Chicagoan and MacArthur Foundation Genius Fellow, Jacqueline Stewart, one of the world’s leading scholars, curators, and public educators on cinema, was recently appointed by the Board of Trustees of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures as the institution’s Director and President. She was previously appointed in 2020 as Chief Artistic and Programming Officer of the museum, and assumed her duties as Director and President on July 18th. Ms. Stewart will guide the vision of the Academy Museum and oversee all aspects of its operations, starting with its next big exhibition, “Regeneration: Black Cinema 1898 -1971,” which opens next month on August 21st and runs through April 9th, 2023, in the Marilyn and Jeffrey Katzenberg Gallery of the Museum.
Although her scholarly studies and publications on Black Cinema make her uniquely qualified to steward such an important collection, in my conversations with her, Ms. Stewart graciously gives credit to those whose vision was responsible for creating this exhibit, and makes clear her role of helping to amplify it. "First and foremost, the curators of this exhibition are Doris Berger and Rhea Combs," she told me. "I am extremely proud that I was asked to serve on the advisory committee for it back in 2017, and blessed to be leading the museum when it opens. But I cannot take credit for creating this amazing show. What I am doing is making sure that all of the facets of this exhibition – the galleries, new website, major catalogue, curriculum, screenings, summit in February – reach as many people as possible!"
“Our ambition in opening the Academy Museum was to give Los Angeles and the world an unprecedented institution for understanding and appreciating the history and culture of cinema, in all its artistic glory and all its power to influence and reflect society,” Ms. Stewart said. “I feel deeply honored to have been chosen for this new role and look forward to working with our Board of Trustees, our COO and General Counsel Brendan Connell Jr., our wonderfully talented staff, and with Bill Kramer and the Academy, as we continue to advance our mission.”
The Academy Museum notes it as the first exhibition of its kind, and states that Regeneration: Black Cinema 1898–1971 offers the public a chance to learn more about how Black performers and filmmakers have helped define cinema in the United States. The exhibition is described as exploring the achievements and challenges of both independent production and the studio system, from cinema’s infancy in the 1890s through the height of the civil rights movement. Regeneration features rarely seen excerpts of films restored by the Academy Film Archive, as well as other narrative films and documentaries; newsreels and home movies; photographs; scripts; drawings; costumes; equipment; posters; and historical materials, such as entrance tickets, note cards, and telegrams; along with augmented reality experiences (AR) designed specifically for the exhibition.
“This landmark exhibition seeks to restore lost chapters of American film history as it elevates the contributions of Black artists to present a more inclusive story,” said Ms. Stewart. “We are incredibly proud to present Regeneration, an exhibition that demonstrates how the Academy Museum introduces new scholarship, offers a more expansive vision of American film history, and encourages public dialogue about the past and present of film as an art form and a social force.”
Regeneration comprises seven galleries dedicated to: exploring the social and political situation of Black Americans at the dawn of cinema in the United States; the representation of Black people in early cinema from 1897 to 1915; pioneering independent Black filmmakers such as Oscar Micheaux and “race films,” made for Black audiences from the 1910s to the 1940s; Black music in American film, including “soundies” and Black musicals; Black stars and film icons; cinematic stories reflecting the freedom movements; and the daring and pioneering paths Black film directors blazed during the civil rights movement.
Throughout the development of the exhibition, co-curators Doris Berger and Rhea Combs collaborated with an advisory group of distinguished scholars, curators, and filmmakers in addition to Ms. Stewart, including: Charles Burnett, filmmaker, Academy member; Ava DuVernay filmmaker, Academy Governor; Michael Boyce Gillespie, Associate Professor, The City College of New York, Department of Media and Communication Arts; Shola Lynch, Curator, New York Public Library, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, filmmaker, Academy member; Ron Magliozzi, Curator of Film, The Museum of Modern Art; and Ellen C. Scott, Associate Professor and Head of Cinema and Media Studies, UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television.
As Chief Artistic and Programming Officer, Stewart has led strategy and planning for the Academy Museum’s curatorial, educational, and public programming initiatives, including exhibitions, screenings, symposia, publications, workshops, youth programs, and the Academy Museum Podcast. Honored in 2021 as a MacArthur Foundation Fellow, she was a 2019 senior fellow at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) and was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2018. She holds an appointment as Professor of Cinema and Media Studies at the University of Chicago, and previously served on the faculty of Northwestern University.
Stewart’s work in expanding public understanding of cinema and bringing film history to life has included her award-winning book Migrating to the Movies: Cinema and Black Urban Modernity, a study of African Americans and silent cinema, and her co-editorship of L.A. Rebellion: Creating a New Black Cinema, and William Greaves: Filmmaking as Mission. She is host of “Silent Sunday Nights” on Turner Classic Movies and co-curated the video collection Pioneers of African American Cinema for Kino Lorber. A native of Chicago's South Side, Stewart founded the South Side Home Movie Project in 2005 to preserve, digitize, and screen amateur footage documenting everyday life from the perspectives of South Side residents.
“It has been a great privilege to work hand-in-hand with Jacqueline as we opened the Academy,” said Bill Kramer, whom Stewart is succeeding and who was appointed CEO of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. “I am thrilled that we will continue to collaborate in our two new roles. I know the museum will thrive thanks to her rare combination of expertise, creativity, and proven leadership. Like movie fans everywhere, I am so thankful to have her guide the future of the Academy Museum.”
For more information on the upcoming exhibition, Regeneration: Black Cinema 1898-1971, visit the official site of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures.