Richard B. Woodward is the founding curator of the African art collection at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and since 1977 he has guided its development to include more than 1,000 works of art. Woodward received an MA in the history of art from the University of Virginia and a BA in the history of art from Rutgers University. A staff member of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts since 1975, he has held senior administrative positions in the museum for more than 30 years. In 2000 he served as Interim Director and from then until 2010 as Senior Deputy Director for Architecture and Design, during which time he coordinated planning and construction of the VMFA’s award-winning expansion project that substantially increased gallery space for the collections and exhibitions.
Dr. Sylvia Yount, Chief Curator and Louise B. and J. Harwood Cochrane Curator of American Art, joined the staff of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in June 2007. Previously, she served six years as the Margaret and Terry Stent Curator of American Art and department head at the High Museum of Art. Before moving to the High, she spent eight years as Curator at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and as Chief Curator from 1999. In addition to completing pivotal collection reinstallations at all three institutions, Yount has organized major exhibitions (with accompanying catalogues) on Cecilia Beaux, Maxfield Parrish, and American modernism, among other topics. She received a PhD and a MA in the history of art from the University of Pennsylvania, and a BA in Italian from New York University. Yount has lectured and published widely on late 19th- and 20th-century American art and culture as well as on issues of curatorial responsibility and current museum practice. In addition to strengthening VMFA’s American holdings and providing leadership for the museum’s nine collecting areas, she is presently organizing a major traveling exhibition on the Colonial Revival, America’s most enduring cultural phenomenon.
Dr. Susan J. Rawles has been the Assistant Curator of American Decorative Art at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts since 2008, serving previously as Research Associate for the American department from 1995. She received a PhD in American studies from the College of William and Mary, an MA in the history of art from Rice University, and a BA in economics and government from Smith College. A specialist in American material culture of the colonial and revolutionary periods, she is particularly interested in the socio-historical context of art and has written and lectured on topics ranging from colonial portraiture to period interiors. Part of the 2010 reinstallation team for VMFA’s American art galleries, she co-authored the accompanying publication, American Art at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (2010).
Christopher C. Oliver, Assistant Curator of American Art, is currently a PhD candidate in the history of art and architecture at the University of Virginia, where he received his MA in 2008. He also holds a BA in art history from the University of Richmond. Oliver’s particular interests in American art encompass painting, sculpture, and prints of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. He has presented papers at museums and universities across the country on topics ranging from plantation life in the colonial South to the popular vogue for panorama paintings in the mid-nineteenth century. Before joining VMFA’s staff in 2013, Oliver worked as an Education Assistant at Reynolda House Museum of American Art as well as a guest curator at the University of Virginia Art Museum for John Toole: Itinerant Painter (2008). He also assisted in the research and publication of Matisse, Picasso, and Modern Art in Paris, a VMFA-UVA collaborative exhibition (2010). His dissertation research has been supported by several predoctoral fellowships from Winterthur Museum & Library, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Henry Luce Foundation, and VMFA.
Dr. Lee Anne Hurt Chesterfield currently holds the position of Director for Museum Planning and Board Relations and Assistant Curator of Ancient American Art at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Chesterfield received a PhD in art history from Virginia Commonwealth University and a BBA in marketing from James Madison University. She is a specialist in ancient South American art and architecture and her dissertation, entitled The Huacas of Machu Picchu: Inca Stations for the Communion Between Humanity and Nature, argues that huacas, or sacred places, defined the relationship between nature and human ritual practice. She became the Virginia Museum’s first curator of Ancient American Art in 2006 and opened the museum’s first permanent galleries for Pre-Columbian and Native American art in 2010. As the Director of Museum Planning and Board Relations, Chesterfield manages several special projects for the museum including strategic planning as well as Board communications and engagement.
Dr. Peter Justin Moon Schertz has served as curator of Ancient Art since October 2006 and the Jack and Mary Ann Frable Curator of Ancient Art since 2007. He received a Certificate of Museum Studies in 1997 and a PhD in classical art and archaeology in 2004 from the University of Southern California, where he wrote the dissertation Seer or Victim? The Figure of Marsyas in Roman Art, Religion, and Politics under the supervision of John Pollini. He received his BA in classical languages and literature from the University of Chicago in 1987. His specialty is Roman art, with a focus on the intersection of art and culture, particularly art and religion. His current projects include a study of the original polychromy of the Arch of Titus and an examination of the Second Temple in Jerusalem in its Roman context. He is particularly interested in how new technologies can help us understand and interpret ancient art and is also preparing a major exhibition drawn from museum and state collections in Italy that explores how ancient peoples communicated with their gods (scheduled to open in Spring 2017).
