Taylor Renee Aldridge joined CAAM as visual arts curator. | Photo by Paper Monday


IN LOS ANGELES, the California African American Museum (CAAM) announced two key curatorial appointments. Detroit-based independent curator and writer Taylor Renee Aldridge is joining the museum as visual arts curator and program manager. Susan D. Anderson, a public historian and curator from San Francisco, is the new history curator and program manager. The news was released July 23.

Anderson officially started at CAAM in July. Aldridge’s tenure began this month. Both Aldridge and Anderson are working remotely along with the rest of the museum’s staff. CAAM has been temporarily closed since March 13, due to COVID-19.

“At this moment of great uncertainty for many cultural institutions, when museums have had to close their doors to the public, and some are facing layoffs or reckoning with institutional racism, it is all the more meaningful that we are able to welcome onto our team these extraordinary curators,” Cameron Shaw, deputy director and chief curator of CAAM, said in a statement. Shaw joined CAAM last September.

“At this moment of great uncertainty for many cultural institutions,… it is all the more meaningful that we are able to welcome onto our team these extraordinary curators.
— CAAM Deputy Director and Chief Curator Cameron Shaw

CAAM was established in 1977 and opened its doors in 1981. Both curators bring unique backgrounds to the African American museum, where art and history presentations focus on the “critically important role African Americans have played in the American West’s cultural, economic, and political development.”

ALDRIDGE HAS CURATED EXHIBITIONS and programming at a variety of institutions. At the Cranbrook Art Museum, she provided research for the exhibition “Landlord Colors: On Art, Economy and Materiality” and co-curated Material Detroit, the show’s public programming component (2019). She also organized FLY | DROWN, a solo exhibition and performance series with choreographer Jennifer Harge at the Detroit Artist Market (2019).

From 2016-18, Aldridge served as an assistant curator of contemporary art at the Detroit Institute of Arts. During her tenure, she co-curated “Making Home: Contemporary Works from the DIA,” featuring about 50 works from the museum’s permanent collection.

As a 2016 resident, Aldridge organized public programming at The Luminary in St. Louis, Mo. During 2016, she also staged Black Art Incubator along with Jessica Bell Brown, Kimberly Drew, and Jessica Lynne at Recess in New York City. The summer-long intervention was a series of public talks and gatherings providing engagement and resources for artists, curators, critics, scholars, and the community at-large.

On the writing front, Aldridge is co-founder with Lynne of ARTS.BLACK, an online journal for art criticism from a Black perspective established in 2015, that has also served as a platform for her programming activities. Aldridge has also contributed to Artforum, The Art Newspaper, Art21, ARTnews, Contemporary And, Detroit Metro Times, and Hyperallergic. In 2019, she received a Rabkin Foundation Award for Art Journalism and she was also recognized with a 2016 Creative Capital | Andy Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant for short-form writing.

After earning a B.A. degree in art history from Howard University, Aldridge completed a Master of Liberal Arts degree in museum studies at Harvard University.

At CAAM, she’s already organized her first show. “Enunciated Life” is scheduled to open in the fall. The contemporary art exhibition focuses on the Black church and modes of surrender through spiritual beliefs and bodily expressions. Featured artists include Shikeith, Billy Mark, and Tiona Nekkia McClodden, who participated in the 2019 Whitney Biennial and won the Bucksbaum Award.

At CAAM, Taylor Renee Aldridge has already organized her first show. Scheduled this fall, “Enunciated Life” focuses on the Black church and modes of surrender through spiritual beliefs and bodily expressions.

A THIRD-GENERATION CALIFORNIAN, Anderson has worked throughout the state and dedicated her career to increasing public understanding of its history. Prior to joining CAAM, Anderson was director of library, collections, exhibitions, and programs at the California Historical Society in San Francisco. Recently, she also served as interim chief curator at the African American Museum & Library at Oakland (2017-18).

Serving as a curator at the UCLA Library Special Collections (2009-14), Anderson inaugurated the Collecting Los Angeles program, where she was responsible for acquisitions, collection development, fundraising, partnerships, programming, and exhibitions.

During her tenure, she expanded resources related to the Chicano movement, Chinese immigrant community, underground literature, and African American history and culture. Anderson acquired the records of SOUL magazine; the photographs of segregation-era lawyer Walter L. Gordon; and the archives of Congresswoman Diane Watson for the UCLA library.

She also added the records of Golden State Mutual Life Insurance, one of the largest Black-owned companies in the United States, and the personal papers of Ivan J. Houston, who served as president, CEO, and eventually chairman of Golden State, which his father helped establish in 1925.

Paul R. Williams designed the insurance company’s headquarters in the West Adams district of Los Angeles, where artist William Pajaud, who worked in the public relations department, assembled what was once the largest collection of African American art in the West. Pajaud was honored at CAAM in 2010.

A third-generation Calfornian, Susan D. Anderson has worked throughout the state and dedicated her career to increasing public understanding of its history.

Anderson was also managing director of L.A. as Subject, a research alliance based at USC Libraries that focuses on preserving and improving access to archival material documenting the city’s history (2006-09).

The principal and founder of Memory House, Anderson has provided curatorial and public history consulting for clients including the City of Berkeley, National Park Service, Golden Gate Recreation Area, Richmond Museum of History, and Mazisi Kunene Museum in Durban, South Africa.

In addition, Anderson lectures and writes widely. Titled “African Americans and the California Dream,” her forthcoming book spans the Gold Rush to Black Lives Matter. Earlier in her career, Anderson contributed to the Los Angeles Times, LA Weekly, and The Nation, writing about museums, collections, and the experiences and political power of people of color in the state of California. She has an undergraduate degree from Scripps College and earned an MBA from UCLA.

At CAAM, Anderson is assuming the position previously held by Tyree A. Boyd-Pates, who joined the Autry Museum of the American West in December. Aldridge is succeeding Vida L. Brown, who died last year after serving as visual arts curator at CAAM since 2012.

“We are delighted to welcome Susan and Taylor to CAAM,” Executive Director George O. Davis said in a statement. “Each brings a wealth of experience and an exciting vision to their respective positions. I am confident that they will be instrumental in propelling CAAM’s trajectory as a vital hub for examining African American art, history, and culture.” CT


IMAGE: Above left, Susan D. Anderson. | Photo courtesy CAAM


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