Following an international search, the USC Pacific Asia Museum and the USC provost’s office today announced the appointment of cultural historian Bethany Montagano as the Pasadena museum’s next director.
A visionary and creative museum curator, Montagano comes to USC PAM from the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, where she served as senior curator. For the past three years, she originated major art, photography and fashion exhibitions that aimed to create a more just society. She curated “Pop for the People: Roy Lichtenstein in L.A.,” “Black is Beautiful: The Photography of Kwame Brathwaite” and most recently “Fearless Fashion: Rudi Gernreich,” in which she worked with Humberto Leon of Opening Ceremony and Kenzo to bring the groundbreaking values-driven fashion exhibition to life.
As director of USC PAM, Montagano will assume leadership of the only university-affiliated art museum dedicated to the arts and cultures of Asia and the Pacific Islands, holding an extraordinary collection of 17,000 objects. After a 17-month closure for a seismic retrofit, the museum reopened in December 2017 with updated galleries, a new museum store and secondary branding. Its most recent exhibitions have traveled internationally and nationally.
Bethany is a seasoned museum professional and a dynamic leading force in the museum field.
“Bethany brings to USC PAM an extraordinary expertise in cultural curation, as well as museum management,” said interim Director Selma Holo, who led the search committee comprising USC administrators, faculty and artists. “She has done amazing work at the Skirball in bringing cross-cultural exhibitions, something that is at the heart of USC PAM’s mission of intercultural understanding. Bethany is a seasoned museum professional and a dynamic leading force in the museum field. Her energy will revitalize the museum’s exhibitions, programs and cultural outreach. We are thrilled to have her start.”
Said Montagano: “I hope to bring a strong sense of inclusivity and access to the USC Pacific Asia Museum and ensure that all feel honored and welcome at the museum.”
USC Provost Michael Quick added that this is an exciting time for the museum. “We are sure that Dr. Montagano’s energy and expertise in the museum field will revitalize the gallery’s exhibitions, programs, and cultural outreach,” he said.
USC Pacific Asia Museum director’s varied background
Montagano earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Asian Studies, and studied at Kansai Gaidai University in Osaka, Japan. She has a master’s degree in Museum Studies and earned her doctorate in American History with an emphasis on gender, race and cultural representation from the University of Notre Dame.
Montagano played a formidable role in the opening of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture and on exhibitions and publications at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian that illuminate issues of displacement, representation and stereotyping. She will assume her post at USC on May 9.
The USC Pacific Asia Museum is Southern California’s only museum exclusively devoted to the arts of Asia and the Pacific. Since 1971, the museum’s mission is to further intercultural understanding through the arts of Asia and the Pacific Islands. The museum holds a collection of more than 17,000 items from across Asia and the Pacific Islands, spanning more than 5,000 years.
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