|Shawnya Harris, Larry D. and Brenda A.|
Thompson Curator of African American
and African Diasporic Art
Harris holds both master’s and doctoral degrees in art history from the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill, and she received her bachelor’s degree in African American Studies from Yale University. It was during Harris's undergraduate years that she decided she wanted to work in museums. The way the university integrated its gallery into the curriculum, combined with the enthusiasm of certain crucial professors for visual arts, hooked her. One of those teachers was Robert Farris Thompson, a specialist in Black Atlantic art, and Harris was inspired by his eclectic way of approaching material, fusing fine with vernacular art in an effort to tell a sweeping, inclusive story.
|Robert, one of our preparators, and |
Shawnya exchanging a laugh.
Her eyes light up when she talks about what she wants to accomplish in her position at the Georgia Museum of Art. The upcoming reinstallation of the permanent collection, for example, is a way to juxtapose artists of color with their peers, helping them become part of the narrative of art history rather than confining them to their own section in the galleries.
Harris will start teaching at the Lamar Dodd School of Art next academic year, with Introduction to African American Art, a survey course that will allow her to use the museum’s permanent collection. Here, as elsewhere, she plans on conveying what she learned from her own teachers: an enthusiasm for the subject and for the work. To Harris, that is the most important thing she can pass on.