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Meet the Studio Museum’s 2024 Arts Leadership Cohort

Yesterday, April 2, the Studio Museum in Harlem announced the debut of Arts Leadership Praxis, a professional development program for early- to mid-career culture workers of color devoted to Black cultural production. The inaugural class comprises eight individuals based in New York who were nominated and invited to submit applications:

  • Dejá Belardo — assistant curator at the Shed
  • Meredith Breech — associate director of exhibitions at Fotografiska
  • Carla Forbes — curatorial assistant at the Brooklyn Museum
  • Margarita Lila Rosa — independent curator
  • Jenée-Daria Strand — assistant curator at the Public Art Fund
  • Tsige Tafesse — curatorial fellow at the Kitchen and program manager at the Processing Foundation
  • Gee Wesley — curatorial assistant at the Museum of Modern Art
  • Imani Williford — curatorial assistant at the Brooklyn Museum

The six-month program kicked off in January with a series of seminars and workshops. So far, the cohort has participated in a group trip to Los Angeles for Frieze art fair and programming at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Hammer Museum, among other cultural opportunities.

Dejá Belardo, who told Hyperallergic that they were nominated for Arts Leadership Praxis, noted that the program “has been tailored to our professional interests and growth areas.”

“Most importantly, in my opinion, we have been able to exchange knowledge and experiences as peers in a non-competitive, supportive environment, which is special as a group of Black cultural leaders deeply invested in Black cultural production,” Belardo continued.

Tsige Tafesse emphasized the importance of the program in an email to Hyperallergic, saying that “there are so many barriers to entry in this field — it’s riddled with unspoken hierarchies, class expectations, and gatekeepers who’ve historically loved platforming the work of Black and Brown artists but with few opportunities to create spaces for our own substantially.”

Imani Williford told Hyperallergic she thinks that many institutions have tokenized Black cultural art workers or pigeonholed them into administrative work without nurturing their talent. “However, Praxis is about continuing to develop our voices, ideas, and ourselves beyond our roles in institutions,” she explained. “It’s helped us see a larger picture in a field that intentionally and unintentionally tries to put us in a narrow box.”

Tafesse added that the cohort has already had sessions with several curators and culture workers, including T. Lax, Legacy Russell, Isolde Brielmaier, Andrea Myers Achi, Lauren Haynes, Ashley James, Adrienne Edwards, Erin Christovale, and others “who have taken the time to honestly share their experiences with generosity and care.”

Though the initial cohort is made up of New York-based participants, the program is slated to expand in 2025 to include a national pool of nominees.

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