Nora Atkinson is the Fleur and Charles Bresler Curator-in-Charge for the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Renwick Gallery. She oversees acquisitions, exhibitions, research, publications, patron relations and staff at the gallery.
Since joining the museum in 2014, Atkinson has organized exhibitions that point to new directions in the field of craft. Her most recent project, “No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man” (2018), created a sensation and attracted record-breaking crowds, more than doubling attendance at the Renwick that year to nearly 850,000 visitors. The exhibition brought cutting-edge artwork created at the annual desert gathering to the nation’s capital for the first time.
Her other recent notable exhibitions include the popular “Murder is Her Hobby: Frances Glessner Lee and the Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death” (2017), “Rick Araluce: The Final Stop” (2018) and “Visions and Revisions: Renwick Invitational 2016.” She oversaw the installation of the permanent collection galleries, “Connections: Contemporary Craft at the Renwick Gallery,” in 2015, following a two-year closure of the Renwick Gallery for renovation, and again in 2019 following the building take-over by the “No Spectators” exhibition.
Atkinson is the author of Craft for a Modern World: The Renwick Gallery Collection (2015) and a co-author of the exhibition catalog accompanying “Visions and Revisions” (2016). Her research interests include contemporary craft and design and the role of the handmade in modern culture.
Atkinson presented a TED talk, “Why art thrives at Burning Man,” in Vancouver in 2018, and has given many talks and presentations across the country.
Atkinson was a curator at the Bellevue Arts Museum in Bellevue, Washington, from 2006 to 2014. She earned a bachelor’s degree (2002) and a master’s degree (2006) from the University of Washington, Seattle.
About the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Renwick Gallery
The Smithsonian American Art Museum is the home to one of the largest and most inclusive collections of American art in the world. Its artworks reveal America’s rich artistic and cultural history from the colonial period to today. The museum’s main building is located at Eighth and F streets N.W., above the Gallery Place/Chinatown Metrorail station. Museum hours are 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily (closed Dec. 25). Its Renwick Gallery, a branch museum dedicated to contemporary craft and decorative arts, is located on Pennsylvania Avenue at 17th Street N.W. The Renwick is open from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily (closed Dec. 25). Admission is free. Follow the museum on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. Smithsonian information: (202) 633-1000. Museum information (recorded): (202) 633-7970. Website: americanart.si.edu.