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2020 Art Curators Conference Keynote Dialogue Participants
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Art Curators Conference

 May 2 - 6, 2020 - Seattle, WA

Keynote Dialogue Participants



Sunday, May 3 

Kaywin Feldman, Director, National Gallery of Art

Kaywin Feldman (b. 1966, Boston, MA, USA) has an MA in Art History from the Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London, an MA in Museum Studies from the Institute of Archaeology at the University of London, and a BA, Summa cum laude, in Classical Archaeology from the University of Michigan. In March 2019, she became Director of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. She is the fifth director in the Gallery’s history, and the first woman to hold this important national position.

Prior to joining the Gallery, Kaywin led the Minneapolis Institute of Art as its Nivin and Duncan MacMillan Director and President. During that time, she doubled attendance, expanded the collection, launched and completed visionary strategic plans, and transformed the museum’s relationship to the Twin City community and to the nation through groundbreaking initiatives such as the Center for Empathy & the Visual Arts.She is a trustee of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the White House Historical

Association, and the Chipstone Foundation, and a member of the steering committee of the Bizot Group. She is a past president of the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) and past chair of the American Alliance of Museums (AAM). She has lectured widely and published numerous articles on many aspects of museums in the 21st century.


Sasha Suda, Director and CEO, National Gallery of Canada

Sasha Suda is the Director and CEO of the National Gallery of Canada.The youngest person to assume this post in more than a century, Sasha was appointed in February 2019 and is passionate about revitalizing the Gallery’s relevance to audiences across Canada and beyond. Her ambitions for the Gallery reflect both the times in which we live and art’s importance to them: to bridge cultures, to engender diversity and perspective, and to unleash the power that civic institutions hold.

To this end, Sasha has demonstrated immediate leadership by establishing three core institutional values that will help the workforce move in a bold new direction: the Gallery is centered on art; it offers a warm and generous welcome; and it embraces the unfamiliar and the future.

Born in Toronto to Czech parents, Sasha studied at Princeton University before completing her Master’s degree in art history at Williams College and her PhD at New York University. Her professional career began at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, where she worked in various roles in the Medieval Department between 2003 and 2011. Following this, Sasha returned to her native Toronto to work at the Art Gallery of Ontario, first as an assistant curator, and eventually as Curator of European Art and the Elliott Chair of Prints & Drawings. In these roles, she led major international exhibition projects and spearheaded innovative digital initiatives that presented historical art to audiences in a new light.

In addition to her work in major art institutions, Sasha sat on the Association of Art Museum Curators’ Committee for Career Advancement and represented Ontario at the Governor General’s Canadian Leadership Conference.

She lives in the Sandy Hill neighbourhood of Ottawa with her two children, Frances and Felix, her husband Albert, and their trusty dog Phil.


 Monday, May 4

Vishakha N. Desai, President Emerita Asia Society and Senior Research Scholar in Global Studies, Columbia University

Dr. Vishakha N. Desai is Senior Advisor for Global Affairs to the President of Columbia University, Vice-Chair of the Committee on Global Thought, and Senior Research Scholar in Global Studies at its School of International and Public Affairs. From 1990 to 2012 Dr. Desai held a variety of positions at the Asia Society, initially as the Director of the Asia Society Museum and for the last eight years as President and CEO. Under her leadership as Museum Director, Asia Society inaugurated a program of presenting contemporary Asian Arts. As President, Dr. Desai developed new centers in India and South Korea, and opened two new architectural landmarks for the society in both Hong Kong and Houston, Texas.

In 2012, in recognition of Dr. Desai’s leadership in the museum field, President Barack Obama appointed her to serve on the National Museum and Library Services Board. Her professional career spanning the last four decades, includes positions at the Cleveland Museum, Brooklyn Museum and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Along with her scholarship of pre-modern art, she is well known for organizing groundbreaking exhibitions of Asian and Asian-American art in the U.S. Dr. Desai is a Trustee of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and Chair of the Board of Trustees for AFS Intercultural Programs.

She serves as a member of the Board of Directors of Teach For All, as well as the newly established KREA University, slated to be one of India’s top private Liberal Arts universities. She also serves on the Corporate Board of Mahindra & Mahindra, one of India’s largest global corporations and has served as an Advisory Trustee to the Brookings Institution as well as Senior Advisor for Global Programs to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation.

Dr. Desai’s publications include: Asian Art History in the 21st century (March 2008), Gods Guardians and Lovers: Temple Sculpture of North India (November 1993), and Life at Court: Art for India’s Rulers (June 1985). She also publishes regularly in leading American and Indian publications on cultural and current issues. Recipient of five honorary degrees from American educational institutions, Dr. Desai holds a B.A. in Political Science from Bombay University and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Asian Art History from the University of Michigan.


Barbara Earl Thomas, Visual Artist and Writer

Barbara Earl Thomas is a writer and visual artist with numerous national exhibits to her credit. Drawing on her personal history between the American south and the Pacific Northwest, Thomas incorporates themes of people and their rituals with the land, foregrounding the mythologized, metaphorical sense of place as operating between a geographical and spiritual location. Thomas’ builds tension filled narratives through abstracted papercuts and prints, placing silhouetted figures within almost mythological landscapes. Thomas’s site-specific sculptural practice expands these forms into space; her public sculptures and large-scale installations incorporate light, space and location into her dramatic landscapes and scenography's. 

Thomas’ works are included in, among others, the Seattle Art Museum, the Tacoma Art Museum, Portland Art Museum, Microsoft, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, in addition to Washington State and Seattle City public collections. She is the recipient of the City of Seattle Mayor’s Arts Award for Cultural Ambassador, the Governor’s Arts Award, the Artist Trust Irving and Yvonne Twining Humber Award, and The Stranger Genius Award for excellence in the arts. Thomas has  lectured on arts and culture as well as serving as a  social and cultural activist who was instrumental in the creation of the Northwest African American Museum, where she served as its executive director from 2008 to 2012. She received her BA and MFA from the University of Washington School of Art.  She has upcoming major exhibits at the Seattle Art Museum in 2020 and the Henry Gallery in 2021. She is represented by the Claire Oliver Gallery in New York.


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