Spelman College Awarded $5.4 Million Grant for AUC Initiative to Increase Diversity in Museum Field

Spelman College has received a $5.4 million grant from the Walton Family Foundation to establish the Atlanta University Center Collective for the Study of Art History and Curatorial Studies. In conjunction with Walton Family Foundation grants to fund scholarships at Morehouse College and Clark Atlanta University, the new initiative will result in the creation of an Art History major and Curatorial Studies minor at the Atlanta University Center.
The goal of the package of grants is to foster innovation and create an educational pipeline into art museum leadership that is more representative of our nation’s increasing diversity.  The initiative will position the Atlanta University Center as a leading incubator of African-American museum professionals in the United States.
“The Atlanta University Center has a rich history of excellence in the arts. Atlanta University was the home to the first art department at a historically Black college and university and their Art Annuals event was one of the most prestigious exhibitions for black artists. The Spelman College Museum of Fine Art and Clark Atlanta University Art Museum are national treasures,” said Spelman President Mary Schmidt Campbell, Ph.D. “The Walton Family Foundation grant builds on this history. We applaud the foundation’s commitment to closing the diversity gap to ensure that leadership at the nation’s cultural institutions begins to reflect the shifting demographic profile of the communities they serve.”
A 2015 demographic survey of U.S. art museums by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation found that only 16 percent of museum leadership positions are held by minorities, even though 38 percent of Americans identify as Asian, Black, Hispanic or multiracial. Among art museum curators, conservators, educators and leaders, only four percent are African American and three percent are Hispanic, the study reported.
With the five-year Walton Family Foundation grant, Spelman will create an Art History major and elevate its Curatorial Studies program to a minor that will begin enrolling students from Spelman, Morehouse College and Clark Atlanta University in fall 2019.
“When we increase access to art, we plant the seeds of inspiration for the future,” said Alice Walton, board member of the Walton Family Foundation. “This grant to Spelman College and the Atlanta University Center will encourage and support greater diversity within the Arts, expand inclusion efforts in the museum community and inspire the next generation of art and museum leadership.  I am thrilled to support this collaboration with these historic institutions and look forward to celebrating their success.”
The initiative began this fall with planning for enhanced coursework in Art History and Curatorial Studies, guest lectures and other efforts to raise awareness of the new course offerings and attract current and prospective students to the new program.
Over the course of the Walton Family Foundation grant, the funding will support:

  • Scholarships for AUC students to incentivize their enrollment in the Art History major and Curatorial Studies minor and for Art History majors to minor in fields such as business and technology.
  • Opportunities for hands-on experiences through paid internships at major museums, archives and other cultural institutions across the country.
  • Hiring a distinguished visiting professor/director, a visiting associate professor of art history and curator-in-residence.
  • A 2019 lecture series, featuring at least three guest lecturers who will deliver public lectures in the field of art history and museum professions on all three campuses.
  • An intensive summer program for high school students, starting in 2019, to cultivate a pipeline of talented, diverse students interested in pursuing museum careers.
  • Bringing in guest faculty members in art history for each academic year.

Leaders in the fields of art, museum curation, higher education and philanthropy shared their thoughts on the transformative initiative:


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