February 12, 2023—I hope you will join my celebration of the news that Tsione Wolde-Michael has been named executive director of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH). Not only is she the youngest and first Black person to direct PCAH, Ms. Wolde-Michael is renowned for pioneering ways for museums to engage in social and restorative justice.
This is an exciting and much-needed frontier for arts and cultural organizations doing community engagement work!
Ms. Wolde-Michael began her career at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, where she was part of the team that produced the landmark, inaugural exhibition, Slavery and Freedom. It was the nation’s first comprehensive exhibit on the history of enslavement. Among her noted international projects is The Slave Wrecks Project.
Most recently, she worked as the curator of African American Social Justice History, where she created the methodology for a museum practice based on the principles of restorative justice. This work helped the Smithsonian National Museum of American History diversify its collections, exhibitions, as well as establish long-term community partnerships. It also led to the establishment of the Center for Restorative History, the Smithsonian’s first center dedicated exclusively to community-based redress work.
As you may recall from a Arts & Cutlure Connections report last year, President Joseph Biden used an Executive Order to re-establish the PCAH, which had been allowed to lapse in 2017. The committee is under the Institute of Museum and Library Services and advises the President on national policy objectives, philanthropic/private sector engagement, and other efforts to enhance federal support for the arts, the humanities, and museum and library services.
Ms. Wolde-Michael will use her experience bringing marginalized voices into public dialogue to lead strategy and engagement for PCAH, while working with IMLS Director Crosby Kemper, National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Chair Dr. Maria Rosario Jackson, and National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Chair Shelly C. Lowe. The White House is expected to appoint 25 non-governmental committee members within the next few months.
I am looking forward to the impact Ms. Wolde-Michael’s talents, vision and strategic leadership will have on the PCAH’s efforts to expand federal support for the arts, humanities, museums and library services. And I believe her community engagement work will further advance the field.
Cultivating and mentoring future arts leaders is one of my priorities and passions as both a professor and professional working in the field. And I salute the arts administrators who recognized Ms. Wolde-Michael’s potential and made it possible for her to develop such broad and deep experience so early in her career. We need more up-and-coming arts administrators with her passion and conviction, and those of us in the field have the responsibility to roll up our sleeves to foster their development.