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Heard Museum joins ASU-LACMA fellowship program to address Indigenous representation in the field

Program aims to culturally diversify the leadership of art museums in the US

The ASU-LACMA Master’s Fellowship in Art History was founded four years ago as a partnership between Arizona State University and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA).

The goal of the program? To culturally diversify the leadership of art museums in the United States by supporting the professional growth of staff of color already employed at museums.

Last year, the Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) came on board; this semester, the Heard Museum has signed on as a new partner. The Heard Museum's first fellow, Roshii Montaño, joins the cohort of individuals already in the three-year degree program, along with three new fellows from LACMA.

“To remain a relevant and vital public resource, museums must do better at representing the diverse communities they serve,” said David Roche, Heard Museum CEO.  “Not only through exhibitions and programs, but also by the staff who are making creative and financial decisions for these institutions. There is a particular dearth of Indigenous representation in the museum field, and the Heard Museum believes that it must work to expand opportunities not just for Indigenous artists, but for museum administrators as well.” 

Roche noted that while graduate training in art history remains a requirement for many positions in the museum field, it is also one of the most significant barriers to equitable advancement. 

“Often, this means that talented potential employees must choose between subsistence living or pursuing graduate training,” Roche said. “And for many facing those circumstances, that is simply not a real choice. The Heard Museum is honored to partner with the ASU-LACMA Master's Fellowship in Art History program to address this issue. Roshii Montaño, Heard Museum assistant registrar, is someone that we see as having the ability to make significant and lasting change in the field, and we look forward to supporting her in this new endeavor.”

The program combines rigorous academic training with on-the-job experience to develop a new generation of diverse museum professionals, including curators, educators, directors and registrars, as well as development, research and administrative staff, with the goal of investing in the existing pathway of talent and accelerating the careers of individuals already working in museums.

The fellows earn their master’s degree in art history from the ASU School of Art’s distinguished art history program in the Herberger Institute, while also working at LACMA, the ASU Art Museum, the Pérez Art Museum of Miami or the Heard Museum.

“Together we will advance our commitment to create a more equitable and inclusive field of arts and culture through higher education, mentorship and professional development,” said Forrest Solis, director of ASU’s School of Art. “Collaborating with the Heard increases the program’s network of mentors and diversifies curricular offerings, but most importantly it extends the program to include fellows from the Heard Museum, providing them the opportunity to achieve the academic and professional goals previously out of reach.

"In that effort, we eagerly welcome Roshii Montaño as the first ASU-LACMA Fellow from the Heard Museum. We also look forward to continuing to grow the expanding national network of museum partners in the years to come.”

The first group of fellows graduated in May 2021, and one fellow graduated this past May. All of the fellows who completed the program have been promoted in their institutions or have new roles with greater responsibility in other institutions.

This fall there are nine fellows total in the program: five are second-year fellows, and the other four are just beginning the program. 

Montaño is a queer Diné scholar currently working in Phoenix. She graduated from Stanford University with a bachelor's degree in art history with departmental honors in 2020.

Soon after graduating, she joined the Heard Museum as an Andrew W. Mellon Fellow and was hired as assistant registrar in 2022. She has assisted in many exhibitions at the Heard Museum, contributed to the publication “Toward the Morning Sun,” and independently co-curated an exhibition at Idyllwild Arts. 

Woman's portrait

Ellen Joo

Montaño’s research interests include Indigenous queer performance, contemporary Indigenous art, decolonial theory and Navajo textile politics concerning gender, labor and economy.

Ellen Joo received her bachelor's degree in art history from Chapman University in 2019.

She joined the Chinese and Korean Art Department as an intern in 2019 and was hired as a research assistant in 2021.

Joo plans to research East Asian ink paintings with a focus on Korean ink paintings of the Japanese colonial period.

Through a global modernist approach, she aims to analyze the ambivalence East Asian artists experienced toward the importation of Western goods and ideas in art.

Emily Le received her Bachelor of Arts in art history and English, with a minor in archaeology, in May 2021 from the University of Southern California.

woman's portrait

Emily Le

Le first joined LACMA in 2019 as an Andrew W. Mellon Undergraduate Curatorial Fellow, first in the Japanese Art Department and then in the European Painting and Sculpture Department.

She is now working in LACMA’s development department as the annual giving assistant.

As an ASU-LACMA Fellow, Le plans to further explore her research interests in Asian American, Asian Diasporic and Southeast Asian art histories, especially in relation to ideas of memory, counter-memory and post-memory.

Jackeline Lopez received her Bachelor of Arts in anthropology with honors from the University of California, Los Angeles.

She joined LACMA as an Andrew W. Mellon Undergraduate Curatorial Fellow in 2019 and was hired as a curatorial administrator in the Art of the Ancient Americas department in 2021.

Lopez is a first-generation Latina from South Central Los Angeles who draws on her anthropological training to understand emic and etic power dynamics in museum spaces.

woman's portrait

Jackeline Lopez

Her goals as a scholar in the ASU-LACMA fellowship are to investigate implicit cultural practices that expect and even prompt emerging BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color) museum professionals to specialize in the very same curatorial areas that tokenize them and to help center Indigenous ontologies and narratives in Mesoamerican studies.

The ASU-LACMA program also has a new director beginning this fall: Cecilia Fajardo-Hill, an independent curator and art historian focusing on Latin American and Latino art, has joined ASU’s School of Art as visiting faculty. Fajardo-Hill was the chief curator of the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach, California, and the director and chief curator of the Cisneros Fontanals Arts Foundation and the Ella Fontanals Cisneros Collection.

She is editor of the upcoming book "Remains Tomorrow: Themes in Contemporary Latin American Abstraction," published by Hatje Cantz (2022), and has published and curated extensively on contemporary Latin American and international artists. Most recently, she co-curated the exhibition “Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960-1985,” a survey of radical artistic practices by women artists in Latin America, for the Hammer Museum.

In addition to the Heard Museum joining the ASU-LACMA fellowship program, ASU is partnering with the Heard to offer a new class in January 2023, in conjunction with an exhibition at the muesum titled “Substance of Stars,” which opens Oct. 1. The exhibition was sparked in part by the work of Herberger Institute Professor Wanda Dalla Costa, who is also contributing her writing for the exhibition and publication. At LACMA, Virginia Moon, assistant curator of Korean art, will teach a course as part of an ongoing effort to partner on graduate education.

On Sept. 12, ASU and LACMA will host “ASU-LACMA: The Changing Face of Museum Leadership” at the ASU California Center in downtown Los Angeles. This event, which is open to the public, will be moderated by Deborah Cullen-Morales of the Mellon Foundation and includes as panelists:

  • Miki Garcia, director, ASU Art Museum.

  • Michael Govan, CEO and Wallis Annenberg Director, Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

  • Dhyandra Lawson, recent graduate and assistant curator, Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

  • Matthew Villar Miranda, recent graduate and visual arts fellow, Walker Art Center.

  • Franklin Sirmans, director, Pérez Art Museum, Miami.

  • Celia Yang, recent graduate and major gifts officer, Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

deborah.sussman@asu.edu