Archives of American Art Announces Erin Jenoa Gilbert as Curator of African American Manuscripts and Rayna Andrews as Archivist for its African American Collecting Initiative

By the Archives
March 13, 2018
Three-year full-time positions and summer internships funded with support from the Henry Luce Foundation

The Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art announced two recent appointments today: Erin Jenoa Gilbert assumes a new position as Curator of African American Manuscripts and Rayna Andrews has been appointed Archivist of its three-year African American Collecting Initiative (the Initiative). Launched in April 2017 with a $575,000 grant from the Henry Luce Foundation, the Initiative aims to build upon the Archives’ existing collections by and about African American artists. The grant supports two full-time positions and one paid internship each summer to help maintain the Initiative’s efforts through 2020.

Drawing on her background as a curator of contemporary, modern, and African American art, Gilbert will develop a strategy for substantially increasing the collections of papers of and about African American artists and will travel nationally to acquire collections. Andrews will organize and catalogue the current collections and new acquisitions. Her work will result in the creation of online finding aids for scores of the Archives’ collections on African American art. These finding aids will greatly increase access and usability of the collections and will serve as critical resources for those performing research in the field.

Recruited from groups historically underrepresented in the field of art history, the interns will assist the work of Gilbert and Andrews and help with research and processing new acquisitions and creating finding aids. The Archives currently holds the papers of more than 50 African American artists including Romare Bearden, Sam Gilliam, Adrian Piper, Horace Pippin, William H. Johnson, Jacob Lawrence, Gwendolyn Knight, Alma Thomas, Bob Thompson, and Charles White

Archives of American Art Director Kate Haw said, “We are delighted to welcome Erin and Rayna who bring significant depth of scholarship, experience, and enthusiasm to help the Archives launch this important project. Working with our new colleagues, the Archives will broaden and diversify the representation of African American art and artists in its collections. We are deeply grateful to the Henry Luce Foundation for their generous support and enabling these new positions.”

Before joining the Archives, Gilbert was an independent curator. She has served as Director of Kruger Gallery; Manager of Community Engagement, Audience Development, and Adult Programs at The Studio Museum in Harlem; and Associate Director of the Leadership Advisory Committee at The Art Institute of Chicago. During her tenure at the Studio Museum, Gilbert produced more than 60 critical discussions of contemporary African and African American art featuring internationally acclaimed artists and curators, including the Museum’s Director Thelma Golden, artist Glenn Ligon, and architect David Adjaye.

Having lived in the U.S., Malawi, and the U.K., Gilbert is familiar with issues of national identity, migration, and immigration and has explored the relationship between art, power, and politics in her curatorial projects. Recent exhibitions include Zohra Opoku: Draped Encounters/Beyond Visage, Sienna Shields: Invisible Woman and Phoebe Boswell: Transit Terminal. Gilbert earned a B.A. in political science and a B.A. in African and African American studies from the University of Michigan and her M.A. in contemporary art from the University of Manchester.

Andrews was previously the Archives Assistant at the University of Pennsylvania Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books, and Manuscripts and Digital Projects Assistant for the College Women Project at Bryn Mawr College Special Collections. She has an MLIS in archival studies from Pratt Institute and a B.A. in comparative literature from Bryn Mawr College.