AAHC Forum: Curatorial Fellowship at the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts Paves the Way for Young Curators

This post is a part of the AAHC Forum. In the coming months we will invite current and past grantees to contribute their project experiences via blog posts on our UpNext Blog and then ask you to respond through the AAHC Virtual Forum. We hope you will add your voice and share your needs and opinions so that AAHC can continue to help African American museums thrive. Please visit the AAHC forum to continue the conversation.

By Jessica Lanay Moore, Curatorial Fellow
Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts

When I submitted my materials for the Curatorial Fellowship at the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (MoCADA), I was well aware that thousands of art history students apply for fellowships each year in the hopes of getting a foot in the door. You can imagine my excitement when I received an e-mail telling me to pack my bags and move from Macon, Georgia to New York City. I left on Valentine’s Day, ready to start the very next morning on February 15, 2011.

It was all too perfect, a reaffirming moment in my budding career as a historian of the arts of the African Diaspora. I had studied with scholars, including Henry Drewal and Sidney Kasfir, as an undergraduate and graduate student. I was awarded an internship at the Michael C. Carlos Museum in the African Art Curatorial Department, and I curated two shows at the University of Wisconsin–Madison while finishing my master’s degree. I was ready.

MoCADA has been a staple in the Brooklyn community for twelve years, and the institution is currently in the middle of a major expansion. Entering the organization at such an exciting time has proved to be full of opportunities for growth as a scholar and a professional. On the first day, I met Nelson Nance, a filmmaker, artist, curator, and the museum’s other new curatorial fellow. We would be working together closely over the next year. The first few weeks showed us what our responsibilities at the museum would be: assisting in the Exhibitions Department, planning a three-month exhibition complete with public programming, and working on selected projects interdepartmentally.

New York and MoCADA had received me with open arms, but those open arms also held responsibility. The independence and creative freedom that came with the Curatorial Fellowship showed me that the time I was to spend in New York would have the most value if I stepped out of my comfort zone and embraced the challenge. MoCADA is not the Met or MoMA. It is more. It is a museum that provides the opportunity for young curators to lay out their dreamscapes while providing them the support to build on that foundation to make it a reality. MoCADA provides space for great minds to proliferate its mission, and I was invited into that space.

I am proud of a number of accomplishments that I have achieved as a result of the MoCADA team’s support and guidance. The exhibit that Nelson and I curated, NEWSFEED: Anonymity & Social Media in African Revolutions and Beyond, opened on October 18 and was attended by dignitaries, local politicians, influential press, and the local Brooklyn community. I could not be prouder of the exhibition that we developed from concept to execution.

Curatorial fellows pose for a photo.

Curatorial Fellows Nelson Nance and Jessica Moore with MoCADA's Founder, Laurie Cumbo and guests at #NEWSFEED Opening Reception. Photo by Kwesi Abbensetts, 2012.

Artists gather around an exhibit at MoCADA.

#NEWSFEED exhibiting artists Lisa C Soto, Jasmine Murrell, and Delphine Fawundu-Buford at #NEWSFEED Opening Reception. Photo by Kwesi Abbensetts, 2012.

As a curatorial fellow, I also had the opportunity to interview former Black Panther Jamal Joseph and authors Tanner Colby and Patrick Thomas. The Colby interview aired on CSPAN.

Looking ahead toward the two additional NEWSFEED satellite gallery space openings, the printing of the exhibition catalog, and the production of a documentary about the show, I am grateful that I was given the opportunity to work at my full capacity and have that capacity challenged. I am incredibly excited about the opportunities to come after February 2013!

#NEWSFEED :: Exhibition Preview from MoCADA. Created by Nelson Nance, Curatorial Fellow, 2012.

About MoCADA
The Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (MoCADA) uses the visual arts as a point of departure for exploring new artistic production across a variety of disciplines. Through exhibitions and programming, MoCADA incites dialogue on pressing social and political issues facing the African Diaspora, and fosters a dynamic space for the creation and continuous evolution of culture.

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2 Responses to AAHC Forum: Curatorial Fellowship at the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts Paves the Way for Young Curators

  1. Keila Dumas says:

    Thank you for sharing this. You have taken me on a journey through your writing and I’m excited to know more. Culture is forever blossoming with history and we need more people to experience this.

  2. Dina Bailey says:

    Amazing blog, Jessica! It’s wonderful to hear how much your time in NYC has meant to you. There has been so much growth and you are still confident and yearning for more! I appreciate what you’ve written here and am inspired yet again.

    THANK YOU!!!!

    I hope I can get up to NYC soon!