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BMA Announces Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

/ Art News - Press Release

The Birmingham Museum of Art is pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Emily G. Hanna, Senior Curator of the Arts of Africa and the Americas as Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, a new position on the BMA’s executive leadership team.

“At the Birmingham Museum of Art, we now understand the urgency with which we must address systemic racism from an institutional standpoint, even amid the challenges presented by a global pandemic. The creation of this important position on our leadership team is the first actionable step we have taken since the BMA publicly committed to support the work of social justice and racial equity in early June,” says Dr. Graham C. Boettcher, The R. Hugh Daniel Director of the Birmingham Museum of Art. “I am proud to have Dr. Emily Hanna step up to serve in this capacity. For nearly two decades, Emily has advocated for inclusion in every facet of the institution, from staffing to museum collections. She has lifted the stories, experiences, and artistic achievements of diverse peoples and groups through her curatorial work and civic engagement, and this new role will allow her to lead the effort to create real and sustained change within our organization and our relationship with the community we serve.”

The Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion serves to lead, facilitate, and coordinate the internal and external efforts necessary to create an institutional environment that is welcoming, accessible, diverse, hospitable, and respectful to all. The position will strive to create an inclusive culture and drive organizational progress. This includes the integration of diversity, equity, and inclusion into the Museum collections, galleries, exhibitions, and programs; workforce development; supplier diversity and vendor/supplier development; internal and external communication; internal resource groups; and the development of accountability metrics.

Hanna has served at the BMA for nearly 18 years, curating over thirty exhibitions ranging from Haitian Vodou flags to contemporary Pueblo ceramics. She has long championed Alabama artists, curating numerous exhibitions including an annex dedicated to Alabama folk art, and the recent exhibition The Original Makers: Folk Art from the Cargo Collection, whose catalog won a 2019 ARLIS award.  Her exhibition Spiral: An African American Art Collective traveled to The Studio Museum in Harlem in 2011. In her role as curator of Native American art, Hanna has organized the Museum’s response to the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), and has shepherded a significant NAGPRA repatriation claim which will result in the return of three objects to the Tlingit people of Alaska next spring.  Her acquisitions of contemporary Native American art, and work with living Native artists, are transforming the Museum’s collection and its relationship with Native communities.

Hanna’s relationships with diverse community organizations and faith groups has resulted in programmatic exchange and partnership with several area HBCUs, the Ghana Sister City Committee, and the Birmingham Islamic Society, among many others. She established the Sankofa Society, a museum patron group dedicated to the exhibition and acquisition of African American art. She was the founding organizer of Miles College Night at the Museum, an annual evening event for the Birmingham HBCU, now in its sixth year. The relationship between the museum and the college continues to grow in scope.

Hanna received her Ph.D. in African Art from the University of Iowa. In between periods of graduate fieldwork in West Africa, she held a Whitney Doctoral Fellow at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Prior to joining the BMA, she taught and curated at Spelman College and Georgia State University, and served as an adjunct curator at the High Museum of Art. She is a graduate of the 2015 class of Leadership Birmingham, and was a 2016 fellow of the Center for Curatorial Leadership in New York. She is a member of numerous professional organizations, and served on the Committee for Diversity and Inclusion of the Association of Art Museum Curators.