Studio Museum in Harlem Is Cementing the Success of Tomorrow’s Black Creatives Through Its New Leadership Praxis Program

The Studio Museum in Harlem stands as a sanctuary where Black culture is displayed without bounds, encouraging artistic expression void of societal limitations. Thanks to the visionary leadership of Thelma Golden who serves as Director and Chief Curator, the Studio Museum and Institute illuminates a path for the next generation of arts leaders and creators. 

 In a recent correspondence with EBONY, Golden talks about her acquaintance with the arts and discussed a new initiative from Studio Museum Institute, the Arts Leadership Praxis program.   

Since the nineties, Golden was at the forefront of reshaping the art world to center and uplift African descent artist, beginning her curatorial journey at Whitney Museum of American Art , and says, “The time I spent at The Whitney enabled me to understand the power of curators to effect change.”  

Golden’s experience of creating spaces at The Whitney propelled her to amplify the voices of Black creatives by diversifying the collections of gallery owners and art institutions within New York.   

“I think it’s a vital part of my job now at the Studio Museum in Harlem. Thanks to key people who worked alongside me during my years at The Whitney. It created an opening for me to think and engage deeply with art, artists, and ideas,” Golden says.  

“The Arts Leadership Praxis is part of a mission to share knowledge across generations that goes back to the founding of the Studio Museum, in 1968, and continues today in a comprehensive way through the Studio Museum Institute.” 

Drawing parallels between her past and present roles, Golden highlights programming at the Studio Institute led by Ilk Yasha.  

“The Institute provides a diverse range of learning opportunities that goes beyond the information gleaned from textbooks and lectures.” Golden says she wants institutions to engage with art and artists in new ways so that, “black culture can thrive everywhere.”  

Studio Museum Leadership
Thelma Golden. Image: Julie Skarratt.

The 2024 inaugural Praxis cohort consists of eight nominated arts professionals. Selected mid-level curators will join Golden in the pursuit of transforming public facing arts institutions externally and internally.  

Participant Dr. Margarita Lila Rosa, an independent curator whose expertise in Afro-Latinx, Latinx, and Black Atlantic history enriches the program’s discourse. Rosa shared that her approach to contemporary art is a tool for historical narration meant to shed light on moments where archival silence prevails.  

“Contemporary art gives historians new forms of narration,” Rosa explains. “I try to allow the fantasy within a work to teach me about the freedom to be found.” 

Rosa’s comprehensive background as a historian and curator positions her to engage diverse audiences. “We owe it to our lineages to delve into fantasy, desire, and radical friendship,” Rosa emphasizes. “I want artists to feel free to explore dangerous territories, to tell us what it feels like to be them.” 

Beyond the Studio Museum, the cohort of Arts Leadership Praxis participants includes individuals from esteemed institutions like The Shed, Brooklyn Museum, Public Art Fund, The Kitchen, and MoMA. Each brings a unique perspective and expertise that contributes to a dynamic ecosystem. Golden says, 

 “The program creates both formal and informal spaces where a magical transformation takes place, and the cultural worlds of these participant’s meld. As they share their various backgrounds and interests, interacting with museum professionals, and cultural administrators, they are doing more than building knowledge and skills. They’re building a community, which in the future can move ahead together.” 

Studio Museum Leadership
From Left to Right: Carla Forbes, Imani Williford, Meredith Breech, Jenée-Daria Strand, Dejá Belardo, Gee Wesley, Margarita Lila Rosa, Tsige Tafesse, Ilk Yasha, Preston Foxx, Shanta Lawson. Image: Phillip Michael Collins.

 Situated at the intersection of art and photography, Fotografiska is renowned for its commitment to showcasing diverse voices and perspectives within the photography community. Meredith Breech, Associate Director of Exhibitions at Fotografiska, brings a perspective centered on care and mediation to the program. Breech’s commitment to supporting emerging photographers aligns with the program’s goal of promoting inclusivity and representation.  

“We start by telling new stories with new voices,” Breech stresses. “It’s about actively platforming artists and ensuring their experiences are collaborative, not exploitative.” 

Thelma Golden’s influence in the world of arts cannot be denied – her work at the Studio Museum in Harlem continues to shape the future of art. By providing a platform for African descent artists to develop, the Praxis program ushers in new possibilities for talented creatives to emerge and exist in their truth. 

Updated: May 14, 2024 — 3:03 pm