Cantor Arts Center Appoints New Curator for the Arts of Africa and the Americas

Stanford, California, July 26, 2008 --- The Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University announces the appointment of Dr. Barbara Thompson as the new Phyllis Wattis Curator for the Arts of Africa and the Americas. Her work begins at the Center on September 2, 2008. Thompson will oversee the collection of African, precolombian, and Native American art---a selection of which is on view in three galleries---develop changing exhibitions, and conduct related scholarship.

Thompson comes to Stanford from the Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College, New Hampshire, where she was the curator of African, Oceanic, and Native American collections. She has organized 10 exhibitions at the Hood, including “Black Womanhood: Icons, Images, and Ideologies of the African Body,” on view through August 10, 2008 before traveling to Davis Museum and Cultural Center at Wellesley College, fall 2008, San Diego Museum of Art, winter 2009, and Spelman College Museum of Fine Art in Fall 2009. This exhibition is accompanied by a 370-page illustrated catalogue.

Thompson has garnered many awards, fellowships, and grants, including a LEF Foundation grant for “So Much Trouble in the World—Believe It or Not!,” a site-specific installation project with the American artist Fred Wilson. A selection of her exhibition titles illustrates the breadth of her interest and experience: “Globalization in Ancient Costa Rica”;

“Picturing Change: The Impact of Ledger Drawing on Native American Art”; “Dreaming of Country: Painting, People and Place in Australia”; “Crossing Currents: The Synergy of Jean-Michel Basquiat and Ouattara Watts”; and “Beyond Beauty: the Arts of African Women.”

At Stanford, Thompson sees the opportunity for research collaborations that will further develop the Center’s collections and present them in innovative ways. With an eye toward bringing in more modern and contemporary works by African and Native American artists, Thompson has a particular interest in diverse art forms and underrepresented regions.

Prior to her work at the Hood Museum of Art, Thompson served as a consultant for the Africa Bureau of United States Aid in International Development in Washington, D.C. After fieldwork in Tanzania on traditional healing, she helped USAID develop a proposal for the integration of traditional medical techniques into the new southern Sudanese government health care system. Thompson obtained her doctorate in art history, with a minor in anthropology, from the University of Iowa. Her M.A. degree is from University of Florida, Gainesville.

Thompson is the third Phyllis Wattis Curator at the Cantor Arts Center, a position endowed by the late Bay Area philanthropist Phyllis Wattis through a generous gift that also supports acquisitions, exhibitions, conservation, and educational programs. Wattis' generosity to Stanford also includes assistance in establishing the Rodin Sculpture Garden in 1985 and endowing three professorships in 1988 in the areas of art, medicine, and business.

VISITOR INFORMATION: Cantor Arts Center is open Wednesday–Sunday, 11 am – 5 pm, Thursday until 8 pm. Admission is free. The Center is located on the Stanford campus, off Palm Drive at Museum Way.
Parking is free after 4 pm weekdays and all day on weekends. Information: 650-723-4177,

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NOTE TO EDITORS: For a photograph of Thompson, a copy of her CV, or an interview, contact Margaret Whitehorn, Cantor Arts Center PR Assistant Manager, 650-724-3600,


Dr. Barbara Thompson
Phyllis Wattis Curator for the Arts of Africa and the Americas