Art in Public Spaces

last edited on Thu. June 29 2023

Smart Museum of Art to take expanded role caring for public art at the University of Chicago

The Smart Museum of Art today announced the formation of a new Art in Public Spaces initiative to centralize oversight for campus collections at the University of Chicago.

In support of this work, Christina L. Simms has joined the Smart Museum as Associate Director of Art in Public Spaces; Lauren Payne has joined as Associate Registrar of Art in Public Spaces; and Laura Steward, the University’s Curator of Public Art since 2017, has joined the Museum’s curatorial team. These roles will provide standardized care of art exhibited and stored in non-traditional settings outside of University museums and galleries, including Art at the David Rubenstein Forum; the Booth School of Business Art Collection in Chicago, Hong Kong, and London; the campus collections; and public art, among other areas.

Vanja Malloy, Dana Feitler Director of the Smart Museum of Art, will provide leadership direction for the initiative. She will chair the new Public Art Strategy and Nomination Committee, which will be made up of experts in the art field who will explore and develop opportunities for commissions, review and make recommendations on artworks for loan or acquisition and determine priorities and approaches to object conservation. This committee will forward its recommendations to the University Public Art Committee, made up of a cross-section of faculty, which will review proposed works with an eye to their contributions to the campus. Effective July 1, 2023, this committee will be chaired by Canice Prendergast, W. Allen Wallis Distinguished Service Professor of Economics, who has previously served in this role and who has overseen the growth of the Booth School’s art collection over the last 16 years.

“This new initiative will raise the visibility of campus collections and will offer exciting opportunities for the Smart Museum to extend our curricular outreach for UChicago students and engage a broader community through public programs. I’m grateful to the Office of the President for their recognition of the important role that art can play in fostering a welcoming campus environment and for providing critical funding for the new Art in Public Spaces positions,” said Malloy. 

Effective June 20, 2023:

Christina L. Simms, Associate Director of Art in Public Spaces, joins the Smart Museum from the Art Institute of Chicago where she was an Associate Objects Art Conservator since June 2021. In this role, Simms collaborated with museum departments and staff to realize new acquisitions, exhibitions, installations, and loans as well as perform the examination of three-dimensional objects. Simms also developed guides and training materials to create standard operating procedures in Objects Conservation. Prior to working at the Art Institute, Simms was the Objects and Sculpture Conservator and Assistant Project Manager at McKay Lodge Conservation Laboratory where she led onsite conservation projects for the United States General Services Administration (GSA) contracts, municipalities, museums, and private clients throughout the United States. Simms holds a master’s degree and Certification of Advanced Studies in Art Conservation (2014) from Buffalo State College and is also a Professional Associate of the American Institute for Conservation. In addition, Simms completed research opportunities at the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) and the J. Paul Getty Museum where she collaborated with conservators, curators, conservation scientists, and industry experts.

Lauren Payne, Associate Registrar of Art in Public Spaces, joins the Smart Museum from The Conservation Center, where she began working in 2014 as a Conservation Services Coordinator and during her tenure, advanced to her most recent position as Vendor Relations Director and Registrar. In this role, Payne’s primary responsibilities included preparing items for examination when they could not be treated by in-house conservators and overseeing the offsite conservation process with external vendors, while also working as a Registrar responsible for the intake, inventory, and tracking of all artworks within the Center’s database, among other duties. Throughout her career, Payne also volunteered and worked at various other arts organizations including ACRE Residency, Armand Lee, Monique Meloche, and Cranbrook Academy of Art where she received her Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree in 2010.

Laura Steward, Curator of Public Art, has since 2017 provided curatorial leadership for UChicago’s campus and public art program and worked closely with the Public Art Committee to oversee the collection of public sculpture and objects. Prior to moving to Chicago, Steward was the Director of Advancement and Art Programs at the Santa Fe Institute and previously served as the Phillips Director and Chief Curator at SITE Santa Fe from 2005 to 2010. Laura is a graduate of Harvard College and the Williams/Clark Program in the History of Art. Most recently, Steward helped grow the public art collection through the acquisition of Ruth Duckworth’s Clouds Over Lake Michigan. The monumental mural is a recent gift of Cboe Global Markets and will be installed in its new home at the heart of campus, in the first floor reading room of the Joseph Regenstein Library this summer. Its arrival coincides with the upcoming Smart Museum retrospective Ruth Duckworth: Life as a Unity (September 21, 2023–February 4, 2024).

“The new Art in Public Spaces initiative enables us to pursue an ambitious and distinctly UChicago vision for public art. I am thrilled to welcome Christina, Lauren, and Laura to the team, and to collaborate closely with Canice and our university partners to implement these new structures,” said Malloy.

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