Shawnya Harris is the new curator of African American and African Diasporic art at the Georgia Museum of Art at the University of Georgia in Athens. The newly created position is endowed by art collectors Larry and Brenda Thompson, who in 2012 donated over 100 pieces of African American art worth an estimated $1.5 million to the museum. The appointment also includes an endowed professorship.
Harris was recently an assistant professor at Elizabeth City State University in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, where she taught courses on African American art, 20th-century art appreciation, and others. Prior to that, she was the director of the North Carolina A&T University Galleries in Greensboro, an art consultant at North Carolina Central University’s art museum, and a research assistant at UNC Chapel Hill’s Ackland Art Museum.
Harris earned her bachelor’s degree in African American Studies from Yale University, and her MA and PhD in art history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where her dissertation topic was “Conceptualizing African-American Art: The Market, Academic Discourse and Public. Reception.”
The Thompsons have ties to UGA and the museum. Larry, the former PepsiCo. executive vice president and general counsel, recently rejoined the law school as a professor in corporate and business law. Brenda, who serves on the board of the Barnes Foundation and Clark Atlanta University Art Galleries, is the incoming chair of the Georgia Museum of Art’s advisory board.