Cheryl Finley, Ph.D.

Cheryl Finley is the Inaugural Director of the Atlanta University Center Art History + Curatorial Studies Collective and Distinguished Visiting Professor in the Department of Art & Visual Culture at Spelman College. Committed to engaging strategic partners to transform the art and culture industry, she leads an innovative undergraduate program at the world’s largest historically Black college and university consortium in preparing the next generation of African American museum and visual arts professionals.

A curator and contemporary art critic, Dr. Finley is also an award-winning author noted for Committed to Memory: The Art of the Slave Ship Icon (Princeton University Press, 2018), the first in-depth study of the most famous image associated with the memory of slavery—a schematic engraving of a packed slave ship hold—and the art, architecture, poetry, and film it has inspired since its creation in Britain in 1788. Her co-authored publications of note include My Soul Has Grown Deep: Black Art from the American South (Yale University Press, 2018), Teenie Harris, Photographer: An American Story (Carnegie Museum of Art, 2011), and Diaspora, Memory, Place: David Hammons, Maria Magdalena Campos- Pons, Pamela Z (Prestel, 2008). A frequent essayist, Dr. Finley’s writing has appeared in numerous academic and popular publications, including Aperture, Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art, American Quarterly, Art Forum and Small Axe.

Dr. Finley’s current research examines the global art economy, focusing on the relationship among artists, museums, biennials and migration in the book project, Black Art Futures, and the interdisciplinary project, Mapping Art History at HBCUs, designed to harness the power of art history and the promise of technology to revolutionize the art industry.

Her scholarly endeavors have been supported generously by the Ford Foundation; the American Council of Learned Societies; the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, National Gallery of Art; the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research, Harvard University; the Alphonse Fletcher, Sr. Fellowship; and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. On leave from Cornell University, where she is an Associate Professor of Art History, Dr. Finley is also a Visiting Professor at the Visual Identities in Art and Design Research Centre at the University of Johannesburg.

Dr. Finley received her Ph.D. from Yale University in African American Studies and the History of Art and her BA in Spanish with honors from Wellesley College.

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