Allison Glenn, curator of a Breonna Taylor exhibition, starts at the CAMH in Texas on August 1, stepping into a post previously held by the beloved Valerie Cassel Oliver.
Allison Glenn isn’t scheduled to start her new gig as senior curator and director of public art at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston until August 1, 2021, but she’s already thinking expansively about what can happen in the nation’s fourth-largest city.
Glenn, as part of her senior curator duties, will step into a position last held from 2001 to 2017 by Valerie Cassel Oliver, a trailblazing Black voice in the arts.
“She’s a star. She’s a legend in the contemporary art world and someone who I definitely look up to as a groundbreaking curator,” says Glenn about Oliver, who’s currently a curator of modern and contemporary art at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond.
“It seems like an opportune time to continue the work that I’ve done in my career, which is to work closely with artists to help them develop a depth of a practice through an exhibition, project, or commission that really pushes their practices,” Glenn adds.
The Detroit-born Glenn, the associate curator of contemporary art at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas since February 2018, has focused on themes of history, temporality, language, site, and identity.
She recently curated Promise, Witness, Remembrance, an exhibition at the Speed Art Museum in Louisville dedicated to Breonna Taylor. The praised exhibition assembled more than twenty Black artists—including Kerry James Marshall, Lorna Simpson, and Nari Ward—to reflect upon Taylor’s life, death by the hands of police officers, and subsequent protests against state violence.
“I do plan to continue curating exhibitions that respond to the contemporary moment,” Glenn says.
In addition to her curator duties, Glenn will lead the CAMH’s public art initiatives. Glenn has piloted Crystal Bridges’s outdoor sculpture program that spans 120 acres in a 200-year-old second-growth forest in the Ozarks. She’s a member of the Madison Square Park Conservancy’s Public Art Consortium.
She says that she’ll also encourage critical conversations from and about art establishments.
“The question of, ‘Who’s allowed into the institutional space?’ is something that institutions can get at from all angles. When we talk about bringing people in, we also have to think about what our boards, staff, and senior leadership look like,” Glenn says. “The more major institutions still need to be de-centered and allow for multiple voices to sit at the table. It’s my hope that I can continue to do that work in this role.”
According to a news release, Glenn and CAMH will collaborate with the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art on exhibitions and public projects planned for late 2021 and 2022.