The museum is proud to report that last month, Theresa Papanikolas, the museum’s curator of European and American art since 2008, found out she was selected to be part of the Center for Curatorial Leadership’s ninth class of curatorial fellows. It is a highly competitive program that gives curators the management skills they need to become “visionary leaders of art museums.” Papanikolas is one of 12 individuals from artist organizations in the United States, Hong Kong, and London, all chosen as emerging art museum leaders. Past curatorial fellows include Gary Tinterow, now the director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and Roxana Marcoci, senior curator at MoMA.
Taking place from January to May, the program comprises a two-week intensive program in New York City that includes sessions with Columbia Business School faculty, a five-day residency with a museum director, a diversity mentoring project, and a final training week tailored to the class’s needs.
Papanikolas was the mastermind behind two of the museum’s most popular exhibitions over the past two years—Georgia O’Keeffe and Ansel Adams: The Hawai‘i Pictures and Art Deco Hawai‘i, and oversaw the 2012 reinstallation that reinvigorated the European and American galleries. She has also led the museum’s push to find equilibrium between art preservation and increasing access through programs such as ARTafterDARK.
“With museums rapidly evolving, it is good for curators to acquire strategic skills that go beyond their art-historical expertise—whether or not they aspire to be museum directors,” says Papanikolas about why she applied for the program. “My work at the museum is a case in point—all of us here are actively reorienting our mission, vision and core values to anticipate global economic shifts towards Asia and position the museum as a leading cultural force in the Pacific. As a curator focused on the Western hemisphere, this pivot eastward will have a direct impact not only on my own programming, but also on my department’s focus within the bigger picture of the museum.”
For Papanikolas, the museum’s response to global economic shifts towards Asia make it “increasingly necessary for me to plan innovative exhibitions and build meaningful collections that operate at the intersections between Europe, the Americas, and Asia. I am honored to have the opportunity to participate in the CCL program at this crucial time, because it will help me to gather the necessary tools to lead this trend effectively.”
What most excites her about the program? “I’m looking forward to discussions with my cohorts in the program, as well as with leaders in the arts community, about the transformative challenges that art museums are currently facing. Through these conversations—as well as through the coursework and hands-on training the CCL provides—I hope to develop my own strategies for rising to these challenges effectively, as a curator.”
On a more personal note, during her time in New York she plans to connect with colleagues in other museums and organizations, including the New York Botanical Garden, which has invited her to guest curate an exhibition of Georgia O’Keeffe’s Hawai‘i paintings, as well as spend time with family that reside in the area.