LACMA-ASU: Meet the future of art museum leadership

ASU’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts welcomes its inaugural cohort of students in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art–ASU Master’s Fellowship in Art History this semester.

The partnership, featured by The New York Times as well as other prominent publications, combines academic training and work experience to develop a new generation of diverse curators, directors and other museum professionals. The fellows are earning their master’s degree in art history from the ASU School of Art’s distinguished art history program in the Herberger Institute while also working at either the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) or the Herberger Institute’s ASU Art Museum.

Get to know these future art museum leaders:

JENNIFER CERNADA

Jennifer Cernada is from Miami, Florida, is 25 years old and has a BA in art history and visual and dramatic arts from Rice University.

What inspired you to apply for this fellowship?

I saw this fellowship as a special opportunity to continue to further my sophistication as a scholar without needing to sacrifice the possibility of continuing to support myself in Los Angeles by having a full-time job. My family has zero ability to help me financially, and after two years of working at LACMA, I knew I needed to take the “next step” to expand my earning power if I didn’t want to end up stagnant. Not romantic, but it’s real.

What do you hope to accomplish during your fellowship?

My undergraduate years showed me that theory could “liberate” me by giving me the tools to articulate my experience. As a woman, a black person and a first-generation American, I see knowledge as a form of empowerment and an act of resistance. This fellowship allows me to continue that journey, and hopefully will allow me to eventually gain a platform with which to introduce people with backgrounds similar to mine to the same knowledge in a more accessible way.

What’s your first memory of an art museum?

I had little to no exposure to “high culture” throughout my childhood. My family are actually working class immigrants from Colombia and Dominican Republic and so didn’t really visit art museums, concert halls, etc. in their home countries, let alone have the leisure time or interest to go to one in the United States. The first time I became interested in art was in sophomore year of high school when I took an AP art history course the first year it was added to the roster, and I became addicted to the aesthetic pleasure, the politics and the drama of it all. I found myself crying to a lot of BBC programming about the Renaissance and became obsessed with the Medici family. My first memory of an art museum is visiting the storage of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston with my Late Renaissance and Mannerism class in my first semester at Rice. There was a Botticelli on one of the pull-out art racks, and I geeked out.

Who’s your favorite artist (living or dead) and why?

I don’t have a single favorite artist, but I really appreciate the work of people like Ramiro Gomez and Julio César Morales (ASU Art Museum curator) who use their practice to highlight the hidden narratives of the immigrant and working class communities. In general, I gravitate towards work that centers stories/individuals from the periphery (historical or contemporary), so Kehinde Wiley, Lina Iris Viktor and Kara Walker are part of that group as well.

ARIANA ENRIQUEZ

Ariana Enriquez was born in El Paso, Texas, is 25 years old and has a BA in art history and a BFA in painting from Arizona State University.

What inspired you to apply for this fellowship?

I have been with the ASU Art Museum for five years now and am the current assistant registrar. When the opportunity arose to continue to work hands-on in collections management while attaining a graduate degree in art history through a program dedicated to diversity and inclusion, I could not pass it up. Upon reading the 2015 Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Art Museum Staff Demographic Survey, I learned that out of every 10 registrars in American art museums, only one of them is a person of color. This statistic is incredibly alarming and needs to continue to change in order to help make museum spaces accessible, where all feel welcome and witness their narratives told truthfully. This fellowship is lending a hand in accomplishing that.

What do you hope to accomplish during your fellowship?

I overall hope to garner a better understanding of the role of contemporary art institutions today while continuing my work at the ASU Art Museum, specifically being present while it experiences changes under a new and inspiring strategic plan. I am also eager to use this time to delve into my interests in researching contemporary Latin American women artists. As we are halfway through the first semester, I have already learned so much from my colleagues and know that I will continue to as the program progresses. It is already a very humbling experience thus far.

What’s your first memory of an art museum?

I thought about this for a while and could not remember for the life of me what my first encounter with an art museum was — however, my uncle has always had a strong influence in my experience with museums. As I have grown up, he never fails to take me to exhibitions when I visit him — it is our ritual thing to do. The exhibition that particularly sticks out to me as clicking in my head that “this is the space I want to work in, this is where I want to be” was Swiss-born artist Urs Ficher’s at MOCA Grand Avenue in LA in 2013. I have always regarded museums as special spaces, a place where I go to escape and bury myself in engaging works of art and ideas.

Who’s your favorite artist (living or dead) and why?

My favorite living artist is Kehinde Wiley. I attended his opening at the Phoenix Art Museum in 2016 and was mesmerized by his immense canvases, dedication to detail and ability to rework the traditional portrait in ways that raise questions about race, gender and power. The ornate and decorative background work rendered in his compositions reminds me often of Gustav Klimt’s work as well. I greatly admire them in the way they portray the human figure, each in a very different, but still arresting way.

