Art & Culture

Latest News in Black Art: Major Artist Prize Goes to Sable Elyse Smith, New Chief Learning Officer at Cleveland Museum of Art, Kehinde Wiley Denied Sexual Assault Accusation & More


Latest News in Black Art features updates and developments in the world of art and related culture

 


Sable Elyse Smith. | Photo by Tommy Kha

 

AWARDS & HONORS

2026 Suzanne Deal Booth / FLAG Art Foundation Prize Winner
Sable Elyse Smith (b. 1986), above, is the latest artist recognized with the Suzanne Deal Booth / FLAG Art Foundation Prize. The generous honor includes $200,000, a solo exhibition that opens at The Contemporary Austin in 2026 and travels to The FLAG Art Foundation in New York. The prize also includes a new exhibition publication and related public programming. An artist, educator, and writer, New York-based Smith works across video, sculpture, photography, works on paper, and text. For more than a decade, her conceptual, multidisciplinary practice has focused on the ways in which “power in the carceral state of America consolidates and confines real lives; and how the carceral state permeates all aspects of American life.” Smith is the fifth recipient of the biennial prize established in 2016 by Suzanne Deal Booth, a trustee of The Contemporary Austin. The Texas museum administers the prize. (5/21) | More

“Sable is a prescient voice among her generation with a dynamic artistic background, and does not shy away from asking challenging questions. I’m eager to see how she will continue expanding the impact and possibilities of an artistic practice. It’s an honor to play a role in celebrating artists who are at an inflection point in their careers, and to support them with the platform, tools, and resources needed to access different communities and garner well-deserved exposure.” — Suzanne Deal Booth

Training and Support for Arts Leaders of Color in New York
New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) selected 18 leaders to participate in its Incubator for Executive Leaders of Color program. The group includes Brittni Collins, Director of Public Art, Powerhouse Arts; Iyvon E, Artistic Director, The Parsnip Ship; Atiba Edwards, President & CEO, Brooklyn Children’s Museum; Deadria Harrington, Producing Artistic Leader/Managing Director, The Movement Theatre Company; Lindsay Harris, Co-Director, Recess; David King, Director of Education, The Apollo Theater; Kimaada Le Gendre, Director of Education, Queens Museum; Adetoro Makinde, President and Co-Founder, Women Independent Producers; and Ghislaine Sabiti, Director of the Bead Project, Urban Glass. Facilitated by Chelsea Goding-Doty, NYFA Learning’s senior program officer for Leadership Initiatives, the free program is in its fourth session. The incubator provides training and community support for leaders of arts and cultural organizations based in the five boroughs. The participants were announced earlier this month. The program started in April and concludes in September. (5/12) | More

 


Arlene Williams. | Photo by Andre Dunston, Epic Media Photography, Courtesy NGA

 

APPOINTMENTS

National Gallery of Art Appointed New Director of Strategic Giving
Arlene Williams (above) joined the National Gallery of Art on May 6. Williams is the Washington, D.C., museum’s new director of strategic giving. She is charged with bringing in major gifts from corporate, institutional, and individual donors, funds critical to sustaining the museum’s exhibitions and programming. Most recently, Williams served as COO and senior vice president of special initiatives at the The Policy Academies in Washington. Her background includes 25 years of experience spanning nonprofit fundraising, program development, operations, and management. Over the years, she has held fundraising roles at a variety of organizations, including the Economic Policy Institute, the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Williams also served as director of development at the American Alliance of Museums earlier in her career. (5/20) | More

