A Fresh Perspective: Horace D. Ballard joins Harvard Art Museums
Horace D. Ballard will take over as the new Theodore E. Stebbins Jr. associate curator of American art at the Harvard Art Museums. Ballard comes from the Williams College Museum of Art and plans to use this opportunity to expand the vision of American art at the museums.
“I believe in the capacious potential of academic museums to refine the ethics of our attention,” says Ballard, who will start Sept. 1. “The Harvard Art Museums have long been a laboratory for innovative, multidisciplinary approaches to the material and visual cultures of human civilization.”
In this new role, Ballard will be responsible for the museums’ collections of pre-20th-century American painting, sculptures and decorative arts. He’ll be shaping a new and more inclusive look at the history and importance of American art during that period and working with other departments and institutions around the campus to highlight those analyses. As museums across the country reckon with their collections and a need for expanded diversity, Ballard brings a history of dynamic and probing exhibitions to the job.
“Horace’s scholarship and curatorial vision, combined with his experience in engagement and teaching at academic museums, make him an ideal addition to our team at a critical moment,” says Harvard Art Museums director Martha Tedeschi. While at the Williams College Museum of Art, Ballard curated exhibitions that delved into themes like diversity, queer identity and female artistic partnership. In addition to his extensive resume of curatorial roles, Ballard has held teaching posts at Brown, Rhode Island School of Design and Yale.
Acquiring new works to expand the museums’ vision will fall under Ballard’s purview as well. Recent Harvard Art Museums acquisitions contributing to that goal include a portrait by Julien Hudson, a 19th-century painter of African descent working in New Orleans, and a stoneware jar by the enslaved African American potter David Drake. These pieces illustrate the broadening view of American art, bringing to the forefront artists who have historically been pushed aside.
In a way, this position is a homecoming for Ballard. “I spent time in the collections as a graduate student, and I experienced firsthand the power of art to incite empathy, wonder and sociopolitical change,” he says. Now, years later, the curator brings fresh eyes and experiences to the collection. “The field of American art is in a period of reckoning and reflection; I am thrilled to be joining the Harvard Art Museums at such an exciting moment.”