Position Announcement: Curator of Native American Art, Portland Art Museum, Oregon

The Portland Art Museum is currently accepting applications for the position of Curator of Native American Art.  This full-time curatorial position is responsible for the care, research, and exhibition of objects in the Museum’s Native American art collection; researching and developing Native American and indigenous exhibitions; working on related educational programs; and building strong, active, and ongoing relationships and partnerships with Native communities.  The position also supervises the Museum’s new Center for Contemporary Native Art, as well as the presentation of all traveling exhibitions of Native American art scheduled by the Portland Art Museum.

Founded in 1892, the Portland Art Museum celebrates its 125th anniversary this year as one of the oldest art museums in the United States and the oldest in the Pacific Northwest. The Museum’s collection of 47,500 objects reflects the history of art from ancient times to today. The collection is distinguished for its holdings of arts of the native peoples of North America; modern and contemporary art; Asian and American art; photographs, prints, and drawings; and English silver. With more than 112,000 square feet of gallery space, the Museum dedicates 90 percent of its gallery space to its permanent collection. More than 300,000 visitors are welcomed annually, including more than 50,000 students.

Preeminent among the Museum’s permanent collection is the Native American Art collection. Established in 1948, this collection has been on continuous view since 1949, when the Museum was the first institution to dedicate permanent gallery space to the exhibition of Native American objects as works of art rather than as anthropological artifacts. In the past five years, the Museum has quadrupled its holdings of contemporary Native American art, bridging its significant historic art holdings with 21st century artistic and cultural practices. Also during this time, the Museum has worked to establish relationships with local, regional, and national tribes—relationships which have, in part, allowed the Museum to fulfill its Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act responsibilities. Most recently, the Museum repatriated eighteen Crow medicine bundles to the Crow Nation in Montana.

The Museum’s Native American Art Initiative (NAAI), a three-year project from 2012-2015 funded by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), resulted in the digitizing and online publication of its world-class collection of Native American art, comprising approximately 3,500 objects, dating from pre-European contact to the present and featuring important historic and contemporary works from nearly every tribal group in North America.  The increased visibility of the Museum’s unique collection of Native American art benefits scholars, students, and the general public. Thanks to a generous grant from the Mellon Foundation, the Curator of Native American Art position also has access to expanded resources needed to conduct collections research and strengthen display practices in Native American art. This support from the Mellon Foundation includes a pre-doctoral fellowship position in Native American art, reporting to the Curator of Native American Art.

In 2015, the Museum opened its new Center for Contemporary Native Art—a dedicated gallery for presenting the work and perspectives of contemporary Native artists. At the core of the Center’s mission is the commitment to partner with Native artists in creating the exhibitions, interpretation, and programming for the space. This approach challenges visitors to think about Native American art and the cultures that inform the work as dynamic and changing, strengthening a contemporary view of Native art in the Museum. The Center is being supported by a 2-year grant from IMLS, which includes an evaluation of the Center’s initiatives conducted by the Native Nations Institute at the University of Arizona.  Future funding will need to be secured.

In 2016, the Museum presented the acclaimed Contemporary Native Photographers and the Edward Curtis Legacy, an exhibition that juxtaposed contemporary portraiture by Native American photographers alongside Edward Curtis’ renowned work; and hosted the traveling exhibition Native Fashion Now, celebrating the visual range, creative expression, and political nuance of Native American fashion.  As the Museum looks to the future, it is excited to continue planning for a major traveling exhibition featuring objects from its permanent collection of Northwest Coast art.  An envisioned exhibition entitled The Art of Resilience: A Continuum of Tlingit Arts (working title) will celebrate the spirit of Tlingit art past and present. The Curator of Native American Art and museum staff will work closely with artists, scholars, leaders, and partners in the Tlingit community and Southeast Alaska in planning and implementing this major exhibition and its interpretation. Works, including magnifi
 cent masks, Chilkat and Ravenstail robes, bentwood chests, and clan crest adorned ornamental and utilitarian objects of the highest quality and stunning workmanship, will reveal the strength and spirit of the people of Southeast Alaska—art that has come to epitomize the Native Northwest Coast art tradition.  This exhibition, related programming, and a scholarly catalog have been supported by a generous grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

