JOB: Research Specialist, Race and Daniel Chester French

Opportunity: National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Research Specialist

Date: May 2022

Division: Preservation

Department: Historic Sites

Office: Chesterwood

Project Manager: Executive Director

About the Organization

Chesterwood is the former summer home and studio of sculptor Daniel Chester French (1850-1931). Located in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, Chesterwood is a historic site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, an organization that protects significant places representing our diverse cultural experiences. Today, Chesterwood preserves and interprets the work and legacies of French as a significant creator of monumental art.

The Research Specialist project is  funded in full by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Scope of Work

The Research Specialist will research and examine a selection of sculptures from French’s body of work through the perspectives of African Americans and/or Indigenous Americans. A list of over 40 of his works have been identified as complex, problematic and even racist. These works include depictions of individuals considered important to the dominant culture during French’s lifetime who were also enslavers, or politicians who wrote legislation that removed Native peoples from their homelands, for example. Alternatively with other sculptures it is the artist’s representation of Black or Indigenous persons which is problematic. The scholar will explore these pieces through critical frameworks and the Black and/or Indigenous gaze to provide nuance and fresh context for French’s work in contemporary society. This project will provide broadly applicable humanities-based models for examining historical/political monuments and memorials in the fuller contexts of their time.

The Research Specialist is invited to work remotely, but also encouraged to visit Chesterwood to review curatorial files and plaster studies of French’s public sculpture. In addition, the Research Specialist is encouraged to visit Chapin Library, Williams College, Williamstown, Massachusetts, where Chesterwood’s archival and photographic files are located. The length of the project, from research to deliverables, is one year, anticipating the Research Specialist will be working part-time. 

A small, additional budget for a stipend is available if the Research Specialist chooses to conduct interviews, focus groups, workshops or do oral history research to support this project. 

Deliverables

The outcome of this scholarly and curatorial endeavor will be an online exhibition and catalogue of French’s more problematic public works through the National Trust’s Collections Portal; the research compiled will serve as an educational resource for Chesterwood’s interpretive staff; and lastly, the material will be shared with Chesterwood visitors, offering a full and honest accounting of these important works of sculptural art. Deliverables include:

o A detailed study on the outlined works of art. To be published online with the exhibit.

o Online exhibit introduction text.

o Appropriate “label copy” text, i.e., short synopsis of each work’s complexity and significance. 

Chesterwood staff will be available as a resource to the Research Specialist and handle the creation of the online collection itself. 

The Research Specialist is a NEH-grant funded position of $15,000 for the duration of the project, which is expected to be completed within the course of one calendar year. Dispersal of grant funds will be at predetermined installments by the Executive Director, with the final dispersal upon receipt of all deliverables. 

Qualifications

• Applicants who identify as African American/Black or Indigenous/Native American/American Indian are strongly encouraged to apply.  

• The position is open to independent scholars, tenured and non-tenured professors, and graduate students. 

• Experience researching, writing about, curating exhibitions on, or teachingIndigenous/Native American/American Indian and/or African American history or 

• Applicants should have a demonstrated area of expertise and interest in the areas of monumental sculpture, 19th century sculpture, or public art, and may include those with backgrounds in history, public history, art history, museum studies and curation. 

• A high degree of cultural competency is a necessity, especially when writing or speaking about Black and Indigenous people of color perspectives and when in conversations with members of the Black/African or Indigenous/Native American communities. 

• Must be conversant in topics and issues relevant to Indian Country or US based Black communities today.

• Attending or having a professional or alumni affiliation with a Historically Black College and University (HBCU) or Tribal Colleges and Universities is a plus.

Please send proposal with CV and background materials regarding skills and expertise to Donna Hassler, Executive Director, Chesterwood, at dhassler@chesterwood.org, outlining your interest in participating in this project.  Deadline to submit this information is May 15, 2022.

Author: Camara Dia Holloway

I am an art historian specializing in early twentieth century American art with particular focus on the history of photography, race and representation, and transatlantic modernist networks. I earned my PhD at Yale University in the History of Art Department. Besides my leadership role as the Founding Co-Director of the Association for Critical Race Art History (ACRAH), I am recognized for my expertise on African American Art, particularly African American Photography, and as a seasoned consultant for exhibitions, museum collections, and symposia/lectures planning.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: