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Behind the scenes

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When its expansion opens to the public Nov. 12, the High Museum debuts a dramatic change of staff, distinguished by a new roster of curators.

Curators play a vital role in defining a museum's vision by advising the administration on important acquisitions and organizing exhibitions. Nearly as significant as the High's expansion will be the ability of its curators to build the museum's reputation both locally and nationally.

In the past two years, the High has hired Michael Harris in the newly created position of consulting curator of African-American art, associate curator of folk art Susan Crawley, curator of photography Julian Cox, curator of modern and contemporary art Jeffrey Grove, and head of museum interpretation Julia Forbes. The position for curator of decorative arts remains vacant.

A thumbnail sketch of the High's curatorial staff follows, as well as descriptions of significant pieces from the permanent collection on view for the first time within their areas of expertise.

David Brenneman

David Brenneman - HIGH MUSEUM

Title: chief curator and curator of European art

Previous position: assistant curator of paintings at the Yale Center for British Art in New Haven, Conn.

At the High: 10 years as curator of European art; four years as chief curator

Goals: "In the future, I'll be looking to further strengthen the collection with more sculpture, late 19th-century paintings, prints and drawings. I'm particularly interested in the work of the Nabis artists, 19th-century French sculptors, and paintings and works on paper by certain Impressionist and Post-Impressionist artists.

Newly exhibited: "Mademoiselle Cha-u-Kao, Female Clown, Seated" by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, 1896. The subject of this work, done in crayon, brush and spatter lithograph on laid Japanese paper by the French Post-Impressionist, is a famed Moulin Rouge dancer, acrobat and clown and one of Toulouse-Lautrec's most famous models.

Julian Cox

Julian Cox - HIGH MUSEUM

Title: curator of photography

Previous position: associate curator in the department of photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles

At the High: Six months

Goals: "The High's collection is relatively small compared to most major museums in this country. The High has an obligation to be informed and engaged with what's happening with photography in the region and grow its collection in a way that plays to its strengths. One of its current strengths is its collection of work in the South, particularly its collection of Civil Rights photos from that era in the South."

Newly exhibited: "Untitled" by Angela West, 2000. This quietly menacing, witty photograph is from a series of work on the Atlanta-based artist's father. West's work centers on the subject of her Dahlonega hometown, its people and its landscape.

Susan Crawley

Susan Crawley - HIGH MUSEUM

Title: associate curator of folk art

Previous position: student; received a master's in art history from Georgia State University in 2004

At the High: One year

Goals: "For the next several years, I will focus purchases on Southern artists. In the meantime, I welcome donations of high-quality works from artists both inside and outside the region, because in a few years, we will examine the collection and determine whether we are ready to expand our sights to areas outside the Southeast in a focused manner."

Newly exhibited: "Waiting for Sandy" by Nellie Mae Rowe, 1978. This work by the Georgia self-taught artist and child of a former slave is full of vibrant color, whimsical, flattened forms and memories of rural Georgia life.

Linda Dubler

Linda Dubler - HIGH MUSEUM

Title: curator of media arts

Previous position: program director and festival director for IMAGE Film & Video Center

At the High: 20 years

Goals: "I expect that contemporary, artist-created video will be represented through the work of Jeffrey Grove in the modern and contemporary department. Given the blurring of lines between video and film, I think we'll see more works created on video and presented in a theatrical setting."

New programming: An international shorts showcase, and a program of animated shorts for children ages 5-11 will screen during the High's opening weekend.

Michael Harris

Michael Harris - HIGH MUSEUM

Title: consulting curator of African-American art

Previous position: currently a professor of African and African-American art history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

At the High: 11 months

Goals: "I'm trying to begin the process of strengthening the African-American art collection so that we have great works by great artists. Sometimes we have great artists but not always great works by them. I want to expand the definition of African-American art to include the Caribbean and other portions of the African diaspora. I'd also like to strengthen the holdings and the focus on the period of the black arts movement of the '60s and '70s, as well as art that is rooted in African-American culture and folklore."

Newly exhibited: "Tar Top" by Radcliffe Bailey, 1995. One of Atlanta's most successful artists and an Atlanta College of Art graduate, Bailey's mixed-media assemblages of photography, found objects and paint give drama and gravitas to the artist's personal and African-American history. This 96-by-120-inch work incorporates tar paper, acrylic, oil stick, encaustic, tar, Plexiglas, photography, silk flowers, dried flowers, glass, fabric, and electric lights on wood. Although purchased by the museum in 1996, it has never before been shown.

Jeffrey Grove

Jeffrey Grove - HIGH MUSEUM

Title: curator of modern and contemporary art

Previous position: associate curator of contemporary art at the Cleveland Museum of Art in Ohio

At the High: 11 months

Goals: "In terms of diversifying, representing more of the plurality and interdisciplinary aspect of the contemporary art scene, particularly of the last 20 years. Individual artists currently work in multimedia more so than in the past, and one of the challenges is how to represent that."

Newly exhibited: "Dragon (Drache)" by Anselm Kiefer, 2001. This 185-by-220-inch oil emulsion on canvas piece is by the German Neo-Expressionist known for his grand-scale works dealing with German history and the Holocaust.

Carol Thompson

Title: curator of African art

Previous position: associate curator and curator for education at the Museum of African Art in New York

At the High: Four years

Goals: "I want to build a collection that includes not only the classic forms of African art that people are most familiar with -- such as the masks and figurative sculptures -- but also ancient works and contemporary works."

Carol Thompson - HIGH MUSEUM

Newly exhibited: "Male and Female Reliquary Guardian Figures" by unknown Fang artist in Cameroon, 19th century. Composed of wood, ancestral relics, brass and glass, these serene figures with their bold, Cubist-evocative forms were said to have inspired 20th-century artists such as Henri Matisse and Constantin Brancusi.

Sylvia Yount

Title: curator of American art

Previous position: chief curator at Philadelphia's Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, overseeing the 18th-, 19th- and 20th-century collections of American sculpture, paintings and works on paper

Sylvia Yount - HIGH MUSEUM

At the High: Four years

Goals: "With the generous support of local patrons, I also hope to continue to build our 1930s and 1940s social realism/regionalism holdings. Works by African-American artists would be a particular focus of this period, underlining Atlanta's identity as a cradle of social justice and civil rights."

Newly exhibited: "Half-Tide, Annisquam River" by Cecilia Beaux, 1905. Considered one of the finest female painters at the turn of the 19th century, the artist is best known for her portraits. This is one of her rare landscapes, offering a view from the artist's summer home and studio in Gloucester, Mass.

"Untitled" by Angela West - ANGELA WEST
"Waiting for Sandy" by Nellie Mae Rowe - HIGH MUSEUM
"Reliquary Guardian Figures" by an unknown Fang artist - HIGH MUSEUM OF ART / JONATHAN HILLYER

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