JoAnne Northrup (image courtesy of Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art)
“JoAnne’s extraordinary curatorial experience, keen eye, intellectual fervor and generosity of spirit will be invaluable to the museum, college and community.”
Johnson County Community College is pleased to announce the appointment of JoAnne Northrup as the new Executive Director and Chief Curator of the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art. Northrup succeeds Bruce Hartman, who retired from this position Dec. 31, 2020, following a 30-year career at JCCC that included the establishment of the Museum in 2007. Northrup began her new role Aug. 2.
Northrup is known for her innovative and prescient exhibitions that connect the avant-garde to the audience. Over her 30-year career, she has curated hundreds of exhibitions of contemporary art ranging from outstanding regional artists to blue-chip art stars. “I am elated with JoAnne Northrup’s appointment to the Nerman,” stated Hartman. “JoAnne’s extraordinary curatorial experience, keen eye, intellectual fervor and generosity of spirit will be invaluable to the museum, college and community. She is a fantastic addition to our region’s distinguished group of museum directors and professionals.”
Northrup comes to the Nerman from the Nevada Museum of Art, where she founded their contemporary art program in 2012. As Curatorial Director and Curator of Contemporary Art, she mounted cutting-edge exhibitions including the nationally touring “Unsettled” (2017-19), organized in collaboration with iconic Los Angeles artist Ed Ruscha.
It was in Nevada that Northrup’s exhibitions won Hyperallergic magazine’s Best of/Top 20 Exhibitions of the Year award, and two American Alliance of Museums’ Frances Smyth-Ravenel Prize for Excellence in Publication Design “Best in Show” awards.
Prior to her time in Nevada, Northrup was Fulbright Senior Research Scholar at the ZKM Center for Art + Media Technology in Karlsruhe, Germany. As Chief Curator (2008-2011) and Senior Curator (2001-2008) at the San Jose Museum of Art in California, Northrup reoriented the exhibition program and acquisitions to reflect and engage the community of this “majority minority” city.
“JoAnne highlighted her experience in engaging diverse contemporary artists and in cultivating communities that otherwise might not have patronized the Museum,” shared Dr. Andy Bowne, JCCC President. “That experience is key to us at JCCC. Inclusivity is an important aspect of our values for our college and a cornerstone of the Nerman collection.” In addition, Northrup integrated digital media art into the curatorial program of SJMA, located in the heart of Silicon Valley, at a time when this work was on the periphery of the contemporary art world and could only be found in specialized galleries.
Northrup curated and authored the first nationally touring survey exhibitions and monographs on contemporary media artists Jennifer Steinkamp (2006) and Leo Villareal (2010). The Villareal exhibition traveled to the Nerman in 2011, and the Steinkamp exhibition traveled to Kemper Museum in 2007, illustrating Northrup’s past connections to the Kansas City art scene.
Leo Villareal, whose digital light sculpture, “Microcosm,” is permanently embedded in the Nerman Museum’s architecture, says that “Northrup navigates the complexities of the museum with grace and determination . . . she has total integrity.”
Northrup is thrilled to be returning to Kansas City, this time to stay: “I have admired the Nerman’s program for many years, especially the emphasis on diversity that is part of this institution’s DNA. Not only does the Nerman have a record of presenting the work of contemporary artists in advance of their achieving renown in the art world, my esteemed predecessor (Bruce Hartman) has always exhibited and collected work by BIPOC and women artists. The Nerman’s values and my own perfectly align, and I am so excited to sustain and further develop this world-class museum’s record of excellence. I could not be more proud.”
An established museum leader who has worked in nine museums in the USA and Europe, Northrup hired and mentored scores of talented staff, many of whom now hold leadership positions in major museums.
“As a curator and museum leader, I have sought to elevate the work of underrepresented artists, transcend conventional organizational models, present groundbreaking traveling exhibitions, and forge partnerships both locally and outside
the region. I plan to leverage this skill set in my new role at the Nerman.”
Northrup also brings higher education experience to this role, having served as the Curator, Exhibits and Collections at de Saisset Museum, Santa Clara University, California, in the late 1990s.
Northrup is a graduate of the University of California at Santa Barbara, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Art History. Subsequently, she completed her Master of Arts in Art History and Museum Studies at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles and was a Fulbright Senior Research Scholar in Karlruhe, Germany, in 2011.
“Attracting a candidate of this caliber speaks volumes of the arts community in our region,” shared Kate Allen, VP for Advancement and chair of the hiring committee. “We look forward to building on the success of the Nerman Museum under JoAnne’s leadership.”
–Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art