Akron Art Museum Appoints Jared Ledesma as Senior Curator, Jeffrey Katzin as Assistant Curator

Akron – The Akron Art Museum has appointed Jared Ledesma (he/him/his) as Senior Curator and promoted Jeffrey Katzin (he/him/his) to Assistant Curator. Ledesma will begin working for the Museum on July 12, 2021. Katzin’s new role as Assistant Curator will go into effect immediately.

Jared Ledesma is Latinx and will be the first person of color in the curatorial department at the Museum. He is currently an Associate Curator at the Des Moines Art Center in Des Moines, Iowa. Prior to his time there, he was the Curatorial Assistant in the painting and sculpture department at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Ledesma received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Art History from San Francisco State University.

Ledesma is committed to supporting modern and contemporary artists from marginalized communities. While at the Art Center, he helped bring in several acquisitions to diversify the collection, including its first early-twentieth-century painting by a Latin American artist (Alfredo Ramos Martínez) and its first works by a transgender artist (Edie Fake). Ledesma’s notable work has also included curating the exhibition Queer Abstraction, which garnered both local and national accolades, including a grant from the Warhol Foundation for exhibition programming. This was the first exhibition in the Des Moines Art Center’s 70-year history to focus exclusively on sexuality and gender identity, and the first exhibition by a major institution to focus on queer abstraction. Most importantly, the exhibition instigated partnerships between the Art Center and LGBTQ organizations that did not exist prior to the show. Ledesma stated, “I’m looking forward to joining the team at the Akron Art Museum and continuing to foster a culture where the Museum works hand in hand with the community to make them feel seen, heard, and welcomed at the Museum. Strengthening the connection between the Museum and the community that it serves is key to a successful future.”

The selection committee was impressed by Ledesma’s dedication to diversifying collections and accessible interpretation. Ledesma’s motivation to transform museums from exclusive to inclusive spaces informs a curatorial vision that supports artists of all backgrounds and will help shape the Museum’s future exhibition schedule. This commitment is coupled with an authentic understanding of how art can impact people from all economic strata. Ledesma’s own background as the first in his family to earn a bachelor’s and master’s degree is an asset helping him connect to a variety of patrons. Akron Art Museum Interim Executive Director Jon Fiume said, “We heard clearly from our staff and patrons that diversifying the collection would be an important way for the Museum to remain an integral part of people’s lives. Jared not only brings stellar academic and work experience, but his personal background will help him better understand the community, and that will be reflected in the Museum’s growing collection.”

Ledesma’s appointment comes as the museum field also aims to transform museum work in terms of staff wellness. Fiume noted, “The committee was struck by his perspective on the Museum’s transformation and how he expressed his desire to be a part of the positive change. He has a refreshing, progressive approach to modern and contemporary art, and he highlighted the importance of collaboration with the entire staff in order for the organization to have success. He will be a great addition to the team.”

Jeffrey Katzin’s promotion is in recognition of his numerous accomplishments during his tenure. As Curatorial Fellow, Katzin has made significant contributions to the Museum by bringing Tune In to Akron, co-curating Akron Art Mail, and curating the upcoming exhibition Afterimages: Geometric Abstraction and Perception. Most notably, Katzin curated the tandem exhibitions currently on view in the Museum’s galleries, Totally Rad: Bold Color in the 1980s and Totally Radical: Art and Politics in the 1980s. The dual exhibitions were created during the COVID-19 pandemic and are made up of works from the Museum’s collection that were created in the ‘80s. Along with these exhibitions, Katzin also led a sweeping demographic survey of every artist represented in the Museum’s collection, researching not only gender, race, sexuality, and disability, but also religion, socioeconomic class, veteran status, and local connections to Akron. Katzin is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Pennsylvania with a dissertation project on abstract photography.