Dalila Scruggs named Smithsonian museum’s first African-American art curator

Scruggs, who holds a doctorate in the history of art and architecture from Harvard, will gather essential pieces of African-American art and contribute to the exhibition program at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. 

The Smithsonian American Art Museum has its first Augusta Savage Curator of African American Art.

According to ARTNews, Dalila Scruggs — an educator and curator with a background in mediums including 19th- and 20th-century painting, prints, sculpture, and photography — will start her new position on April 22.

“I am delighted to welcome Dalila Scruggs to SAAM as the inaugural Augusta Savage Curator of African American Art,” said museum director Stephanie Stebich.

Dalila Scruggs, Smithsonian American Art Museum, theGrio.com
Dalila Scruggs has been named joined the Smithsonian American Art Museum as its first African-American art curator. (Photo credit: Jeffrey Mercado)

Scruggs — who received her doctorate in the history of art and architecture from Harvard University — will gather essential pieces of African-American art in her new role and contribute to SAAM’s exhibition program. 

She will also support the cross-departmental project “American Voices and Visions,” which aims to reinstall the museum’s collection.

Since 2021, Scruggs has been the photography and prints curator at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York City. She worked as a guest curator at the Brooklyn Museum in 2020. 

She had previously worked as a curatorial fellow at the Williams College Museum of Art, an assistant curator of American art at the Brooklyn Museum, and a consultant curator at the University of Alabama’s Paul R. Jones Collection of American Art, ARTnews reported.

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Scruggs has also contributed to books such as “Brooklyn Museum: Highlights” and “The Awe of the Arctic: A Visual History” for the New York Public Library and written articles, including “Activism in Exile: Elizabeth Catlett’s Mask for Whites” for the American Art Journal.

Named in honor of Augusta Savage, a sculptor, educator, and director of a community art program connected to the Harlem Renaissance, Scruggs’ new role is supported by an endowment of $5 million from anonymous contributors.

According to SAAM, Savage was among the pioneering artists who often worked with Black physiognomy. Her most well-known creation from the 1920s is Gamin, a bust portrait of her nephew that earned her a Julius Rosenwald Fellowship to pursue further studies in Paris in 1929.

“SAAM is home to one of the most significant collections of African-American art in the world,” added Stebich, ARTnews reported, “and I am so pleased that Dr. Scruggs will bring fresh, thoughtful analysis to these works that evoke themes both universal and specific to the African-American and the American experience.”

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