Inaugural CRE2 Curatorial Research Intern examines racial history of the St. Louis School and Museum of Fine Arts


Gabi Senno is the inaugural Curatorial Research Intern at the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum in partnership with the Center for Race, Ethnicity, and Equity at Washington University. Her research is focused on better understanding the socio-political history and context of the late 19th century founding of the Kemper Art Museum, then the St. Louis School and Museum of Fine Arts, part of Washington University. This historical examination, which looks at such critical issues as racism, colonialism, and exclusion includes archival research on the architecture of the first building and its collection, the founding director and key donors as well as contemporary exhibitions drawn from St. Louis art collections. Gabi is conducting archival research at Olin Library’s Special Collections, which houses the College of Arts Records, and at the St. Louis Art Museum’s Richardson Library, which houses the Halsey C. Ives Papers. Halsey C. Ives was founding director of the St. Louis School and Museum of Fine Arts and the director of the Fine Arts Departments at the 1893 Columbian Exposition and the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition. With a focus on Ives, Senno aims to explore his role, agenda and vision in the art museum’s foundation and their relation to racist structures of cultural institutions within the United States and beyond. Senno will create an annotated bibliography containing information on the contents of these two archival collections and a timeline of the museum’s institutional history in relation to Ives and other relevant historical figures. Senno's research is being advised by Kemper director and chief curator Sabine Eckman, curator Meredith Malone, and WashU & Slavery Project director Geoff Ward.

Listen to Guest host Geoff Ward talk with CRE2-Kemper Curatorial Research Intern Gabi Senno, William T. Kemper Director and Chief Curator of Kemper Art Museum Sabine Eckmann, and Kemper Associate Curator Meredith Malone about curatorial research and Senno’s insights into the sociopolitical history and context of the late 19th-century founding of the Kemper Museum on the podcast Everywhere with CRE2.


Header: Students painting at WashU Art School, ca. 1900 (Courtesy of Missouri Historical Society)

Thumbnail: Advertisement for the Art Department at WashU, 1903 (Source: The Hatchet Yearbook, 1903)