THE CLEVELAND MUSEUM OF ART (CMA) is elevating Key Jo Lee to associate curator of American art. The news was announced Jan. 18.

Lee joined CMA in 2017 as assistant director of academic affairs. In 2021, she was appointed director of academic affairs and associate curator of special projects. Her latest promotion is effective July 1.

“It has been an honor and a joy to witness Key Jo’s evolution as a museum professional. Her insights are keen, her writing eloquent, and her ambitions admirable,” CMA Director William Griswold said in a statement.

“She has already made a marvelous addition to our curatorial team, and I am delighted that she will be devoting herself wholly to curatorial work at the CMA. I very much look forward to her future exhibitions, her interpretive work in the galleries, and her acquisitions.”

“It has been an honor and a joy to witness Key Jo’s evolution as a museum professional. Her insights are keen, her writing eloquent, and her ambitions admirable.”
— Cleveland Museum of Art Director William Griswold

Prior to joining CMA, Lee was the Rose Herrick Jackson Curatorial Fellow in American Art at Yale University Art Gallery. Last year, she guest co-curated “Somethin’ to Say” with artist Felandus Thames. Featuring works by 10 Southern Black artists, the exhibition was presented at Galerie Myrtis, a Black-owned gallery in Baltimore, Md.

Lee holds a B.A. in art history from Douglass College at Rutgers University (2009) and earned an M.A. in the history of art and African American studies at Yale University (2013). Lee is currently pursuing a Ph.D., at Yale. Her dissertation is titled “Precarious Matter(s): Blackness, Nineteenth-Century Photography, and Contemporary Art.”

At CMA, Lee’s inaugural exhibition, “Currents & Constellations: Black Art in Focus,” opens on Feb. 20. The show highlights works by Black artists from the Cleveland Museum of Art’s collection.

In a statement about her new role, Lee said: “I look forward to conveying new narratives through the museum’s collection of American art, to continuing to work with colleagues across the museum and other communities, to reimagine how the CMA presents the works in its care and to acquiring objects that diversify the museum’s holdings in ways that will deepen and expand the collection.” CT


IMAGE: Kay Lee Jo. | Courtesy Cleveland Museum of Art


Forthcoming in June, “Perceptual Drift: Black Art and an Ethics of Looking,” accompanies “Currents & Constellations: Black Art in Focus,” the first exhibition Key Jo Lee is organizing at the Cleveland Museum of Art. The volume includes an introduction and essay by Lee and features poetry by Robin Coste Lewis, among other text contributions.


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