DHYANDRA LAWSON

Dhyandra Lawson is from Scottsdale, Arizona, is 32 years old and has a BA in visual art and art history from Occidental College.

What inspired you to apply for this fellowship?

The LACMA-ASU Fellowship is unique. Many graduate programs are structured in a way that forces students to choose between pursuing advanced degrees and their careers. I love the work I do at the museum. I am thrilled for this opportunity to further my education at ASU alongside the field research my job entails.

What do you hope to accomplish during your fellowship?

I am already enjoying the intellectual engagement with ASU faculty, fellow students and colleagues. I look forward to pursuing my research areas of interest in mid-20th to 21st-century photography and time-based media.

What’s your first memory of an art museum?

While it is not my first memory at a museum, I distinctly recall the first time I experienced James Turrell’s Knight Rise (2001) at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art. That early experience transformed my ideas about what constitutes a work of art.

Who’s your favorite artist (living or dead) and why?

I could never choose!

MATTHEW VILLAR MIRANDA

Matthew Villar Miranda was born and raised in the High Desert in California, is 27 years old and has a BA in history of art from the University of California, Berkeley.

What inspired you to apply for this fellowship?

After four years with an expensive BA and five years in retail, I was anxious to begin a more rigorous research-based critical and social practice that dialogues with, and is in service to, Filipinx experiences.

What do you hope to accomplish during your fellowship?

More deeply integrate the ways MFAs, MAs and faculty collaborate, exchange and generate models for arts advocation across the various interdisciplinary departments at ASU and throughout the broader Valley (Arizona metro Phoenix area) community.

What’s your first memory of an art museum?

A sophomore year, high school field trip to the Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA). That night we also saw a live production of the smash hit in children’s literature “Too Many Tamales,” by Gary Soto and Ed Martinez.

Who’s your favorite artist (living or dead) and why?

Alfonso Ossorio (1916–1990) was a Manila-born, Harvard and Rhode Island School of Design-educated artist who sat Pollock, Krasner, the de Koonings, Barnett Newman, Clyfford Still, Motherwell, Rothko, Jean Dubuffet at his dinner table with queer people of color. He was a medical illustrator for the United States Army during WWII and was a conflicted penitential Catholic. He maintained a loving friendship with his divorced wife, Bridget Hubrecht, and had a hot, homosexual and lifelong relationship with a Broadway, Paris Opera and New York City Ballet dancer named Edward Dragon. I don’t feel like I can match his achievements but there is value in studying the life of a very visible Filipino-American who not only shared my body politics; but who also overcame odds to take and hold space for himself and his community.

CELIA YANG

Celia Yang is from Los Angeles and Shanghai, is 30 years old and has a BA in biological sciences from University of Southern California and a BA in art history from John Cabot University in Rome, Italy.

What inspired you to apply for this fellowship?

I have always wanted to continue my studies and enroll in a graduate program for art history, but did not want to give up (or put on hold) my career at LACMA. It also makes sense, as a development officer and a public advocate for the museum, for me to be well versed in the content at the institution, and the graduate program will give me an excellent base to work from. ASU is known for innovation in the classroom, and I am so thankful they have developed a graduate program which will allow me to pursue a degree and career at the same time!

What do you hope to accomplish during your fellowship?

I hope to dive deep into contemporary Chinese art as it is an exciting area of development at LACMA. The museum is gaining tremendous momentum in growing its Chinese art collection, with a gift of more than 400 contemporary Chinese ink works and with our partnership with the Yuz Museum (Shanghai) to share our collections. As a Chinese American who has a foothold in both worlds, it’s thrilling to be a part of it all.

What’s your first memory of an art museum?

I didn’t step foot into an art museum until college! Visiting museums, especially art museums, was not really something my family had the time or means to do. The first museum I ever visited was the Museum of Contemporary Art in Shanghai and I was blown away by the installation of works by Yang Yongliang.

Who’s your favorite artist (living or dead) and why?

My favorite artist this moment is Zheng Chongbin. His work with ink sparked my burgeoning studies of traditional Chinese paintings. His artwork is also ever evolving and now entering the realm of light, space and time, subjects that are very interesting to me considering the Light and Space movement began in Southern California, my hometown. I am surrounded by the art of Western Light and Space artists such as Helen Pashgian, James Turrell and Robert Irwin, so seeing a take on the concept from an Eastern point of view is fascinating.

LACMA-ASU: Meet the future of art museum leadership was originally published in ASU Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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