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Block Museum Names New Curator

Janet Dees will join curatorial team from innovative art venue SITE Santa Fe
  • At SITE Santa Fe, Dees worked on innovative exhibits of international contemporary art
  • Dees brings leadership and experience in experimental curatorial practices
  • At Block, Dees to feature global perspectives on modern and contemporary art 

EVANSTON, Ill. --- The Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University has announced that Janet Dees will join the museum Sept. 21, 2015.

Dees brings to the Block expertise in contemporary art with a global perspective and leadership in the development of experimental curatorial practices from SITE Santa Fe, an innovative contemporary art venue committed to presenting visual art of our time.

Founded in 1995 to organize the first international biennial of contemporary art in the United States, SITE Santa Fe launched a new biennial exhibition series in 2014 that focused on art of the Americas -- an area in which Dees has played a major role.

“With her broad knowledge of global contemporary art, strong relationships with artists and her deep commitment to collaboration and interdisciplinary connections, Janet’s practice matches our mission,” said Kathleen Bickford Berzock, associate director of curatorial affairs at the Block Museum. “She will play a pivotal role in shaping our curatorial program, particularly in modern and contemporary art, by bringing multiple perspectives to bear in a dynamic fashion across time, place, culture and media.”

As curator at SITE Santa Fe, Dees developed and managed new curatorial frameworks that foreground fresh cultural perspectives. In this regard, she co-curated “Unsettled Landscapes,” the first exhibition of “SITElines: New Perspectives on the Art of the Americas,” a reimagined biennial exhibition series. In this exhibition, Dees worked collaboratively as part of a team of four curators to investigate ideas of broad contemporary relevance, through the works of contemporary artists from 15 countries.

She also co-organized a yearlong collaborative series of 20 projects including exhibitions and special events, featuring an international array of previous SITE Santa Fe artists on the occasion of the organization’s 20th anniversary. Additionally, Dees curated “Unsuspected Possibilities,” which was partially funded by a Robert Rauschenberg Foundation Innovation and Artistic Collaboration Grant and is currently on view at SITE Santa Fe.

“The Block is an amazing institution, and I am very excited to join it at a time when it is expanding its programming and profile,” Dees said. “I look forward to being a part of this process and becoming an active member of the Northwestern University and greater Chicago arts communities.”

In coming to the Block, Dees will draw upon her comprehensive understanding of museum practice and global contemporary art. Specifically, she researched and taught African and African-American art through her prior affiliations with the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Rosenbach Museum and Library in Philadelphia, the Paul R. Jones Collection of African American Art at the University of Delaware, the Museum for African Art in New York and the African Burial Ground Project.

Dees also considered Spanish colonial art at the Brooklyn Museum of Art in New York and the Hispanic Society of America. She further broadened her scope by nurturing an interest in contemporary Native American Art during her tenure at SITE Santa Fe.

“It is tremendously exciting to welcome Janet Dees,” said Huey Copeland, associate professor, department of art history, and associate dean for academic affairs, The Graduate School at Northwestern. “An inspiring curator, rigorous scholar and agile thinker, Dees’ work has time and again demonstrated her commitment to fresh cultural perspectives that both literally and figuratively remap the worlds of art and culture across the Americas. 

“She will not only complement cutting-edge engagements with the arts on campus, but also challenge all of us to think more expansively about how questions of colonialism, geography and power at once shape and deform our experiences of the visual world.”

Dees is a Ph.D. candidate in 18th-20th century American art history at the University of Delaware, where she also received a Master of Arts from the department of art history in 2005. She earned a B.A. in art history in 1998 with a minor in African/African-American studies at Fordham University in New York City.

“The Block, like Northwestern University, supports research that catalyzes innovation around the most relevant issues of our time, and Janet will have a shaping impact on the museum’s future artistic program,” said Lisa Corrin, the Ellen Philips Katz Director of the Block Museum. “She is committed to foregrounding artists that see through multicultural prisms, and we are all looking forward to expanding our presentation of new global perspectives.”


The Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University is committed to presenting art across time, place, culture and media and to considering art from interdisciplinary perspectives. It serves the academic and cultural needs of the University and Chicago-area communities with thought-provoking exhibitions, a rich and diverse permanent collection, dynamic programs and classic and contemporary film screenings at Block Cinema.

Celebrating its 35th anniversary in 2015, the Block is a dynamic, imaginative teaching and learning resource that aims to inspire a new generation of artists, scholars and arts professionals. Admission is free and open to all, and visitors are invited to participate in experiential learning opportunities that bridge the classroom and the world beyond the campus. 

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