•       Conducts ongoing research on the Museum’s Native American collections and on Native American art in general.
•       Develops exhibitions and installations from the Museum’s permanent collection; develops programs that promote a deeper understanding of Native American art and the continuum of indigenous artistic and cultural practices.
•       Coordinates exhibition and programs and helps fundraise for the Center for Contemporary Native Art, working closely with the Director of Education and Public Programs.
•       Conducts research, selects objects, and works with registrars on coordination of loan agreements, packing and shipping, and other exhibition details.
•       Writes catalogues, brochures, and other publications; writes exhibition wall labels and extended object labels.
•       Works to build relationships and partnerships with Native communities in Oregon, the Pacific Northwest, and beyond.
•       Works with Education Department and curatorial colleagues (as needed) to develop programs and activities that relate to or enhance exhibitions and permanent collection installations.
•       Presents gallery talks, docent lectures, and public lectures on relevant exhibitions and aspects of the permanent collection and temporary exhibitions.
•       Makes recommendations for acquisitions and de-accessions to the Director, Chief Curator, Director of Collections and Exhibitions and the Museum’s Collections Committee.
•       Cultivates collectors and funder prospects for possible donations of art objects and financial support.
•       In partnership with the volunteer Chair, leads the Native American Art Council; provides guidance and advice for programming and other council activities.
•       In partnership with the Chair, leads the Native Art Advisory Committee to invite input and feedback on exhibitions, programs, and collections pertaining to Native American art and issues relevant to Native communities.
•       Works with the Development Office to develop support for programs and activities.
•       Works with the Library to develop research and reference materials related to curatorial area.
•       Serves as a curator-in-charge of traveling exhibitions, as assigned.
•       Participates in the professional and intellectual discourse related to Native American art as well as the museum profession; provides services to the disciplines through participation as an active member of professional organizations.
•       Is conversant with the Native American art market, maintains contact with dealers, galleries, collectors, fellow professionals, and other constituencies as appropriate as a basis for collection growth and exhibition development.
•       Fields and responds to inquiries from the public.

•       M.A. in Art History, Cultural Anthropology, Native American Studies, Curatorial Studies, or Museum Studies, and 5 years of related work experience or equivalent combination of education and experience.
•       In-depth knowledge and appreciation of Native American art, including contemporary, traditional and historic materials and a working knowledge of tribal history and culture.
•       A demonstrated record of working successfully with Native communities.
•       A demonstrated history of superior ethical behavior.
•       Demonstrated high level of initiative and persistence in completing assignments.
•       Proficiency in MS Office Suite, including Word, Excel, Outlook and web-based research tools.

•       Possesses the ability to effectively navigate between Native and non-Native communities
•       Promotes diversity and difference. Keen sense of organizational awareness.
•       Exceptional interpersonal skills, able to quickly develop rapport, as well as build and maintain effective long-term relationships with trustees, staff, colleagues, tribal communities, volunteers, docents, and the Native and non-Native art communities.
•       Strategic perspective to consider the impact of decisions, plans, and programs on the Museum, and make sound recommendations accordingly.
•       Analytical and conceptual thinking.
•       Displays drive and purpose.
•       Demonstrates ethics and integrity in general, and honors tribal protocols and ethics specifically.
•       Excellent verbal and written communication skills, with the ability to prepare and deliver concise, understandable, and effective presentations to a wide audience.
•       Ability to work within a complex, fast-paced environment.
•       Highly organized and attentive to detail with the ability to manage multiple projects simultaneously.

This position is full time with a salary depending on experience. The position is anticipated to begin when the successful candidate is identified.  The position is eligible for the Museum's benefits package first of the month following 30-days of full-time employment. Benefits include medical and dental, paid time off (vacation, sick, holiday, jury duty, bereavement), long-term disability and AD&D, 401(k) retirement account, flexible spending accounts, and a variety of perks such as free Museum admission, Gift Shop discounts, and screenings at the NW Film Center. Please see our website for more details.

To apply online visit: https://pamcareers.hyrell.com and follow the link to create a profile. Please contact hr@pam.org with questions.

The Portland Art Museum is an Equal Opportunity Employer

Closing Date: June 30, 2017