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
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What a fun goodbye party for Bridging the Americas! I received a lot of e-love and e-support and in person love from my sister, @bebabrava, @mind.body.glam and their little ones 🌻I feel so fortunate to have been able to do an exhibit about #Panamanians, #zonians, #Community and #Belonging. I will share exhibit pics and stories throughout the month on IG. Enjoy these pics of us saying goodbye and the 2 at the end when the US Embassy made this exhibit BIGLY in Panama City in 2016. I was so so proud tanto orgullo 🇵🇦❤️✨#afrolatinidad #Panama #fortheculture #porlacultura #identity #IAMOPBSI #panamenos #panameñosenelextranjero #culturalidentity
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
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Last night was magic! Thank you to @solcollective for hosting @ladysoulfly and I's exhibition, Adornment. It was so special to bring the show to my hometown and get the opportunity to exhibit it at Sol Collective. Seeing so many family and friends, filled my heart. It meant so much to me. Thank you #sactown. If you didn't get a chance to see the show yesterday, no worries. The exhibition will run until Aug 7th. ✨💛✨
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
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Of course the one shot of me in a gallery had to be a LATINA. Was not planned; I totally wanted a shot in every room. #latinainmuseums #repost @rcembalest ・・・ Impeccable timing: Caught up with @latinainmuseums, architect of #NewGlenstone’s lively social media day, at #LygiaPape’s 1961 piece visualizing fragments of time. Each of the 365 tiles in “Livro do Tempo I (Book of Time I)” represents a day in the year. @glenstonemuseum
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
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If you’re heading uptown keep an eye out for my new MTA station mosaic “Ciguapa Antillana, me llamo sueño de la madrugada ‘Who more sci-fi than us?’” So proud to have my work be part of the permanent NY Artscape & to represent!! forever 😜👊🏿✊🏾👋🏽 A huge thank you to @mayerofmunich for fabrication and everyone at @mtaartsdesign . . . From @mtaartsdesign : The four large #mosaic works create a lively and lush environment. The artwork is steeped in the artist’s #Caribbean cultural heritage and that of the neighborhood. Tropical and North American leaves and vines are intertwined with intricate patterns and hand symbols representative of the communities in #WashingtonHeights, incorporating healing imagery familiar to many cultures and inspiring a vision of #hope for the future. Ciguapas, powerful feminine figures from #Dominican folklore, join passengers on the daily commute. Baez’s art works on many levels to explore the identities of #women, myth, tradition and culture while bringing her unique perspective as a Dominican-Haitian artist. #MTAArts #FireleiBaez #mayerofmunich#ciguapa #subwayart #publicart #DR
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.”