Since 2017, VIA Art Fund has annually awarded a curatorial fellowship grant to foster ambitious curatorial research and enhance VIA’s grantmaking success. The aim of the award is to support visionary curators by providing discretionary funds for exhibition research, travel, and the general development of the curator’s area of inquiry, while also informing VIA’s grantmaking decisions through an engagement with today’s leading curatorial voices.
“As the telling of art history is discursive and bears some inconsistencies and the occasional myopia, it is my interest to give space through my curatorial practice to artists who have not enjoyed the visibility they are due, given the sometimes-conservative nature of our field.”
As the 2019 Curatorial Fellow, Jamillah James will use her grant award to explore emerging artistic and organizing practices taking place beyond major metropolitan areas of the US. James recognizes that smaller arts communities in areas of the Midwest, Pacific Northwest, the North Atlantic, and the American South are largely underrepresented in major institutions. As a curator who has long committed herself to supporting emerging or historically under-recognized artists, James will conduct research that will deepen her knowledge of American Art after 1980.
James is Curator at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (ICA LA). With Margot Norton, she is curating the 2021 edition of the New Museum Triennial. Prior to joining ICA LA in 2016, James was Assistant Curator at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, working in collaboration with the nonprofit Art + Practice. She has held curatorial positions at the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; the Queens Museum, Flushing, New York; and independently organized many exhibitions, performances, screenings, and public programs at alternative and artist-run spaces throughout the US and Canada.
Recent exhibitions include the first American museum survey of B. Wurtz, and solo presentations of Rafa Esparza, Abigail DeVille, Sarah Cain, Simone Leigh, Michele O’Marah, Alex Da Corte, and Njideka Akunyili Crosby. James is currently working on a major exhibition of Nayland Blake; artist projects with Maryam Jafri and Lucas Blalock; and the group exhibition The Living End: Painting and Other Technologies 1970-Present (2020).
Jamillah James, Photo: Paul Sepuya.
“North American curators are usually not permitted the time and translation assistance to know geographically distant artists in their studio and in the context of their communities, a condition that necessarily constrains our understanding of the artists’ practice to what might be seen in an exhibition, fair, biennial, or virtual studio visit.”
Building on her areas of expertise in abstract painting and conceptual art, 2018 Curatorial Fellow Cathleen Chafee intends to use her grant to conduct research into new artistic communities in Lebanon, the UAE, South Africa, Jordan, and Egypt. These trips will allow her to build relationships with a new pool of artists in order to broaden the array of voices with which she works from her home base in upstate NY.
Chaffee is Chief Curator of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, where she was previously Senior Curator. Prior to her tenure at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Chaffee was Horace W. Goldsmith Assistant Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Yale University Art Gallery, and held curatorial positions at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the Cleveland Museum of Art. She has organized seminal exhibitions such as Joe Bradley’s recent mid-career survey, Shade: Clyfford Still/Mark Bradford (2016), and emerging artist Erin Shirreff’s first large-scale American museum exhibition. Her most recent exhibition, Introducing Tony Conrad: A Retrospective, was the first museum survey of the Buffalo-based artist, musician, and filmmaker.
Chaffee is the recipient of numerous awards including a Fulbright Fellowship. She holds a BA from Ithaca College, an MA from the Courtauld Institute of Art, and a PhD from the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University.
Cathleen Chaffee, Photo: James Sevigny.
“In Europe and the Americas, we value disruption, innovation, and experimentation; we celebrate the avant-garde as the ideal artists. In Western Africa, art is seen as a mode of transmission of cultural heritage and memory. Thus, many artists aren’t at all interested in endless disruption, but rather creating an affinity with the past and their masters. Realizing this was a revelation and is a lesson I shall keep with me as I continue to travel and show work internationally.”
As VIA’s inaugural Curatorial Fellow, Naomi Beckwith used her fellowship monies to attend the 2018 Dakar Biennial, explore the art scene in Lagos, Nigeria, and connect with new colleagues committed to shaping the cultural landscape in West Africa. Beckwith’s research trip to Africa will serve as a resource as she continues to shape a curatorial body of work focused on the resonance of black cultural practices across contemporary art internationally.
Beckwith is the Manilow Senior Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, where she was previously the Marilyn and Larry Fields Curator. She has held positions at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia and the Studio Museum in Harlem and has curated numerous exhibitions including The Freedom Principle: Experiments in Art and Music, 1965 to Now at the ICA Philadelphia and 30 Seconds off an Inch at the Studio Museum. She served on the Jury of the 56th Venice Biennale in 2015 and was a 2017 curatorial fellow with the Center for Curatorial Leadership in New York. She holds a BA from Northwestern University, and an MA from the Courtauld Institute of Art.
Naomi Beckwith, Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.