Design for the Wild by Emma Teal Laukitis

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Emily Zimmerman Departs

Submitted on March 11, 2022 - 12:57pm
Emily Zimmerman
Emily Zimmerman. Photograph by Jueqian Fang.

After five years as the director + curator of the Jacob Lawrence Gallery at the University of Washington, Emily Zimmerman will depart her post April 8, 2022, to become Assistant Director at the Arthur Ross Gallery, University of Pennsylvania. UW’s School of Art + Art History + Design will soon launch a national search for her replacement.

“The contributions that Emily has brought to the Jacob Lawrence Gallery are profound and she deserves enormous credit for clarifying the mission of the gallery and fulfilling the vision that honors the legacy of Jacob Lawrence,” said Jamie Walker, Director of the School of Art + Art History + Design. “The robust exhibition schedule includes work created on campus by our students and faculty while also introducing an incredible array of artists and programming that has impacted the greater community. Thanks to Emily, the gallery has become a vital space on campus which has helped fuel the imminent renovation of the gallery and greatly increased the gallery endowment to better support programming.”

In January 2017, Zimmerman became the gallery’s first female director. During her tenure, she implemented a number of equity-focused programs and practices, and organized dozens of compelling exhibitions. She increased support for BIPOC artists through new and expanded commissions, creating an annual curatorial fellowship for BIPOC graduate students at UW and expanding the Jacob Lawrence Residency, which invests in Black artists from around the country. Under Zimmerman’s leadership, the residency program twice received support from the National Endowment for the Arts, and it also inspired exhibition partnerships with SOIL, a local artist-run gallery, and Wa Na Wari, a center for Black art and belonging in Seattle's Central District. The residency has supported artists such as Danny Giles, Ariel René Jackson, Marisa Williamson, and Lauren Williams.

Zimmerman forged a number of institutional partnerships for the gallery, including a multi-year residency with The Black Embodiments Studio, a critical arts writing incubator and public programming initiative dedicated to building discourse around contemporary Black art. She also launched MONDAY, a journal that presents experiments in arts writing twice each year. And, as part of her efforts to strengthen the institution’s infrastructure, Zimmerman ended unpaid internships and achieved W.A.G.E. certification for the gallery based on its demonstrated history of and commitment to paying artist fees that meet a minimum national standard. Meanwhile, under her leadership, the gallery’s endowment grew.

As curator, Zimmerman showed interest in a wide range of presentation and production formats, consistently creating space for artists to rethink conventions and inviting people to engage with culture. Her programming highlights include Lux Aeterna, an exploration of the ways technological, economic, and cultural forces affect media production and consumption; Kerry Tribe: Standardized Patient, which offered insight into the work of professional actors trained to portray medical patients in simulated clinical encounters; Clotide Jiménez: Apple of My Eye, a presentation of collages and charcoal drawings that use fruit to examine sexuality in Western culture; Material Performance, a two-part exhibition that investigated the idea of sculpture and painting as time-based arts and the lexicon of their movement; and Untold Passage, which showed work by artists recovering the unwritten histories of immigrant communities alongside work by contemporary poets addressing those experiences. Many of these exhibitions featured work by UW students, alumni, and faculty.

“It has been such an honor and a joy to lead the Jacob Lawrence Gallery for the last five years,” Zimmerman said. “Through my tenure I was able to ask deep questions about the financial, human, and built infrastructures that support a university art gallery, and think about how they might better support a more equitable future. Founding MONDAY art journal has been the fulfillment of a decade-long dream. I am so proud of the work that has been done, and humbled to have worked with such a profoundly talented group of artists, writers, and thinkers.”

Prior to joining the Jacob Lawrence Gallery, Zimmerman served as the Associate Curator of Programs at the Henry Art Gallery and she began her curatorial career as the Assistant Curator at the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC). In total, Zimmerman has curated more than 50 exhibitions and commissions and produced 300+ events, including lecture series, film series, performance festivals, and workshops. Her writing has appeared in BOMB and Contemporary Performance, and she has served on review panels for the National Endowment for the Arts, New York State Council on the Arts, Artist Trust, 4Culture, and the Herb Alpert Awards, among others. Zimmerman earned her MA from the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College and her BA from New York University.