Art and community are at the heart of the Spencer Museum of Art’s (SMA) mission and guide our daily work and long view. As part of the Museum’s commitment to serving diverse communities of learners at the University of Kansas; in Lawrence, Douglas County, Topeka and Kansas City; across the state of Kansas, and beyond, the Museum strives to stimulate creative inquiry through collaborations with artists, visiting and KU scholars, and community partners. The Curator for Public Practice will project a strong voice in shaping and communicating the direction of the Museum as an open, welcoming, invested, and active community partner with a dedication to equity, justice, accessibility and community care.
Stimulating community engagement forms one of the Spencer Museum’s four strategic directions. Key goals include:
Co-develop rich content and socially relevant programs and exhibitions with local and statewide community members;
Expand inclusive opportunities for communities across Kansas and beyond to experience Museum resources;
Sustain the Spencer Museum as a valued resource through innovation, responsiveness, and strategic communications;
Use the collection to proactively investigate enduring questions through exhibitions, programs, and digital initiatives.
As a scholar, educator, and advocate who is passionate about art and its role in civic and community life, the Curator will elevate the Museum’s commitment to communities locally and statewide. This position will support, advance, expand and bring new imagination, knowledge, and experiences to a strong foundation of creative and embedded community engagement at the Spencer Museum of Art. The person in this position will lead with an integrated curatorial and pedagogical vision to create greater relevance and accessibility to a public-centered practice.
The Curator will bring both expertise and an eagerness to learn and participate in new areas and forms of inquiry, contributing to creative and intellectual growth and expanding institutional practices. A community builder, the Curator will foster a welcome, collegial, and highly collaborative environment for coworkers and publics, contributing to productive workflows and the flourishing of ideas. Additionally the Curator will have an adaptive leadership role, actively participating in a changing art museum environment to advance equity and strengthen institutional capabilities. To these ends, the Spencer Museum seeks an intellectually curious and highly creative professional with an openness and flexibility for experimentation and demonstrated commitment to accessibility and inclusion, collaboration, and interdisciplinarity.
The Curator will join and play an active role in both the public practice team, which includes education and interpretation, visitor experience and public programs, and the curatorial/academic staff team, which includes curatorial, academic programs, research, and conservation. Reporting to the Marilyn Stokstad Director and with oversight of the public practice team, the person in this role serves as part of senior management, representing the interests and pursuits of education, public practice, and community partnerships.
The Spencer Museum of Art especially encourage individuals with disabilities, people of color, and LGBTQAI+ individuals to apply.
Due to COVID restrictions, this position will begin teleworking and may transition to on-site work when deemed safe and necessary.
Public Practice (45%):
- Galvanize community engagement within Lawrence and the Kansas City region as well as across the state of Kansas (both urban and rural areas).
- Ensure that community voices are heard and included, not just in a single exhibition, scholarly project, or program, but as part of sustained collaborations.
- Build upon and bring cohesion and strategic direction across a range of collaborations and projects for and with multiple publics, including those who comprise the Lawrence, Topeka and Kansas City metro regions as well as more rural Kansas communities.
- Align public practice with the broader artistic, scholarly, and civic goals of the museum itself, especially with regard to developing work that advances social equity and justice.
- Conceive, develop, co-create, supervise, and/or facilitate community-led and community-generated exhibitions, performances, artist residencies and commissions, public programs, and scholarly projects of relevance locally and globally.
- Research, co-create, and support exhibitions, interpretive materials (digital and analog), and educational projects centered on meaningful and relevant community engagement with the Museum’s resources.
- Serve as a consultant and partner to other curators, public practice, and exhibition teams as they conceive strategies for community voices and statewide engagement across Museum exhibitions, programs, and with collections.
- Develop projects designed with artists and community, including residencies and artist commissions that activate Museum collections, spaces and facilities to inspire, engage, and serve Lawrence and neighbors in new ways.
- Envision, contribute to, and participate in a range of collection-based learning opportunities, community building, and engagement activities in person and digitally.
- Contribute to the SMA’s communications and digital presence through creation of content and recommendations for marketing language and approaches to expand awareness of the Museum and programs to communities across Kansas.
- Lead the collection of feedback and future-looking input from the SMA’s varied communities for special projects, institutional planning initiatives, and daily operations.
- Participate in the continued shaping of Museum plans, including: strategic; collections; digital; interpretive; and diversity, equity, access, and inclusion (DEAI), to ensure appropriate reflection of institutional commitment to community inclusion and inform strategies around collecting and archiving key outputs and measuring key outcomes of community engagement activity.
- Initiate, facilitate, and participate in research projects and various forms of public scholarly engagement that meaningfully integrate works of art with education, civic engagement, community development and social justice.
