The Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) is pleased to announce that Deputy Director Kinshasha Holman Conwill has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. The Academy’s members are world leaders in the arts, sciences, business, philanthropy and public affairs. Elected members join with other experts to explore challenges facing society, identify solutions and promote nonpartisan recommendations that advance the public good. The Academy is an honorary society that celebrates the excellence of its members and an independent research center that convenes leaders from across disciplines, professions and perspectives to address significant challenges. 

The 2021 election provides an opportunity to recognize extraordinary people across America and around the globe who help solve the world's most urgent challenges, create meaning through art and contribute to the common good from every field, discipline and profession.

“We are honoring the excellence of these individuals, celebrating what they have achieved so far and imagining what they will continue to accomplish," said David Oxtoby, president of the Academy. "The past year has been replete with evidence of how things can get worse; this is an opportunity to illuminate the importance of art, ideas, knowledge and leadership that can make a better world.” 

An acclaimed author, lecturer and writer on visual arts and cultural policy, Conwill has served as the deputy director for NMAAHC since 2005. During her time at the museum, she has worked to fulfill the museum’s vision of expanding its collections, fostering external partnerships, and developing exhibitions and programs. She was the lead editor and co-editor for projects ranging from exhibition catalogs to books on the museum’s collections, including Dream A World Anew: The African American Experience and the Shaping of America, Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing: How the Apollo Theater Shaped American Entertainment and We Return Fighting: World War I and the Shaping of Modern Black Identity. 

Conwill is a former director of The Studio Museum in Harlem, where she curated more than 40 exhibitions and was a commissioner for an award-winning contemporary African art exhibition at the Venice Biennale. She is a former chair of The Institute of Museum and Library Studies, and a board member of the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, the Association of Art Museum Directors and the Municipal Art Society of New York. She was named one of the 100 most influential museum professionals of the 20th century by the American Association of Museums.   

“We are honored and humbled by all the ways that Kinshasha shares her talent and resources with the museum,” said Kevin Young, Andrew W. Mellon Director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, and also a fellow member of the Academy. “She brings a level of dedication, excellence and thought leadership to the museum as well as the field. Her election to the Academy is well earned and most welcome.”  

Founded in 1780, the Academy honors exceptional individuals in a variety of fields and convenes these leaders to advance new ideas and address important issues toward the public good. Members include some of the most accomplished voices in the arts and humanities, social policy, education, global affairs, and science and technology. Notable members from the Academy's history include Margaret Mead, Jonas Salk, Barbara McClintock, John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., Aaron Copland, Martha Graham, John Hope Franklin, Georgia O'Keeffe, I.M. Pei and Toni Morrison. 

About the National Museum of African American History and Culture  
Since opening Sept. 24, 2016, the National Museum of African American History and Culture has welcomed more than 7 million visitors. Occupying a prominent location next to the Washington Monument on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., the nearly 400,000-square-foot museum is the nation’s largest and most comprehensive cultural destination devoted exclusively to exploring, documenting and showcasing the African American story and its impact on American and world history. For more information about the museum, visit, follow @NMAAHC on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram or call Smithsonian information at (202) 633-1000.  


Media Contacts

Fleur Paysour
(202) 633-4761
Jason Spear(202) 633-0827

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