world language is desirable.

This is a five-year term position with the possibility of extension.

To apply, please submit a letter of application that includes your past, present, and/or future fostering learning, research, service and/or outreach in a diverse community in your career, and/or conveys how you see these approaches continuing within the arts at Cornell, a CV, a writing sample such as a published article, dissertation chapter, or catalog essay, and a list of three references; all documents should be attached to the resume section of the application. Review of applications will begin on January 8 and will continue until a candidate is selected. 

Rewards and Benefits

  • Cornell receives national recognition as an award-winning workplace for our health, wellbeing, sustainability, and diversity initiatives.
  • Our benefits programs include comprehensive health care options, generous retirement contributions, access to wellness programs, and employee discounts with local and national retail brands. We invite you to follow this link to get more information about our benefits: https://hr.cornell.edu/benefits-pay.
  • Follow this link to learn more about the Total Rewards of Working at Cornell: https://hr.cornell.edu/jobs/your-total-rewards.
  • Our leave provisions include health and personal leave, three weeks of vacation and 13 holidays: Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Memorial Day, Juneteenth, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving and the day after, and an end of the year winter break from December 25-January 1.
  • Cornell’s impressive educational benefits include tuition-free Extramural Study and Employee Degree Program, tuition aid for external education, and Cornell Children’s Tuition Assistance Program.

No Visa Sponsorship is available for this position.

Diversity and Inclusion are a part of Cornell University’s heritage. We are a recognized employer and educator valuing AA/EEO, and we do not tolerate discrimination based on any protected characteristic, including race, ethnic or national origin, citizenship and immigration status, color, sex/gender, pregnancy or pregnancy-related conditions, age, creed, religion, actual or perceived disability (including persons associated with such a person), arrest and/or conviction record, military or veteran status, sexual orientation, gender expression and/or identity, an individual’s genetic information, domestic violence victim status, familial status, marital status, or any other characteristic protected by applicable federal, state, or local law. We also recognize a lawful preference in employment practices for Native Americans living on or near Indian reservations in accordance with applicable law.

Cornell University embraces diversity and seeks candidates who will contribute to a climate that supports students, faculty, and staff to all identities and backgrounds. We strongly encourage individuals from underrepresented and/or marginalized identities to apply.

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