HAMPTON, Va. (March 19, 2020) – The Hampton University Museum is proud to welcome Mr. Kenlontae’ Turner as the new Curator of Collections. Mr. Turner, a native of Newport News, Va., comes to Hampton University after recently working at the Freer Gallery of Art & Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in Washington, D.C.
“Hampton University is excited to welcome Mr. Kenlontae’ Turner to the Hampton University Museum. His passion for African American and Native American art will be an asset to our museum, which houses one of the largest private collections of African American and Native American art in the world,” said Hampton University President, Dr. William R. Harvey.
Mr. Turner has always been a lover of art. He majored in studio art at Christopher Newport University with a double minor in museum studies and art history. From there, he worked at an art gallery in Williamsburg and then went on to graduate school at Georgetown University and majored in art and museum studies. While in Washington D.C., Mr. Turner interned at Smithsonian museums, such as the Freer|Sackler Gallery, National Museum of the American Indian and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. Mr. Turner also interned several times over various summers at the Hampton University Museum.
“I’ve loved art ever since I was little. I think particularly with museums, I love the way that art can be used as a source of inspiration and education. That’s why I got inspired to be part of museums. I think they’re far more accessible to people, as most museums are open to the public. By educating and inspiring others, places like the Hampton University Museum can create a potential dialogue and a truly meaningful experience for the audience," Turner said.
Mr. Turner is a first-generation college student and the experience was transformative for him. “Working in museums really helped me pay it forward in terms of making sure to educate as many people as possible, while also inspiring them with great culture and art,” said Turner.
In 2013, Turner was part of Hampton University Museum’s IMLS grant-funded project to introduce African American youth to the museum field. He was a member of HU Museum’s second cohort while Turner was still in high school and this is where he was really introduced to the work that is done in museums. After the project, Turner was invited back to the Museum to serve as an intern during the funding they received from the Luce Foundation to inventory the African American Fine Art collection when he was a student at Christopher Newport University.
In his new position as Curator of Collections, Turner will be helping manage the permanent collection at the Museum, as well as helping with public programming, social media, and research and logistics behind exhibitions.
“I’m really excited to be focusing on African American and Native American art, which of course are two big sections of the collection here and is a really big part of the history of Hampton in general. I think in terms of the art world, we often get caught up in European art being the standard and that’s been the way for centuries. I think bringing more light and opportunities to African American artists and culture, and Native American artists and culture, really would shed a light on these stories, these histories that are just as valid as the rest of the world,” Turner said.
Turner is looking forward to incorporating contemporary topics into future exhibitions, and bringing new energy into the Museum. “I think often times, museums in general, have to depend on ‘Instagramable’ exhibitions, or very ‘flashy’ shows that will attract everyone, but I think with the collection we have here and the history we have, we have a lot of opportunities to bring in new visitors from all over the world,” Turner said.