The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures scored a win with Chicago film scholar and TCM “Silent Sunday Nights” host Jacqueline Stewart, who has been hired as its chief artistic and programming officer. Many top film programmers and executives sought this plum curatorial job, which will see Stewart lead strategy, planning, and programming for all Academy Museum exhibitions, screenings, symposia, publications, workshops, and K-12 programs.
She reports to Academy Museum director and president Bill Kramer. “We are bringing together the already fantastic work of our curatorial, programming, education, and publications teams that are creating powerful and diverse content and initiatives for the Academy Museum,” Kramer wrote in an email. “Jacqueline’s background as an educator, programmer, archivist, author, and scholar, along with her deep commitment to building strong community relations and showcasing diverse, inclusive, and accessible stories made her a perfect candidate for the position.”
Stewart already serves on the curatorial advisory committee for the museum’s upcoming exhibition “Regeneration: Black Cinema 1898–1971,” which explores the visual culture of Black cinema. Stewart will take a leave of absence from teaching American film history at the University of Chicago Department of Cinema and Media Studies (where she also runs the Arts + Public Life initiative) and move to Los Angeles to join the museum in January 2021.
“She is a scholar at the top of her field who always addresses herself both to the academy and to the public,” wrote Film Quarterly editor B. Ruby Rich in an email. “Her programs in Chicago have already become a national model. Jacqueline Stewart is exactly what the Academy Museum needs for 21st century curatorship and exhibition. This is a brilliant choice—not merely for ‘diversity,’ but because she is that rare scholar who thinks about the present as much as the past.”
Stewart makes a strong addition to the museum, which has faced a rocky trajectory toward its long-postponed launch, from construction delays to the pandemic. She’s not only respected in the classic film community, but is a charismatic personality and well-known film expert who can become the museum’s public face. She bridges the worlds of academic scholarship, archive preservation, and presentation, which are at the heart of any successful film museum. Bringing people in is key.
The author of “Migrating to the Movies: Cinema and Black Urban Modernity, a study of African Americans and silent cinema” is also the co-editor of “L.A. Rebellion: Creating a New Black Cinema,” which explored the first generation of film-school-trained Black filmmakers out of UCLA, including Charles Burnett, Julie Dash, and Haile Gerima. Stewart has written for Critical Inquiry, Film Quarterly, Film History, and The Moving Image. She has two upcoming books on directors William Greaves and Spencer Williams. Stewart also co-curated Kino Lorber’s “Pioneers of African American Cinema.”
Stewart has held faculty positions at the University of Chicago and Northwestern University. She earned her PhD in English from the University of Chicago and her BA in English from Stanford University.