Conversations surrounding the art space typically stay within tight-knit circles, but this year the exclusive world of art galleries and museums drew criticism for its lack of diversity. The Brooklyn Museum announced two new curators in March — both white, and one hired to oversee the museum’s African art collection. With Black American and Latinx curators gravely underrepresented, the museum’s move was yet another example of how the art world intentionally locks out qualified, diverse talent. Similarly, the National Museum of African American History and Culture received backlash in September over Timothy Anne Burnside, a Smithsonian curator, when a tweet went viral that she’s been curating the hip-hop exhibit since the museum’s opening over two years ago. With the museum dedicated to the preservation of African American culture, it begged the question, who should have access to Black spaces?
It’s no secret, curators are powerful. They select which artists and works of art fill museums and galleries, and 85% are white, according to a 2015 Andrew W. Mellon Foundation study. Despite the stats, there are collectors, curators, artists, dealers, and academics, among others, of color who are changing the face of the art world. Here, we highlight eight Latinas shifting the space:
Ariana Curtis, curator for Latinx History at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture
As the first curator for Latinx Studies at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, Ariana Curtis researches, collects, exhibits and promotes Latinx- and Black-centered narratives to more accurately represent the history and culture of the Americas and the Diaspora. The Afro-Latina curator and researcher is the author of “Afro-Latinidad in the Smithsonian’s African American Museum Spaces.”
Scherezade Garcia, interdisciplinary visual artist
Scherezade Garcia fuses sculpture, text and painting or drawing to create her multi-layered work, which often centers ancestral memory, colonization and politics. The Santo Domingo-born artist’s work has been shown at the Smithsonian Museum of American Art, El Museo del Barrio, The Housatonic Museum of Art and El Museo de Arte Moderno, as well as private collections. She has exhibited widely with projects such as Super Tropics, Paradise Redefined, Theories of Freedom, This Side of Paradise-No Longer Empty, Souvenir, Stories of Fallen Angels and Tales of Freedom, among others. Garcia also is the co-founder of the Dominican York Proyecto Gráfica, a collective of artists of Dominican descent based in New York City.
Naiomy Guerrero, writer and the inaugural curatorial fellow of the Pérez Art Museum Miami’s Diversifying Art Museum Leadership Initiative
An art history scholar and arts equity advocate, Naiomy Guerrero’s work focuses on spotlighting contemporary Latinx artists in the U.S., their contributions to art history in the states, and development of the Latinx art market. Her insights can be seen in Artsy, Teen Vogue and NPR, among other places. She’s currently the curatorial fellow of the Pérez Art Museum Miami’s Diversifying Art Museum Leadership Initiative.
Jasmin Hernandez, journalist, and founder of Gallery Gurls
Through her pen and platform, Jasmin Hernandez is ensuring women of color are visible and celebrated in the art world. Founding Gallery Gurls in 2012, Hernandez is on the go, checking out museums, galleries, shows, and new studios and spaces, and meeting women of color in the industry. In an interview she did with HipLatina, she shared the common thread among women of color in the space: resilience. “We work well together, we form collectives, collaborate and support each other. We band together because we have to.”
Tatiana Reinoza, art historian, curator and writer
Focused on contemporary Latinx art, Tatiana Reinoza is a Society of Fellows postdoctoral research associate and lecturer at Dartmouth College. Her writing appears in Aztlán, alter/nativas, Diálogo, and Hemispheres. Currently, Reinoza is working on a manuscript about the history of Latinx printmaking.
Amanda Lopez, fine art photographer and celebrity portraitist
The Los Angeles-based photog has captured the likes of singers and songwriters Kali Uchis and Kehlani, as well as artist and designer Vashtie Kola, and aims to empower women through her various series, including Adornment, We are Nasty Women and Virgin Mary. Adornment, which is a collaboration with multidisciplinary artist Tanya Melendez, was designed to “create a space that honors the brilliance and strength of women of color,” she said to Gallery Gurls. Amanda Lopez’s work can be found in The Washington Post, LA Weekly, Rolling Stone and Vice, among others.
Karen Vidangos, writer and founder of Latina in Museums
Creating an online community that seeks to explore underrepresented perspectives in the museum field and highlight Latinxs who take space in these cultural institutions, Karen Vidangos founded Latina in Museums. Vidangos currently works for Glenstone Museum and writes for FWD: Museums Journal and A Woman’s Thing.
Firelei Báez, artist
AAn Afro-Caribbean woman of Dominican and Haitian descent, Firelei Báez often centers identity, history, migration, spirituality and Black women’s bodies in her work. In her latest body of work, Joy out of Fire, Báez features several iconic African, African-American, Afro-Caribbean and Afro-Latinx women at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in collab with the Studio Museum. (Think: poet Maya Angelou and activist Angela Davis.) “The color theory that immediately came to mind came from the Orishas,” Báez explains to Artnet on her piece. “So all the activists were Oya [the Orisha associated with death and rebirth], in the red painting; she’s this fiery spirit that can destroy or renew, so you’ll find several versions of Angela Davis in that one painting. Then the yellow work is Oshun [the Orisha associated with love and sensuality]. So the yellow paintings are usually where you find the artists; that’s where the dancers, the painters, the creatives manifested. The blue painting is Yemoja, or Yemayá in Spanish [the highest Orisha, a water deity associated with motherhood and healing]. It’s usually judges, archivists, librarians—people who were in a public sphere; people who, through their daily life, activated change and supported the community around them through everyday action.”