The High Museum, one of Atlanta's great art museums, is participating in the Andrew W. Mellon Undergraduate Curatorial Fellowship Program. | Photo by Ana Ioachimescu, Contributing Writer

The High Museum, one of Atlanta’s great art museums, is participating in the Andrew W. Mellon Undergraduate Curatorial Fellowship Program. | Photo by Ana Ioachimescu, Contributing Writer

By Ana Ioachimescu
Contributing Writer

On Sunday, Nov. 9, College sophomore and Wheel staff Cartoonist Luis David Blanco was announced as part of the High Museum of Art’s first class of fellows for the Andrew W. Mellon Undergraduate Curatorial Fellowship Program. Atlanta’s High Museum of Art is one of five museums across the nation participating in the fellowship program, alongside the Art Institute of Chicago, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH) and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City.

The program was open to freshman and sophomore students enrolled in undergraduate programs nearby each of the five museums. The two fellows in our area that will be collaborating with the High Museum of Art include Emory University student Blanco and Georgia State University student Christy Nitzanah Griffin. Both Emory and Georgia State are located not far from the partner museum. Additionally, the program was open to students from historically underrepresented groups in the curatorial field.

Blanco is originally from Miami, Florida. He is currently studying art history and international studies at Emory. Blanco is a self-taught painter and lover of historical art movements, contemporary art and film. Blanco’s curatorial mentor will be Michael Rooks, a curator of modern and contemporary art. Although he is not certain yet, Blanco thinks his fellowship may focus on video art.

“I was in Art History 102 in the spring and the email was sent to the entire class to apply for the Summer Academy, the program that leads up to the fellowship,” Blanco said. Blanco explains that he then applied for the Summer Academy, was accepted and attended the week-long intensive program alongside 14 other students. The next step was to apply for the two-year fellowship.

Blanco was informed of his acceptance into the program on Sept. 15. Since Blanco has been extended the fellowship, he has been close with his curatorial mentor, Rooks.

“During the course of the semester I will be trying to develop ideas with Michael for an upcoming project in the summer. The project will require me to work at the museum full-time for 10 weeks.”

Blanco foresees that the Andrew W. Mellon Undergraduate Curatorial Fellowship Program will be beneficial to himself, his curatorial mentor and the High Museum of Art.

“In many ways the program is set on allowing a mutual helpful relationship between the two fellows and the Museum. Everyone is hopeful that insightful conversations will be had throughout this program that will allow the High Museum to grow in ways that it had not before. In the same way, I will be exposed to many, many artworks, artists and ideas that I might have not known existed. I know that it will be a rewarding experience and hopefully the work that I produce over the next two years is also rewarding and insightful,” Blanco said.

While the fellowship will be an opportunity to grow for the curators and the High Museum of Art, Blanco is unsure whether he wishes to pursue a career in art history. He is considering either a degree in law or a dual degree in law and art history, but ultimately wishes to “keep an open mind on [his] career path.”

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is offering professional curatorial training for students in the fellowship program with a grant of $2,073,000.

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation was established in 1969 and aims to promote the humanities and the arts. It supports institutions such as the High Museum of Art in renewing the heritage and culture of art. The Foundation has five program areas for which is makes grants: Higher Education and Scholarship in the Humanities, Arts and Cultural Heritage, Diversity, Scholarly Communications and International Education and Strategic Projects.

The Foundation’s Curatorial Fellowship Program is a part of the Arts and Cultural Heritage program area. The goal of the fellowship is to positively impact American art museums by training gifted curators. Thus, the fellowship helps not only the chosen fellows, but also the museums with which they will be working with in collaboration.

This is not the first instance the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has worked in collaboration with either the High Museum of Art or Emory. In December 2011, the foundation supported a graduate curatorial training at Emory for $123,000. Similarly, the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship (MMUF) Program gave $500,000 to the University under the Diversity program area. Over the past few years, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded millions of dollars to Emory and the High Museum of Art for the sake of renewing the arts and humanities.

This recent fellowship program is a great achievement for Blanco, as there are many universities around the High Museum of Art area and many undergraduate students who could have been chosen for the program.

– By Ana Ioachimescu, Contributing Writer