Barry Shifman, the Sydney and Frances Lewis Family Curator of Decorative Arts 1890 to the Present, joined the staff of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in 2007. Previously, he was in charge of the Department of Decorative Arts at the Indianapolis Museum of Art from 1988 to 2006. During the 1980s, Shifman was a curatorial assistant in the Department of Decorative Arts at both the J. Paul Getty Museum and Los Angeles County Museum of Art. While at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, he completed the reinstallation of the collection of Decorative Arts at the museum. Shifman has organized over fifteen exhibitions on subjects as diverse as American Arts & Crafts, Renaissance and Baroque European silver at the Armory Museum (Kremlin), and contemporary glass. He has published over twenty-five scholarly and popular articles, in journals such as Apollo, Revue du Louvre, Burlington, and Antiques, on topics such as Art Nouveau and Art Deco jewelry, 18th- to 19th-century Sèvres porcelain, American Arts & Crafts, and nineteenth-century British furniture. Shifman received his BA in art history from the University of California at Los Angeles and an MA in art history from the University of Chicago. He spent a year of independent study in Paris and six months at the Victoria and Albert Museum Study Centre in London. At present, Shifman is organizing a major traveling exhibition on Paris Fashion and Art Deco, 1910 – 1930.
Li Jian is the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Curator of East Asian Art at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Previous to joining VMFA in August 2007, she served as Kettering Curator of Asian Art at the Dayton Art Institute from 1995, and before that as a Mellon Fellow at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. In addition to overseeing the reinstallation of the Asian Wing in Dayton, Li curated two exhibitions with accompanying catalogues: Eternal China: Art from the First Dynasties (1998) and The Glory of the Silk Road: Art from Ancient China (2003). She received a BA in English and management in Beijing, and an MA degree in the history of art from the University of Minnesota. Since completing the installation of VMFA’s new East Asian galleries, Li has focused on strengthening the museum’s Chinese, Japanese, and Korean holdings. She is currently organizing a major exhibition on the Forbidden City, featuring the imperial art collection from the Palace Museum, Beijing.
Dr. Mitchell Merling, Paul Mellon Curator and Head of the Department of European Art, has been with the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts since 2005. He previously served as Curator at the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art and Curator of European Art at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Before that, Merling held predoctoral and postdoctoral fellowships at the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts at the National Gallery of Art, where he contributed to the Systematic Catalog volume on Italian Baroque Painting as well as to the Glory of Venice exhibition catalogue, coproduced with London’s Royal Academy. He is currently collaborating on a major loan exhibition of 19th-century French floral still lives to be held at VMFA and the Dallas Museum of Art in 2014 – 15, as well as anticipating the Fall 2014 publication of his exhibition catalog for Catching Sight: The World of the British Sporting Print. At VMFA, Merling oversees the Mellon collections of French, British Sporting, and American art, as well as the general European collections from the Middle Ages to the late 19th century. In addition, he serves as the in-house curator of the Gans Collection of English Silver. He is also supervising the acquisition of the Frank Raysor Collection of approximately 10,000 European and American prints.
John Ravenal is the Sydney and Frances Lewis Family Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art. Since coming to VMFA in 1998, he has organized numerous exhibitions, including Xu Bing: Tobacco Project (2011), Sally Mann: The Flesh and The Spirit (2010), Chuck Close: People Who Matter to Me (2010), Robert Lazzarini’s first solo museum exhibition (2003), Artificial Light (2006), Outer & Inner Space: A History of Video Art in Three Parts (2002–3), and Vanitas: Meditations on Life and Death in Contemporary Art (2000). In addition to museum catalogues, Ravenal’s publications include essays in Donald Sultan (Vendome Press, 2008) and Reclaiming Female Agency: Feminist Art History After Postmodernism, ed. by Norma Broude and Mary D. Garrard (University of California Press, 2005). Ravenal earned his MA and MPhil in art history from Columbia University in New York. Prior to coming to VMFA, he was the Associate Curator of 20th-Century Art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. In 2009 – 2011, he served as President of the Associate of Art Museum Curators, the North American professional organization for art museum curators in all fields. In 2012, he was a Fellow at the Center for Curatorial Leadership.
Dr. Sarah Eckhardt became VMFA’s Assistant Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art in 2011. She received her BA from Valparaiso University and her MA and PhD from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she was awarded a Henry Luce Dissertation Fellowship for her dissertation, Hedda Sterne and the Abstract Expressionist Context. At VMFA she works with John Ravenal, Sydney and Francis Lewis Family Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, and their department is responsible for the museum’s early 20th-century European holdings as well as the mid-to-late 20th-century and 21st-century collections, including photography and the sculpture garden. Before coming to VMFA, she worked at the Krannert Art Museum at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign and at The Menil Collection in Houston, Texas.
Dr. John Henry Rice, E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Curator of South Asian and Islamic Art, joined the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in 2008 as Associate Curator. He received a PhD and MA in the history of art from the University of Pennsylvania, and a BA in art and architectural history from Wesleyan University. A specialist in medieval and early modern South Indian art and architecture, his first task at VMFA was to lead the reinstallation of its world-class South Asian and Himalayan collections in five new galleries. He has written and lectured on subjects as diverse as symbolic architecture, medieval sculpture, and 20th-century photography. He is presently working toward a major traveling exhibition of Himalayan art that will showcase VMFA’s superb Tibetan and Nepalese material.