The Smithsonian American Art Museum seeks an outstanding emerging scholar of American art for a curatorial fellowship funded by the Henry Luce Foundation. Beginning in fall 2021, this two-year position, with a possible third-year renewal, will provide an invaluable professional development opportunity to a scholar interested in a curatorial career in an art museum. It will also support scholarly research on SAAM’s permanent collection, one of the largest and most inclusive collections of American art in the world. The selected fellow will work under the supervision of a senior curator and in collaboration with a team of staff from various departments. The appointee will develop practical skills in all four areas of curatorial practice: research, installation and exhibition development, collections management and planning, and public service. He or she will also participate fully in the intellectual life of the museum’s Research and Scholars Center, home of its research fellowship program and journal, American Art.
Under the guidance of the supervisory curator, the Luce Curatorial Fellow will take a key role in the reconceptualization and reinstallation of works from the collection in thematically organized sections of SAAM’s Luce Foundation Center for American Art, the only visible art storage and study center in Washington, D.C. The rehang of the Luce Foundation Center will build on overarching concepts in the museum’s 2022–2023 reinstallation (currently in development) and illuminate connections among artists, artworks, and different facets of the collection. The appointee will research artists and artworks, rectify outdated or inaccurate records, write interpretive texts, and conduct audio/video recordings and/or offer tours to further support these installations. They will work with conservation, design, and installation staff to evaluate requirements and limitations of artworks within specific spaces and execute planned installations. The fellow also will have the opportunity to collaborate with museum interpretation and education staff to address diverse audiences and formats. The appointee may assist project-related development efforts and also propose speaking engagements or public presentations related to their research findings. In the second or third year, the fellow will have the opportunity to propose an installation for the galleries, an online exhibition, or a touring show.
The ideal candidate will demonstrate scholarly excellence and promise in addition to a strong interest in a museum career. A PhD in art history within the last five years is preferred; however, the fellowship is open to individuals with other academic specialties, such as African American and Women’s Studies.This position is open to all U.S. Citizens or U.S. Nationals. Applications are requested from scholars whose interests and areas of expertise align with one of the museum’s collection strengths:
- 19th-Century Art: The reinstallation of the permanent collection will necessitate the re-envisioning of the Luce Foundation Center’s display of 18th and 19th-century American art. The goals are to use the Luce Center as an extension and expansion of themes central to the reconceptualized galleries and to explore additional themes and constellations of significant artworks. The fellow will be a full participant in the curatorial discussions of those themes, interfacing with curators responsible for 20th century, modern and contemporary holdings as needed, and conducting in-depth research on individual artworks, artists, and historical frameworks associated with their area of expertise. Those areas can fall anywhere within the range of 19th-century art from the Federal period through the Gilded Age.
- Folk and Self-Taught Art: Since 1970, when it acquired and first exhibited James Hampton’s The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations' Millennium General Assembly, the Smithsonian American Art Museum has been acknowledged as a leader in recognizing and repositioning folk and self-taught artists and their important contributions to American art. SAAM’s collection became internationally known in 1986 with the acquisition of the Herbert Waide Hemphill collection and has grown exponentially since 2012 when the museum hired its first full-time curator specializing in this area. Within the area of folk and self-taught art, and reaching into the broader collection as needed, the Luce Curatorial Fellow may focus on frameworks including but not limited to era, region, type of practice, and cultural significance, or consider a particular artist or cultural group in depth. The appointee will also assist on the exhibition project Amish Quilts from the Faith and Stephen Brown Collection, opening in Spring 2024.
How to Apply
The fellowship is categorized as a term trust position (IS-9, not-to-exceed three years) with a starting salary of $60,129 plus benefits and an allowance for research and conference travel. The Smithsonian offers a comprehensive benefits package that includes, in part, vacation and sick leave, holidays, and health insurance.
Applications must be received by Tuesday, June 1, and include:
- A cover letter outlining the candidate’s interest in the fellowship
- A statement of 750 to 1,000 words that describes the applicant’s area of research and how it relates to one of the two areas of curatorial focus outlined above
- A published paper or other writing sample
- Curriculum vitae with two references
Please submit applications to SAAMFellowships@si.edu.
All applications will be reviewed by a committee comprised of the chief curator, deputy chief curator, mentoring curator, and chair of academic programs. The fellowship must begin by December 31, 2021.
SAAM believes that recruiting and maintaining an equitable, inclusive, and diverse staff is critical to our mission. We welcome and encourage applications from qualified persons of color; who are Indigenous; with disabilities; who are LGBTQIA+; who are veterans; and/or with other underrepresented backgrounds and experiences. The Smithsonian does not discriminate on grounds of race, color, religion, sex (including gender identity, sexual orientation, and pregnancy), national origin, age, or disability.