Shawnya L. Harris, Larry D. and Brenda A. Thompson Curator of African American and African Diasporic Art. Image courtesy of Georgia Museum of Art
ATHENS, GA. –The Georgia Museum of Art at the University of Georgia has hired Shawnya L. Harris as its first Larry D. and Brenda A. Thompson Curator of African American and African Diasporic Art. She was hired August 18,2015 after a nationwide search. The new position at the Georgia Museum of Art is both an endowed chair and an endowed professorship.
Harris holds both master’s and doctoral degrees in art history from the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill. Before moving to the Georgia Museum of Art, Harris was at the Elizabeth City State University, Elizabeth City, North Carolina, where she taught courses in African American art, 20th-century art and art appreciation. She also taught survey courses on the history of Western art.
Speaking about the new appointment, Brenda Thompson notes that Harris will bring new scholarly perspective to the Georgia Museum of Art. She notes: “We are delighted to welcome Dr. Shawnya Harris to the Georgia Museum of Art. She brings additional scholarship and focus in American art, particularly art by African Americans and art of the African Diaspora. Larry and I wish her the best as she begins this exciting opportunity.”
Harris comes to Georgia Museum of Art with a wealth of experience. While the director of the University Galleries at North Carolina A&T State University, in Greensboro, North Carolina for eight years, Harris organized important art events that helped the University Galleries grow. In addition to developing and planning annual exhibition scheduled, she also programmed artists’ talks and lectures related to the art and culture of the African diaspora. Harris also developed a student volunteer group and internship program, worked to commission art and schedule artists in residence, among other important responsibilities.
Harris who received her bachelor’s degree in African American Studies from Yale University has also curated several important exhibitions. She organized exhibitions focusing on the artists John Wilson, James McMillan, Joyce Wellman, Joseph Holston and Richard Hunt. She has spoken widely on the concept of “African American art” and wrote her dissertation on the topic.
Prior to Harris’s directorship at the University Galleries at North Carolina A&T State University, she worked as an art consultant at North Carolina Central University’s art museum and as a research assistant at UNC Chapel Hill’s Ackland Art Museum. In her new position, Harris has an opportunity to help shape how the Georgia Museum of Art at the University of Georgia displays and communicates about works of African American and African art. As the Georgia Museum of Art embarks upon a reinstallation of its permanent collection in the near future, it is expected that Dr. Harris will bring great value to the museum’s future efforts.
Dr. William Underwood Eiland, director of the Georgia Museum of Art notes that Dr. Harris appointment will brings new energy of collaboration within and outside the museum. He notes: “Dr. Harris arrival at the museum as our first Thompson Curator marks not only a new initiative for the museum, but also endless possibilities for collaboration with other departments at the university and with our communities of service in Georgia. She will, in effect, transform and fulfill our mission.”
Dr. Harris new position is the result of the generous donation of the Thompsons. In January 2012, Larry and Brenda Thompson made the initial gift toward the endowment that funds Harris’ position when they donated a significant collection of works of art by African American artists to the Georgia Museum of Art at the University of Georgia. Since the donation, the Thompsons have continued to be an integral part the Georgia Museum of Art.