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Academy Museum Names Historian of Black Cinema as the New Chief Artistic Officer

The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures is expected to announce Monday that Jacqueline Stewart will be its chief artistic and programming officer, overseeing exhibitions, programming and education.

Stewart is a prominent film historian, scholar and archivist who teaches American film history at the University of Chicago; her specialty is in African American cinema. She was the first Black host of Turner Classic Movies’ “Silent Sunday Nights,” which spotlights silent films.

Stewart will join the museum in January before its public opening, scheduled for April 30. She plans to ensure that the museum approaches the areas she oversees “with a really clear, coherent storyline,” as she explains in this edited conversation.

What’s that storyline? Do you have an overall vision for the museum?

This is a museum that is really going to give a 360-degree view of moviemaking. So for me, it’s really about guiding the ways that the museum will continue to, over time, provide a broad sense of film history. That it is not entirely focused on Hollywood, that it expands beyond some of the conventional, traditional ways that film history has been narrated and that it really draws on the wide range of expertise located in Los Angeles. And including as many voices as possible, that we never drop the ball on that in any aspects of the museum’s work.

You’ve said that cinema shapes our understanding of history and culture and that movies spark dialogue. How will you guide the Academy Museum to help fulfill this mission?

The very large-scale “Stories of Cinema” exhibition — there is already careful attention to the work of women filmmakers, the work of filmmakers of color, and that will be an essential aspect of the experience that people have when they’re moving through the museum. I’m very excited too to develop museum experiences that happen virtually. Right now, so many cultural institutions have had to pivot into virtual programming. This is a museum that will always have a really singular in-person experience, but we’re going to marry that with virtual experiences. Not just for public health reasons but in the interest of being as broadly accessible as possible.

You were on the advisory committee for the museum’s “Regeneration: Black Cinema 1898-1971” exhibition, which was planned years ago. Have the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent racial justice movement reshaped it at all?

In terms of content, no, it hasn’t changed. The goal that the curators, Doris [Berger] and Rhea [L. Combs] have for that exhibition, we’re seeing now just how deeply resonant and relevant it is — all of these efforts that African American filmmakers have made to try to affirm Black lives, to try to speak to the erasure and misrepresentation of Black lives in mainstream media. The great care they have taken to find objects and to even have a scope as wide as the exhibition does, from the late 1890s all the way to 1971, it’s going to show us these waves of Black filmmaking, particularly independent Black filmmaking, that I think are going to be inspiring to people in the way that we want the museum to be inspiring to people, to cultivate the next generation of filmmakers, to make it impossible to ignore some of the chapters from the past and take them into account for the future.

Read entire article at Los Angeles Times