Amy Sherald, Painter of Michelle Obama’s Much-Awaited Portrait, to Join BMA’s Board

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Ms. Everything, by Amy Sherald (courtesy Smithsonian)

Baltimore artist Amy Sherald, known for her life-sized, high-contrast portraits of African-Americans – most recently that of first lady Michelle Obama, to be unveiled next month – will be joining the Baltimore Museum of Art’s board of trustees in February.

Sherald will become the BMA’s newest trustee on Feb. 20, according to an announcement. She’s the second high-profile artist to join the board in six months, following the addition of New York-based conceptual artist Adam Pendleton in August.

“I am thrilled to be joining the board of such an important civic institution like The Baltimore Museum of Art,” Sherald, 44, said in a statement. “The BMA is pioneering the way for institutions to become more inclusive by championing contemporary artists from all walks of life. I am honored to be able to have a voice in helping move the museum forward.”

Sherald will start her new role just over a week after the unveiling of her much-anticipated portrait of Obama at the National Portrait Gallery in D.C. on Feb. 12. The MICA painting professor was tapped for the prized gig in October 2017, joining Kehinde Wiley, painting President Obama’s portrait, as the first African-American artists hired by the Smithsonian to paint a president and first lady.

Sherald lives in Baltimore and has been an artist-in-residence at the Creative Alliance, in addition to a faculty member at MICA. She’s caught a wave of buzz since the Michelle Obama announcement (as well as reported commercial success) though it’s worth noting her paintings are already housed in some of the country’s most prominent art museums, including the permanent collections of the National Museum of Women in the Arts and the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

“I’m just going to pretend it’s not a big deal,” she told The New York Times in an October profile. “I paint paintings of people. And I’m painting a painting of another person.”

She’ll join BMA director Christopher Bedford, board chair Clair Zamoiski Segal and 39 other trustees in guiding the museum’s direction.

“Amy will bring a unique perspective to museum leadership, one that not only draws on her career as one of today’s most important artists, but also on her ties to the city of Baltimore itself,” Bedford said in a statement.

The BMA has spotlighted more artists of color under the guidance of director Chris Bedford, who took over in May 2016. Current ongoing exhibitions include “Beyond Flight: Birds in African Art,” highlighting the important role of birds in African cultures, and “Front Room,” a display of paintings by MacArthur Genius Fellow Njideka Akunyili Crosby that draw on her experiences moving from Nigeria to the States.

In March, the museum will premiere an exhibition by Stephen Towns (“Take Me Away to the Stars,” 2016-17) consisting of quilts centered around slavery and the female and black perspective.

Ethan McLeod
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