Summer Curatorial Students

Student Curators Bring Diverse Perspectives to Aboriginal Art in New Exhibition

July 3, 2017

On July 20th from 5 – 9 pm, the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of UVA will open a major new exhibition curated by five undergraduate students from diverse backgrounds that are under-represented in the curatorial profession. The students’ exhibition, titled Songs of a Secret Country, features twenty-three artworks newly donated to Kluge-Ruhe by Stephen and Agatha Luczo.

This summer, Kluge-Ruhe is training the next generation of curators while addressing the pressing lack of diversity in American museums, as part of UVA’s broader Mellon Indigenous Arts Initiative. Five undergraduate students—India Ferguson, Imani Williford, Rosalba Ponce, Jake Martin, and Caitlin Keeve—have traveled to Charlottesville from their homes in California, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Florida to learn every aspect of designing an exhibition, from writing wall labels down to choosing wall colors.

India Ferguson is a rising senior from Florida International University who aims to attend a graduate program in curatorial studies. “I’m excited to celebrate the work of the Australian Indigenous artists in Charlottesville. It has been a great experience for our student curatorial group to create an exhibition that challenges us to immerse ourselves in different belief systems while reflecting upon our own identities.”

Songs of a Secret Country is the first display of a major new gift of twenty-three artworks to the Kluge-Ruhe Collection from San Francisco philanthropists Stephen and Agatha Luczo. Stephen is Chairman of the Board of Directors and CEO of Seagate Technology, a data storage solutions company and one of the world’s largest producers of computer hard drives. A model and former dancer, Agatha is the author of the children’s book Carla and Leo’s World of Dance. The Luczos began collecting contemporary Aboriginal art in 2006 and quickly amassed one of the largest collections in the USA. According to Blair Hartzell, curator of the Luczo Family Collection, “It is the brilliant level of engagement—with students, with the local community, and with artists from both America and Australia, that makes the Kluge-Ruhe the ideal home for this gift.” 

The donation features abstract, large-scale contemporary masterpieces from desert regions not heavily represented in the Kluge-Ruhe Collection. Curator Henry Skerritt explains, “The Stephen and Agatha Luczo Gift shows the continuing innovation and diversity of Aboriginal Australian art. Featuring some of the most important and acclaimed contemporary painters of the last decade—such as Makinti Napanangka and Harry Tjutjuna—it allows us to show the living nature of Aboriginal art and culture as it moves into the 21st century.” Director Margo Smith adds, “Kluge-Ruhe and the University of Virginia are tremendously grateful to the Luczos for the opportunity to use this major donation of artworks to advance our Mellon initiatives. Through this program Kluge-Ruhe is becoming the preeminent center for the study of Indigenous Australian art in the United States.”

Songs of a Secret Country: The Stephen and Agatha Luczo Gift and the accompanying catalogue will be launched on Thursday, July 20 at Kluge-Ruhe’s Night at the Museum event, with each student presenting a short “flat-chat” tour of key works in the exhibition. This event will also feature live original music by local band Adar, food trucks, beer from Blue Mountain Brewery and wine from Glass House Winery. Admission is $5 for non-members and free for museum members. It is family-friendly and no reservations are needed. For more information about the museum and this event, visit or call 434-244-0234.

Mantle Capitol Square

Groundbreaking Ceremony for Virginia Indian Commemorative Commission Monument

June 21, 2017

The Virginia Indian Commemorative Commission and the Virginia Capitol Foundation will host the Groundbreaking Ceremony for the Virginia Indian Tribute. This monument, entitled Mantle, recognizes the lasting legacy and significance of American Indians in the Commonwealth.

The featured speaker at the groundbreaking is Billy Mills, member of the Oglala Lakota (Souix) tribe and the Olympic gold medal winner of the 10,000 meter run in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. The Groundbreaking Ceremony will take place at 10 a.m. on Saturday, June 24 in Capitol Square, located at 1000 Bank Street in Richmond, VA.

The public is invited to join in the groundbreaking ceremony. To RSVP or for more information please call 804-308-2583 or email info@monumentalconsultingllc.comRain or shine.

To learn more about the Virginia Indian Commemorative Commission and "Mantle," visit the commission's website:


Shelley Niro

Shelley Niro Wins $50K Scotiabank Photography Award

May 15, 2017

Indigenous artist Shelley Niro has won the seventh annual Scotiabank Photography Award. This prestigious award recognizes a Canadian photographer who has made an outstanding contribution to contemporary art and photography. In addition to the $50,000 cash prize, the award includes a solo exhibition at the 2018 Scotiabank Contact Photography Festival and a book of the artists work published by Steidl of Germany. 

Shelley Niro will also be visiting the University of Virginia in Fall 2017 as a Mellon Indigenous Arts Initiative artist-in-residence.


Pocahontas and After

Karenne Wood Delivers Keynote at Pocahontas Conference in London

April 18, 2017

On Friday March 17, 2017 Karenne Wood, director of Virginia Indian programs at Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, delivered a keynote lecture at a conference in London marking the 400th anniversary of the death of Pocahontas.

The conference, Pocahontas and after: historical culture and transatlantic encounters, 1617-2017, was organized by the Institute for Historical Research at the University of London and was supported by the Omohundro Institute for Early American History and Culture, The British Library, and The University of Warwick.

Her lecture, Prisoners of History: Pocahontas and American Indian Women in Cultural Context, explores two very different stories of Native American women, Pocahontas and Mary Jemison. Continue reading.


UVA Alumna Joins African Art Conservation Team at VMFA

April 11, 2017

Sydney Collins, a UVA alumna and former intern at the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection, has joined the staff at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts as the Mellon Conservation Photographer/Technician. In this role, she is part of the team working on the Conservation Initiative in African Art. This Conservation Initiative is funded by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and aims to support in-depth technical examination, conservation, and art historical studies of the museum's African art collection.



Bigelow Receives Fellowships

March 21, 2017

Allison Bigelow, Assistant Professor of Spanish at UVA, has won two fellowships for her research on how European and indigenous empires responded to the same metallic materials in different ways. The Huntington awarded Bigelow a Barbara Thom fellowship, and the American Council of Learned Societies awarded her an ACLS Fellowship.

Bigelow studies the history of colonial science and technology, primarily vernacular scientific industries like agriculture and mining. These post-doctoral fellowships will support her current book project, Cultural Touchstones: Mining, Refining, and the Languages of Empire in the Early Americas. Cultural Touchstones applies literary methods to texts that fall between history and literature, showing how indigenous and European empires understand the raw materials of scientific inquiry differently. Each chapter focuses on a different metal – gold, silver, copper, and iron – and a discursive question that emerges in the writers’ responses to them: space, translation, form, and genre.

"This new attention to languages reveals when indigenous miners shaped metallurgical technologies in the colonial Americas (Barba 1640) and how their knowledges were translated out of the scientific record in Europe (Montagu 1670, Lange 1676, Hautin de Villars 1730). By tracing these mistranslations, I show how indigenous classifications like “intermediary ores” were replaced by colonial racial categories like “metales mulatos.” In this way, my work shows how the recovery of indigenous natural and technical knowledges can also shed new light on the history of racial ideologies and category-making in the early Americas."

More information about Allison Bigelow's research can be found on her profile page:

M Martinez

New Ground: The Southwest of Maria Martinez and Laura Gilpin

March 21, 2017

National Museum of Women in the Arts | Washington, D.C. | February 17–May 14, 2017

New Ground counters dominant 19th- and 20th-century narratives, which typically cast the American West as a masculine place of staged romance or rugged conquest. Through the works of potter Maria Martinez (ca. 1887–1980) and photographer Laura Gilpin (1891–1979), this exhibition illuminates the midcentury Southwest as a nuanced and dynamic environment in which these two women created art that embodied a distinctively modern aesthetic. Continue reading...

Regina Wilson

Aboriginal Australian artists are having a moment in the U.S. These women are at the forefront.

March 6, 2017

An article from featuring Curator of Indigenous Arts of Australia Henry Skerritt:

BY ELIZABETH FLOCK  March 1, 2017 at 4:33 PM EST

Almost exactly a year ago, walking through the Seattle Art Museum with my uncle, I stopped cold in front of a piece of art called “Munurru,” or “Rough,” by Aboriginal Australian artist Galuma Maymuru. My stepfather had recently passed away; it was his birthday week, and we had come to the museum for a distraction. Grief, people have always told me, comes in waves, and I’d found that to be true. The painting, made with natural pigments on eucalyptus bark, was made up of intersecting wavy lines, like ocean currents; it seemed as if each line led into the next. Continue reading...

Photo Credit from Aboriginal Australian artist Regina Wilson. Photograph by Vanessa Bellemore, courtesy Durrmu Arts. Wilson’s artwork is now on display at the Frost Museum in Miami, in the show “Marking the Infinite.”

Fellows Selected to Develop Indigenous Arts Courses

March 1, 2017

The Mellon Indigenous Arts Initiative has awarded fellowships to three Arts & Sciences faculty members for the 2017-18 academic year as part of an effort to establish UVA as a research center of excellence for the study of the Indigenous arts. The new Mellon Arts Fellows are:

  • Matthew Burtner, Professor and Chair, McIntire Department of Music
  • S. Max Edelson, Associate Professor of History, Corcoran Department of History

  • Douglas Fordham, Associate Professor of Art History, McIntire Department of Art

Read the full article here:

Mesoamerican Codices

New Summer Course at the Rare Book School

February 15, 2017

The Rare Book School has added a new course, The History & Construction of the Mesoamerican Codex, 600–1550, to be offered 16–21 July at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. The course will we taught by John Hessler, Curator of the Jay I. Kislak Collection of the Archaeology and History of the Early Americas at the Library of Congress. A brief description is below: 

Of the thousands of pre-Columbian books produced, only a handful have survived to the present day, all of which shed a bright light on the history, language, and book production methods and techniques of the Aztecs and the Maya.