- Actively contribute to rethinking presentations and understandings of the Museum’s collection to incorporate community voices and perspectives.
- Expand the Museum’s vital role as an active and trusted community member and center for scholarly, creative endeavor.
- Serve as project lead for grant-funded activities and scholarship for public practice, education and interpretation, and other community-centered projects, by contributing to the development of ideas, research, authoring grant narratives and supporting documents, and overseeing the implementation of grant-funded projects.
- Initiate, develop, and collaborate to deliver front end, formative, and summative evaluations of projects for and with the public on a regular basis to better understand and address community interests and goals and to make visible SMA impact to staff, stakeholders and communities. Acquire and maintain Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval/status as needed for audience studies that contribute to SMA learning, broader research culture at KU, and the museum field.
Leadership, Supervision, and Administration (20%):
- Provide strategic vision and direction to guide the activities and ambitions of the pubic practice team ensuring alignment with larger institutional goals.
- Identify opportunities for staff across SMA departments to participate in relationship building and partnerships with community in Lawrence and Douglas County, Kansas City, and throughout the state of Kansas, and coordinate these efforts to maximize engagement statewide.
- Infuse the goals, perspectives, and interests of communities into planning conversations, decision making, and institutional vision setting.
- Guide program development and manage projects and efforts to ensure the integration of Museum and community voices and efficient collaborative work practices.
- Supervise, motivate, and review activities for direct reports (Director of Education and Interpretation and Associate Director for Public Engagement).
- Mentor students and Museum interns from diverse disciplines.
- Manage the creation and spending of related budgets, endowments, grant funds, and gifts in collaboration with leadership and public practice team.
- Contribute to fundraising activities for public practice and education projects, including exhibitions and programming.
- Participate in developing and articulating the artistic vision and future physical expansion of the Spencer Museum of Art.
- Serve as an active member of the senior management, public practice, and curatorial/academic staff teams.
- Collaborate with public practice and curatorial/academic staff teams in forming and successfully working with Community Advisory Groups and community consultants to contribute to and shape Museum-generated projects.
- Represent the Museum when needed (regionally, statewide, and nationally) and make appropriate contributions to professional communities and wider publics, including:
- Local, regional and/or statewide community organizations;
- Museum and University committees;
- National and international scholarly and professional organizations.
For appointment at the Assistant Curator level:
- Ph.D. or terminal degree.
- Minimum three years of relevant arts and/or museum experiences.
- Broad knowledge of the arts and visual culture.
- Demonstrated record of scholarship such as completed dissertation, peer-reviewed publications, projects or performances, and/or contributions to exhibitions and exhibition publications.
- Demonstrated ability to work collaboratively and creatively on teams.
- Experience working openly and effectively with diverse community members, including students and artists.
- Demonstrated success in working both independently and collaboratively on multiple projects within a deadline-driven environment.
- Experience with or in collaborative community-based settings and record of participation in professional or field-based activities.
- Demonstrated record of spirit of innovation, openness to experimentation, and trying new ideas to spark change.
For appointment at the Associate Curator level:
- Consideration will be given to assignment of Associate Curator based on all of the above, plus the following.
- Eight or more years of relevant arts and/or museum experiences.
- Documented achievement of high-level, professional expertise in fields or areas of specialization and demonstrated record of accomplishments that advance the goals of the SMA, the University of Kansas, and the profession.
- Quality and quantity of research (scholarship and/or creative and innovative work) demonstrating a successfully developing career.
- Demonstrated pattern of service to an institution at one or more levels; to the discipline or profession; and/or to the local, state, regional, national, or international communities.
- Demonstrated experience with program development, evaluation, and/or audience research.
- Two or more years of supervisory experience.
- Preferred areas of arts-based expertise include: performance, sited work, digital/time-based media, mixed media, literary/public art, social practice, early modern art, African art, art of the African diaspora, sculpture, design and material culture (textiles, ceramics, furniture), or photography.
- Demonstrated experience working with art collections.
- Demonstrated record of making art accessible.
- Strong technological capacity for and experience developing digital curatorial and educational projects as demonstrated by record of scholarly, educational, and/or artistic digital projects.
Contact Information to Applicants
Celka Straughn, firstname.lastname@example.org
Additional Candidate Instruction
An online University of Kansas application with the following:
- Cover letter
- Curriculum vitae
- Sample of written work (no longer than 5,000 words) or other scholarly product
- Names and contacts for four academic and professional references
Application review begins Friday, January 8, 2021 and continues until a qualified pool of applicants is identified. For first consideration, apply no later than Thursday, January 7, 2021.
Link to job listing online.