Newly Endowed Curatorial Role at National Gallery of Art
After 16 years leading the department of modern and contemporary art at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., Harry Cooper is stepping down to focus on curating. Cooper will become the inaugural Bunny Mellon Curator of Modern Art, a newly created position endowed by a gift from the Gerard B. Lambert Foundation. In the new role, he will “oversee paintings and sculptures from the first decades of the 20th century as well as later works that engage with the legacies of modernism.” Over the years, Cooper organized about 40 exhibitions at the National Gallery, including “Oliver Lee Jackson: Recent Paintings” (2019) and “Called to Create: Black Artists of the American South” (2022). He has also overseen the acquisition of more than 500 works of art. Highlights include Gee’s Bend quilts and other African American art of the South from the Souls Grown Deep Foundation; African American modern art from P. Bruce Marine and Donald Hardy; the first works by Oliver Lee Jackson, Norman Lewis, and Jack Whitten to enter the National Gallery’s collection; and the first sculptures by Thornton Dial and Sonia Gomes added to the museum’s holdings. (4/5) | More

Cleveland Museum Hires New Chief Learning Officer
The Cleveland Museum of Art in Cleveland, Ohio, appointed Jacquelyn Sawyer (right) chief learning officer. She officially starts June 17. Sawyer joins the Cleveland museum from the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. where she has served as vice president of education and engagement since 2021. Previously, Sawyer was interim director of Interpretation, Collections and Education at Baltimore’s Reginald F Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture in Baltimore and vice president of education at the National Aquarium in Baltimore. (5/24) | More

NEW INC. Advisory Council Members
The New Museum in New York announced eight new members of its NEW INC advisory council, including Nicola Vassell, founder of Nicola Vassell Gallery in New York, N.Y.; creative director Hassan Rahim, founder of New York creative studio 12:01; and Demetria White, global vp of storytelling and publishing communications at Nike Inc. The council now has 18 members. NEW INC, was founded a decade ago by the New Museum (which is currently closed for expansion). Described as “the first museum-led cultural incubator,” the nonprofit focuses on developing new art and new ideas. (4/29) | More

 

COMMENCEMENTS

Photo-Based Artist Satchel Lee Among SAIC Graduates
The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) held its commencement on May 20. New York artist Sanford Biggers received an honorary doctorate at the ceremony. SAIC is his alma mater. Biggers earned his MFA from the school in 1999. More than 1,000 undergraduates and graduates completed degrees in an array of disciplines, including Satchel Lee, daughter of Spike Lee and Tonya Lewis Lee. A multidisciplinary artist, she earned an MFA in photography. The filmmaker celebrated her achievement on Instagram. He posted: “Tonya And I Are So Proud Of Our Daughter SATCHEL LEE Who Graduated From SAIC (School Of The Art Institute Of Chicago) Yesterday. Satchel Finished Undergrad At NYU-Tisch School Of The Arts.” (Spike is a professor at NYU’s Tisch School.). | More

 

MORE NEWS

Kehinde Wiley Accused of Sexual Assault, Denied Allegation
British-born Ghanaian artist Joseph Awuah-Darko (b. 1996) accused American artist Kehinde Wiley (b. 1977) of sexual assault in a lengthy Instagram post on May 19. Later that same day, Wiley refuted the allegation in an Instagram post of his own. Awuah-Darko, founder of the Noldor Artist Residency in Ghana, wrote that Wiley assaulted him twice in Ghana on June 9, 2021. He said the two incidents occurred during and after a dinner honoring Wiley. In a four-sentence statement that has since been removed, Wiley responded, in part: “Someone I had a brief, consensual relationship with almost three years ago is now making a false accusation about our time together. These claims are not true and are an affront to all victims of sexual abuse.” Los Angeles-born, New York-based Wiley is of Nigerian heritage through his father and has an international profile. Best known for painting the official portrait of President Barack Obama for the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in 2018, Wiley is the founder of Black Rock Senegal, an artist residency in Accra. On May 4, he received the Rees Visionary Award at Amref’s ArtBall in Brooklyn, benefitting healthcare programs across Africa. “Kehinde Wiley: An Archaeology of Silence” closed today (May 27) at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston in Texas, and is scheduled to travel next to the Pérez Art Museum Miami. His most recent exhibition, “Kehinde Wiley: A Maze of Power” opened May 15 at the Museum of Black Civilisations in Dakar, Senegal. (5/19) | New York Times
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