Portland Art Museum hires Assistant Curator of Native American Art

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The Portland Art Museum announces the creation of a permanent Assistant Curator of Native American Art position thanks to a major grant from the Leadership in Art Museums Initiative. Erin Grant was hired to fill this role and began her work in this position on July 3, 2023.

The Leadership in Art Museums (LAM) initiative comprises four national funding partners, Alice L. Walton Foundation, Ford Foundation, Mellon Foundation, and Pilot House Philanthropy. Over the next five years, the LAM funders will commit over $11 million in funding to museums to increase racial equity in leadership roles such as curators, conservators, collections managers, community engagement staff, educators, and other senior leaders in a manner designed to advance racial equity.

Portrait of a smiling woman with long brown hair, a blue and white striped shirt, and a silver necklace

The Portland Art Museum was one of 19 museums across the country selected through a competitive and thorough application process. The selected museums have pledged to make these new positions permanent and to develop a diverse pool of applicants in a manner that is inclusive of communities of color, including Black, Latinx, Indigenous, Arab, Asian, and Pacific Islander communities—a process that the Museum is already committed to. 

“This new position is a game-changer. We will now be able to focus on necessary work in our collections as well as exhibitions and more public-facing work, said Kathleen Ash-Milby, Curator of Native American Art. “Both are needed as we continue to build our relationships with Native communities in the region and beyond.”

The Assistant Curator of Native American Art role will initially focus on National Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) compliance—including tribal communications and continuing resolution of remaining active NAGPRA claims—and planning for the Museum’s major redesign and re-installation of the Native American art permanent collections galleries. Eventually, the role will touch all aspects of the Native American curatorial program, supporting Kathleen Ash-Milby, Curator of Native American Art, focusing both on the collection of historical Native objects and cultivating the curation of contemporary Native art, and building relationships with the local Native communities.

Grant has been with the Portland Art Museum since February 2022 when she joined as an IMLS Curatorial and Community Partnerships Fellow. Over the past 17 months, her primary focus has been supporting Dakota Modern: The Art of Oscar Howe and Jeffrey Gibson: They Come From Fire by driving the Museum’s programs and community outreach with Native American communities in the greater Portland area for these two exhibitions. 

“It is a great honor to be selected for this grant and to be recognized for the work that we are doing, and are seeking to do,” said Portland Art Museum Director Brian Ferriso. “Our Native American art collection and related programs and community relationships are among our greatest priorities and strengths at the Museum. I am grateful for this remarkable grant, and for Kathleen’s leadership and I am thrilled to have Erin here to fill this role.” 

About Erin Grant

Erin Grant is a member of the Colorado River Indian Tribes with family at Hopi, the Gila River, and throughout Phoenix, Arizona. She holds a Bachelor’s in History from Seattle University. As a 2019 graduate of the History of Design & Curatorial Studies M.A. program offered through The New School and the Smithsonian Design Museum, she specializes in Native American art and design, and American material culture. She completed internships at the New York Historical Society, American Federation of Arts, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Indian Arts Research Center (School for Advanced Research).

“As an Indigenous scholar and museum professional, I have always strived to be the bridge connecting institutions and their audiences to the worlds and cultures they reflect. I am guided by community collaboration and outreach methodologies. As I seek more growth opportunities, I am eager to continue my work in the prioritization of Native voices and to contribute my voice on a bigger scale at the Portland Art Museum.” — Erin Grant

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