Dalila Scruggs Joins Smithsonian American as Inaugural Curator of African American Art

Dalila Scruggs has been appointed as the inaugural Augusta Savage Curator of African American Art at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, marking a significant addition to the museum’s team.

With a rich background that spans both educational and curatorial spheres, Scruggs brings with her a wealth of knowledge in various art forms, including painting, printmaking, sculpture, and photography, primarily focusing on works from the 19th and 20th centuries.

This new curatorship, named in tribute to the revered artist, educator, and Harlem Renaissance figure Augusta Savage, will see Scruggs playing a pivotal role in shaping the museum’s exhibitions and acquisition strategies pertaining to African American art. Additionally, she will be involved in the “American Voices and Visions” project, which aims to re-envision the presentation of the museum’s collection. Scruggs is set to begin her role on April 22.

Stephanie Stebich, the director of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, expressed her enthusiasm about Scruggs’ appointment, highlighting the museum’s significant collection of African American art and the expected insightful perspectives Scruggs will bring to the collection, enriching discussions on themes that resonate with both the African American narrative and the broader American context.

Scruggs’ journey to this position has been marked by her role as curator for photography and prints at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York since 2021, as well as her tenure as a guest curator at the Brooklyn Museum in 2020. She has previously served as a consulting curator for the Paul R. Jones Collection of American Art at the University of Alabama, an assistant curator of American art at the Brooklyn Museum, and a curatorial fellow at the Williams College Museum of Art.

She has contributed her expertise to the academic field through articles and book contributions, such as her analysis “Activism in Exile: Elizabeth Catlett’s Mask for Whites” in the American Art journal, and her work in publications like Brooklyn Museum: Highlights and The Awe of the Arctic: A Visual History for the New York Public Library. Her academic credentials include a doctorate from Harvard University in the history of art and architecture.

The creation of the Augusta Savage Curator of African American Art role was made possible through a generous $5 million endowment from anonymous donors.