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Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art names first endowed position honoring Auburn alumna, artist

Aaron Levi Garvey to assume curatorial role after national search
Published: February 10, 2022
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Through a major planned gift to Auburn University, the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art at Auburn University has created its first endowed position, the Janet L. Nolan Director of Curatorial Affairs.

Following a nationwide search, Aaron Levi Garvey has been selected to assume this reimagined curatorial role for Auburn. Garvey is a Jewish-American curator and historian whose work in modern and contemporary arts and culture revolves around notions of creating community and broadening its definition.

“I am honored to be entrusted with this position, the legacy of Ms. Nolan and to continue my work creating measurable community impact through exhibitions and collection building at an R1 university museum,” Garvey said. “This role and institution epitomize the crux of my curatorial practice in thinking globally and working locally, and I am excited to begin my work at Auburn.”

Garvey comes to Auburn from his chief curator role at the Jonah Bokaer Arts Foundation in New York. Previous posts include curatorial leadership roles at Georgia’s Savannah College of Art & Design Museum of Art, New York’s Art For Thought Foundation and Florida’s Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville. Recent exhibitions and projects include the co-founding and directing of Long Road Projects Foundation, an organization that focuses on supporting artists with residency, edition publishing and exhibition opportunities; The Hudson Eye, in Hudson, New York.

Additionally, Garvey curated “We Are What You Eat,” the inaugural art exhibition at the United Nations headquarters in New York City and co-curated the “Atlanta Biennial (ATLBNL): Recent Correspondence” at Atlanta Contemporary, with forthcoming exhibitions “Invisible Thread” at The Baker Museum–Artis Naples and “Flashing the Leather” at Alabama Contemporary in Mobile. He has worked with such noteworthy audiences as David Hammons, Allora & Calzadillia, Terence Koh, Laetitia Hussain, Marina Abramovic, Bibbe Hansen and Rachel Libeskind.

A 1968 Auburn graduate with a Bachelor’s in Visual Arts, Nolan (1925-2019) lived and worked in Manhattan, becoming a nationally recognized artist. Her work is in the collections of Harvard University in Boston, the 9/11 Memorial Museum in New York City and the Asheville Art Museum in Ashville, North Carolina. She also served many years on the museum advisory board and gifted significant objects to the museum.

“Through her work, Janet Nolan demonstrated curiosity and a willingness to experiment to tell a story,” said Cindi Malinick, museum director and chief curator. “These qualities are essential for any curatorial position. Aaron will work very closely with museum advancement and communications leads, the director of education, engagement and learning as well as with faculty, students, independent artists and leading cultural organizations.”

Malinick added that academic and major institutions are similarly democratizing the curatorial voice. “This collaborative structure is another major step to integrate the museum fully into the university’s intellectual life and research.”

“It was a privilege to feature Janet’s work before her passing,” said Malinick, who curated “Please Play Again” in 2019. “She was a trailblazer with many accomplishments. It is fitting, then, that Auburn’s museum joins the ranks of institutions with endowed positions because of her generosity. We look forward to our 20th anniversary in 2023 and the possibilities to endow other positions and initiatives.”

Located at 901 South College Street in Auburn, the museum is open Tuesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. CT, with extended hours on Thursday from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. Exhibitions on view include “Faculty Exhibition Seven,” “FretHaus,” “Object Lab” and “Radical Naturalism–Tommy Coleman: A New Nature & my problem with the vessel.”

Admission is free, and donations are welcome. For more information, visit jcsm.auburn.edu.

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