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Kluge-Ruhe Residential Fellowship: First Nations Curator

The Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia seeks applications.

Ishmael Marika curating Madayin: Eight Decades of Aboriginal Bark Painting from Yirrkala at Kluge-Ruhe in 2018. Photo courtesy Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia.

About the opportunity

In partnership with Creative Australia, Kluge-Ruhe is offering a residential fellowship in Charlottesville, Virginia, USA.

The fellow will curate an exhibition of recent and promised gifts of acrylic paintings on canvas by Pila Nguru (Spinifex People) from Western Australia produced between 2001-2021. Pila Nguru people left their ancestral homelands when the British began nuclear testing in the Australian desert. They began painting in 1997 as part of their Native Title claim involving the return of their homelands. Kluge-Ruhe’s collection contains works by such leading artists as Lawrence Pennington, Tjaruwa Woods and Patju Presley.

This fellowship is divided into two residential periods totalling six months with a holiday break in December-January. Research and development will take place over four months between mid-August and mid-December 2024. The fellow will return to Charlottesville for two months in February and March 2025 to oversee installation and implement programs associated with the exhibition.

This schedule aligns with the semesters at the University of Virginia, ensuring that the fellow has access to museum curators, staff, and academic partners throughout the residency. It also allows production time for didactics and the printed catalogue prior to the exhibition opening. The precise timing of the fellowship will be negotiated with the successful applicant and some flexibility is possible.

The residency will coincide with activities at Kluge-Ruhe including an artist residency (August 2024) and the opening of the major touring exhibition Madayin: Eight Decades of Aboriginal Australian Bark Painting from Yirrkala at the Asia Society in New York (September 2024). Each of these programs will provide opportunities for the fellow to engage with Indigenous Australian artists visiting the USA.

Kluge-Ruhe held a Q&A information session at 11am AEDT on Tuesday 31 October 2023 for people to learn more about the Fellowship. You can view a recording of that session on YouTube here.

Tasks will include research of objects, preparation of didactics, development of an original 1500-2000 word essay to be printed in an exhibition catalogue, content development and implementation of public programs, including web-based programs, and gallery guide training.

The curator’s responsibilities will include the following:

Month 1: Conduct research, develop curatorial rationale and learning goals for the exhibition

Month 2: Create checklist and arrangement, select wall colours, draft texts and labels

Month 3: Draft essay, finalize texts and labels, plan public programs

Month 4: Finalize essay, write press release and media blurbs

Month 5: Supervise installation, train gallery guides

Month 6: Implement public programs

The fellow will work collaboratively with Kluge-Ruhe’s staff on all aspects of the exhibition and associated programs, contributing to and shaping practices that will accelerate First Nations leadership throughout the museum, a key initiative of Kluge-Ruhe’s Strategic Plan 2021-2026.

In addition, the fellow will consult with the Embassy of Australia’s curatorial team during a three-day visit to Washington D.C.

A stipend of up to $60,000 AUD will be paid to the fellow by Creative Australia, a portion of which can also be used towards fees to engage a mentor for the duration of the fellowship. Program costs covered by Kluge-Ruhe include two round trip flights from Australia to Charlottesville, accommodation in a furnished cottage or apartment throughout the residency, vehicle rental, medical insurance, and a research and travel budget of up to $5,000 AUD that can be used by the fellow for professional development.

Professional development funds may be used at the fellow’s discretion. Fellows are encouraged to take full advantage of their residential experience in the United States to explore other museums and build professional networks or to pursue their own research interests. Funds may be used to attend conferences such as the Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries and Museums, or the American Anthropological Association.

  • This opportunity is ideal for an experienced curator seeking professional growth through an international experience. Emerging and mid-career curators are welcome to apply. Kluge-Ruhe has a track record of successful curatorial residencies with curators such as Stephen Gilchrist (2011) and Kimberley Moulton (2015). The community of Indigenous artists and cultural practitioners associated with Kluge-Ruhe, and the members of our Advisory Council, led by a First Nations co-chair (based in Australia), will support this position. Together they will help to shape and expand Kluge-Ruhe’s offerings in a more integrated way – as members of our team.
  • Kluge-Ruhe held a Q&A information session at 11am AEDT on Tuesday 31 October 2023 for people to learn more about the Fellowship. You can view a recording of that session on YouTube here. Kluge-Ruhe is committed to a culture of inclusion and respect that begins with those who were here first, and whose continued presence is important to our future. We partner with the Monacan Nation and First Nations communities throughout Virginia and nationally to amplify their voices. Please reach out to us with your questions and access needs, including how we might accommodate your family or carer. Contact Margo Smith, mws2d@virginia.eduClick here to learn more about Kluge-Ruhe.
  • APPLY ONLINE by submitting 1) a current resume or CV and 2) an Expression of Interest explaining your qualifications, what you can uniquely contribute to this project, and what you hope to get out of this opportunity.
  • Applications close Tuesday 21 November 2023 at 3pm AEDT.

Dr Jessyca Hutchens is a Palyku woman living and working on Noongar boodja, and a Lecturer at the School of Indigenous Studies at the University of Western Australia. Jessyca is an art historian, curator, and writer who has previously held positions as the Curator at the Berndt Museum, the Curatorial Assistant to the Artistic Director for the 22nd Biennale of Sydney, and as a Lecturer in Global Art History at the University of Birmingham. She is currently working on a project on the histories of Australian Indigenous printmaking and was recently a co-curator of the exhibition Black Sky for the 2023 Perth Festival. Jessyca writes regularly on contemporary art, and is a co-founder and editor of an online journal of artistic research,, and on the editorial committee of Un Magazine.