Grace, Grit, and Joy

SAAM's director on the year ahead

A photograph of a woman standing in front of a black sculpture.

 SAAM's director, Stephanie Stebich, in front of Louise Nevelson's Sky Cathedral. Photo by Libby Weiler.

Instead of making New Year’s resolutions, I picked three words that will guide me for the next twelve months. My mantra for 2022 is grit, grace, and joy. Grit, to me, means getting it done through perseverance. Grace is a reminder to be kind to myself, to others, and especially to those most vulnerable during the ongoing pandemic period. Finally, joy is a reminder to create joy, share joy, and look for joy in all I do. Certainly, working at SAAM is a source of joy for me. Our work is joyous in that my colleagues and I work in the service of others. We work collectively to share joy and understanding around the wonders of American art. I know you share our joy.

At SAAM, we have a lot to look forward to, including three upcoming exhibitions that were chosen by Smithsonian magazine as notable upcoming shows. Each represents recent efforts by SAAM’s curators to build our national collection with an eye on how representation matters. We have acquired artworks that let us present a fuller story of American art that includes often-overlooked histories. This Present Moment: Crafting a Better World, will activate both floors of the Renwick Gallery beginning in May. The exhibition, organized to mark the 50th anniversary of our Renwick Gallery, features more than 100 artworks recently added to the museum’s collection representing women, people of color, and Native artists. In July, we present We Are Made of Stories: Self-Taught Artists in the Robson Family Collection featuring more than 100 artworks from important artists in this field, including James Castle, William Hawkins, Sister Gertrude Morgan, Nellie May Rowe, Judith Scott, and Bill Traylor. We close out the year with Subversive, Skilled, Sublime: Fiber Art by Women, a true show of alchemy: how humble threads transform into powerful and telling works of art, as diverse as the women who created them. More on each of these wonderful projects as we get closer to their opening dates.

As we move throughout the year, we are adjusting procedures and changing protocols as the pandemic brings different challenges, such as working with virtual couriers to escort artworks to and from the museum. But we are prepared! The safety of our staff, volunteers, and visitors is always at top of mind. Earlier this year, we modified the days our museum buildings are open to the public due to ongoing staff shortages related to a rise in COVID-19 infections. I am optimistic that by spring we can expand the number of days each week our doors are open to visitors. I am eager to get back to our seven-days-a-week schedule that, along with our always free admission, makes our Smithsonian museums so special.

In addition to seeing the best in American art, we have planned inspiring lectures, films, and wonderful public programs for visitors of all ages. Check our online calendar for more on those. The entire team at SAAM has put a lot of grit into organizing these exhibitions and events. The grace and joy are now for you to enjoy and share.

Be safe and be well. We are in this together.

Stephanie Stebich

The Margaret and Terry Stent Director