THE NATIONAL GALLERY OF ART (NGA) has appointed Damon Reaves head of education. An experienced educator in museum and classroom settings, Reaves brings more than a dozen years of experience to the position.

He joins the National Gallery in Washington, D.C., from the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA) where he has been on staff since 2011, most recently serving as interim senior curator of education and public programs.

Reaves officially starts at NGA on June 7. The news was announced this morning.

“We are thrilled for Damon to join the museum as he brings many strengths to our mission of welcoming and engaging our local community and the nation,” Kate Haw, executive officer for collections, exhibitions, and programs at the National Gallery of Art, said in a statement.

“In addition to his deep experience as an educator, Damon’s collaborative spirit, his commitment to values-based decision making, and his dedication to contributing to an institution-wide approach to diversity, equity, access, and inclusion will enhance the impact of our work not just in education, but across all that the National Gallery does.”

NGA has prioritized public service, which makes education programming critical and central to its mission. The museum provides hundreds of free public programs for adults, families, children, school teachers, interns, and scholars. Reaves will direct a large team of art education specialists charged with developing, organizing, and presenting the museum’s programming, which ranges from in-person events, virtual learning opportunities, and art education publications. He will also oversee nearly 200 volunteer docents.

“In addition to his deep experience as an educator, Damon’s collaborative spirit, his commitment to values-based decision making, and his dedication to contributing to an institution-wide approach to diversity, equity, access, and inclusion will enhance the impact of our work not just in education, but across all that the National Gallery does.”
— NGA Executive Officer Kate Haw

At the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Reaves was initially a studio monitor, then rose to coordinator of community programs taking on increasing responsibility. He briefly served as director of community engagement at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston (2015), before rejoining the Philadelphia museum as associate curator of education for community engagement and access. He was appointed interim senior curator of education and public programs last year. Prior to PMA, he worked for four years with Mural Arts Philadelphia, where he was a teaching artist (2007-11)

Reaves received his BFA from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and holds an MFA from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Both degrees are in fine and studio arts. A museum educator, community advocate, and studio artist, he lectures and publishes on a variety of issues, including shared authority in museum settings and engagement and social equity in cultural institutions.

He is joining the National Gallery of Art during a transformational moment at the museum in terms of Black representation in its leadership ranks. Kaywin Feldman became director of NGA in 2018 and over the past year has appointed Steven Nelson as dean of the museum’s Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts (CASVA), hired Sheila McDaniel as administrator, and named Eric L. Motley deputy director. Motley’s appointment was announced earlier this month and he will join the museum in August. Since its founding 80 years ago, zero African Americans had served as executive officers at NGA. Now there are three (among a team of seven).

In terms of NGA’s governance, Ford Foundation President Darren Walker was elected to the board of trustees in September 2019. On the curatorial front, Kanitra Fletcher joined the museum as the first-ever associate curator of African American and Afro-Diasporic art in February. Now Reaves is taking on a critical public facing appointment as head of education, directing the museum’s robust public programming portfolio.

While the handful of new Black appointments is nominal given the museum employs about 1,000 people, the roles are pivotal in terms of institution-wide operations, research and scholarship, public programming, better serving broader audiences, and a specific focus on art by Black artists.

Last week, CASVA announced a partnership with Howard University, establishing a multiyear, paid undergraduate internship program with support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The Center said the program “aims to create pathways to careers in museums and arts-related organizations for students from historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and other institutions that serve populations that are underrepresented in the museum field.” In addition, CASVA has been co-sponsoring Howard’s annual James A. Porter Colloquium on African American Art since 2019.

Reaves said he is looking forward to joining the National Gallery of Art during this promising period. “It’s an honor to be joining the National Gallery of Art, particularly at this pivotal moment when museums across the country are recommitting themselves to being civic institutions,” Reaves said in a statement.

“Throughout my career as an arts educator, amplifying community voices has been at the center of my practice. Deepening our collaboration with teachers, students, and individuals of all backgrounds enhances the museum’s goals to inspire a national audience and generate creative experiences for all. I’m excited to be part of this conversation at the National Gallery.” CT

 

IMAGE: Damon Reaves. | Photo by Elizabeth Leitzell, Courtesy National Gallery of Art

 

FIND MORE National Gallery of Art Director Kaywin Feldman spoke to Jonathan Capehart of The Washington Post about the controversial decision to delay “Philip Guston Now,” the traveling exhibition featuring the artist’s comic-style images of Klan figures

 

BOOKSHELF
“Philip Guston Now” documents the traveling exhibition co-organized by the National Gallery of Art and three other museums—Tate Modern, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Artists Glenn Ligon and Trenton Doyle Hancock are among those who contributed essays to the exhibition catalog. “Gordon Parks: The New Tide: Early Work 1940–1950” was published to accompany a recent exhibition organized by the National Gallery of Art that explored the formative decade of Gordon Parks’s practice, the years that shaped the vision of the legendary photographer’s career.

 

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