This class will introduce the Mesoamerican Codex both as a physical and cultural object. By discussing not only the construction, material make-up, and pigments of the codices, but also by considering broader cultural questions regarding their languages, iconography, and provenance, students can begin to understand how these books functioned within indigenous societies and how they were perceived by Europeans during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Read more here. 


Curatorial Lab

Curatorial Lab @ UVA

February 6, 2017

The Curatorial Lab @ UVA is a new object-based experiential learning initiative at the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection. Under the guidance of Mellon Indigenous Arts Curator, Henry Skerritt, students from the art history and anthropology departments have been invited to curate an exhibition from the world-class collections at Kluge-Ruhe. Over the course of the semester, museum visitors will witness the evolution of the exhibition as students deepen their understanding of Indigenous Australian culture while answering the question “Did Aboriginal Artists Invent Contemporary Art?”

We invite you to join us for the launch of this new initiative on February 10, from 5:30-7:30 pm at Kluge-Ruhe, which will culminate on April 22 with a public presentation from the student curators of the exhibition. 

Curatorial Lab @ UVA is a collaboration among the McIntire Department of Art, the Department of Anthropology and the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection. 

Curatorial Lab students design the layout for their exhibition at Kluge-Ruhe. Photo by Henry Skerritt. 




Awakening Objects and Indigenizing the Museum: Stephen Gilchrist in Conversation with Henry F. Skerritt

January 18, 2017

A conversation with Mellon Indigenous Arts curator Henry Skerritt in Contemporaneity.

Curated by Stephen Gilchrist, Everywhen: The Eternal Present in Indigenous Art from Australia was held at Harvard Art Museums from February 5, 2016–September 18, 2016. The exhibition was a survey of contemporary Indigenous art from Australia, exploring the ways in which time is embedded within Indigenous artistic, social, historical, and philosophical life. The exhibition included more than seventy works drawn from public and private collections in Australia and the United States, and featured many works that have never been seen outside Australia. Everywhen is Gilchrist’s second major exhibition in the United States, following Crossing Cultures: The Owen and Wagner Collection of Contemporary Aboriginal Australian Art at the Hood Museum of Art in 2012. Conducted on April 22, 2016, this conversation considers the position of Indigenous art in the museum, and the active ways in which curators and institutions can work to “indigenize” their institutions. Gilchrist discusses the evolution of Everywhen, along with the curatorial strategies employed to change the status of object-viewer relations in the exhibition. The transcription has been edited for clarity.

Read the full article here:

American Indian Film Festial of Virginia

Richmond to host American Indian Film Festival - and Francis Ford Coppola might attend

January 16, 2017

Richmond Times Dispatch

The city is already rich in film festivals, and Richmond will soon be adding more to its repertoire by boasting some of the best of Native American cinema .

Organizers of the first American Indian Film Festival of Virginia, set for Nov. 17-19 at the Byrd Theatre, are aiming to make their inaugural event the biggest of its kind on the East Coast. They’re hoping to create a forum for telling stories of cultural affirmation, resistance and survival of Native Americans in the commonwealth and beyond.

Read full text:

Native Artists

A Step in the Right Direction for the Display of Native American Art  

November 29, 2016

Hyperallegic highlights the work of UVA curator Adriana Greci Green in a new article.

NEWARK — At the Newark Museum, Native American artworks are no longer displayed as mere cultural artifacts of the past. The museum’s impressive collection, formerly housed in a corner of the Main Building and far from the galleries for American, 20th-, and 21st-century art, has been rehung as Native Artists of North America. Enlivened with indigenous voice, its works have been temporally unmoored and allowed to speak across time and space.

Read the full text here:


UVA Student, Director Attend Rare Aboriginal Art ‘MAKARRATA’ in Australia

August 31, 2016

Sydney Collins’ four years studying art history at the University of Virginia culminated in an Australian Aboriginal ceremony that few in the art world have been privileged to witness.

Kluge Ruhe

Culture Couture

February 25, 2016

UVA’s Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection asked students to create couture garments featuring beautiful indigenous Australian textiles. The results are runway-ready and coming to the Charlottesville stage in March

Aboriginal Art

Backed by Mellon Grant, New Center to Study Indigenous Arts

January 8, 2016

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is awarding $815,000 to the University of Virginia to create a research center for the study of the indigenous art of Australia and the Americas.