Maurita N. Poole holds a doctorate from Emory University in Anthropology, an MPH from Rollins School of Public Health, and a BS in Arabic and Government from Georgetown University. Her professional museum training was attained at Williams College Museum of Art, The Walters Art Museum, and The Smithsonian National Museum of African Art. She is an alum of the 2020 Center for Curatorial Leadership program.
Poole most recently served as director and curator at Clark Atlanta University Art Museum (CAUAM). As director, she strengthened the museum’s infrastructure and provided opportunities for the next generation of museum professionals. She created and managed the Tina Dunkley Fellowship in American Art, a collaborative Diversity in Art Museum Leadership Initiative (DAMLI) involving CAUAM, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA), and the Zuckerman Museum of Art (ZMA). In addition, she developed the “Black Optics Artist Residency,” a platform that connects artists of African descent from the American South and Global South.
Her curatorial projects have focused on African and African Diaspora art. In 2021, she curated the complementary exhibitions Wilay Mendez Paez: Notes from the Underground and Portals to a New World at The Atlanta Contemporary and CAUAM. Other noteworthy shows include Guy Gabon: L’Autre Bord/ The Bridge of Beyond (2020), Crafting for Life (2019), Alfred Conteh: The Sweet Spot (2018), Frederick D. Jones and The Social Surreal (2017).
Laura Blereau holds an MFA in New Forms from Pratt Institute, and a BFA in Painting from Louisiana State University. She is also an alum of the 2011 Independent Curators International workshop in performance art.
Blereau recently served as Curator at the Hilliard University Art Museum at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, where she organized a wide range of exhibitions and public programs. A specialist in art and technology, Blereau has also organized hundreds of projects with roster artists of the Bitforms Gallery, where she was a Director from 2005 to 2015. During her gallery tenure, she placed works into major museum collections and crafted strategies for the study of time-based mediums such as new media and software art, kinetic sculpture, and performance.
Her interdisciplinary approach to the visual arts has been shaped by formative work experiences at The Kitchen, Marian Goodman Gallery, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Louisiana Arts and Science Museum; as well as in the art studios of Dorothea Rockburne and Shirin Neshat. Blereau’s writing has been published in connection with exhibitions at Art Basel in Switzerland, the New Orleans Museum of Art, Fleming Museum of Art and Hilliard University Art Museum, among others. Her credits also include Associate Producer of Lynn Hershman Leeson’s 2010 documentary, !Women Art Revolution.
Coordinator for Interpretation & Public Engagement
Tom Friel received an MFA in Sculpture from Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, MI, and a BFA in Printmaking from The University of the Arts in Philadelphia, PA. He has exhibited his artwork throughout the U.S and Basel, Switzerland. As an art educator, Friel has taught art classes, art appreciation, and hands-on workshops to children, teens and adults in various media for over fifteen years. Past positions include Instructor at the Mainline Art Center in Haverford, PA, Spiral Q Puppet Theater in Philadelphia, PA, The Fairmount Art Center in Philadelphia, PA, where he also served as Assistant Director, and Cranbrook Summer Art Institute in Bloomfield Hills, MI. For Friel, teaching is an extension of his artistic practice. He has written art criticism for badatsports.com, caretsandsticks.com and wowhuh.com, as well as print publications.
Stephanee Hinton received a BA in Art History from Howard University and a MA in Art Galleries and Museum Studies from the University of Manchester. While in graduate school, Stephanee focused her research on Diversity, Equity, Accessibility and Inclusion in arts institutions.
Prior to NAM, Stephanee has worked in museums and galleries including the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art, The Phillips Collection, Future Everything, and the Howard University Gallery of Art. She continuously works to better understand the intersection of DEAI in museums and collections management.
Stephanee initially joined NAM as the Acquisition and Inventory Technician. In this role, she researched the collection and digitized the museum archives. Currently, she continues the work of researching the collection and making the museum and its history more transparent and accessible to visitors. Stephanee is also an Andrew W. Mellon Fellow.
Lexus Dawn Jordan holds an MA from Louisiana State University and a BA from Xavier University of Louisiana, both in Communication Studies with a concentration in Performance Studies. Her work has been focused on using identity and culture to create narratives for community advocacy.
Previously, Lexus spent over five years as a youth advocate for a local, New Orleans based non-profit organization. Lexus has also worked as an adjunct instructor at Xavier University and Southern University at New Orleans. Lexus currently serves as the youth director and a leadership advisor to her faith-based community.
In her community work, Lexus utilizes one-on-one mentoring and group facilitation as tools for programming and teaching. In her role at NAM, Lexus expands community partnerships and relationships while working to co-create sustainable programs. Lexus is an Andrew W. Mellon Fellow.
Marylin Mell received a PhD in Modern and Contemporary Literature alongside Film and Aesthetics from the University of Iowa. She earned a MA in English at the University of Maryland and a BA in English and Psychology from John Carroll University where she served as President of the Honors Program.
Marylin’s current writing projects include a novel, "Lost Creoles," a film theory manuscript, "Caught: Queens, Cinema and the Dialectics of Power," and the revision of a critical theory project on death, "The Disappearing Self." In her work at NAM, Marylin handles the administration and coordination of the museum’s finances and programs.
Marylin has taught in the Middle East, New Orleans, Massachusetts, Iowa and Kentucky. She believes that art offers us the opportunity to experience awe and the possibility to be transformed by what we have seen and felt.
Sierra Polisar received a B.A. in American Studies from Goucher College and an M.A. in Museum Studies at the University of Leicester. Her most recent position was as an Assistant Loan’s Registrar at the British Library in London, where she worked on exhibitions including “The Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy” and “West Africa: Word, Symbol, Song.” She collaborated on projects with many notable UK museums, including the British Museum, the Tate Britain and the Bodleian Library. Prior to working in the UK, Sierra worked in Collections Management at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, conducting a collection’s inventory and digitization project. She has also volunteered at The National Archives and at The National Museum of Natural History. Sierra is interested in socially engaged museum practice, and bringing innovation and creativity into collections care. She has researched alternative acquisition processes for performance art and ephemera, and conservation advancements in the preservation of foodstuff as material.
Sherae holds a BFA in Technology & Integrated Media with an emphasis in Visual Culture from the Cleveland Institute of Art and an MFA in Writing from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. As an artist and writer, Sherae has exhibited work in the U.S and internationally including shows at the Center for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle in Warsaw, the Zentralbibliothek Zürich, the National Library of Buenos Aires, and the Akademie Schloss Solitude in Stuttgart, Germany where she was awarded the prestigious solitude fellowship.
Sherae has presented her writing, drawing, film, and performance work at Kentler International Drawing Space in Brooklyn, New York and Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland in Ohio. In Chicago, her work has been featured at the South Side Community Arts Center, Film Front, Comfort Station, Experimental Sound Studio, Constellation, and the Harold Washington Library.
Sherae is featured along with Clifford Owens on Kamau Amu Patton’s "Second Mind / Alto Age," a limited-edition artwork and recording commissioned by the Pulitzer Arts Foundation, in conjunction with their exhibition, "Terry Adkins: Resounding." She has published poetry in the Oyez Review, Collected, and Homonym Journal. Her first full-length book of poetry—neon neon—is forthcoming from Shinkoyo / Artist Pool. Sherae Rimpsey is an Andrew W. Mellon Fellow and in her work with NAM, Sherae has a dual role as the Mildred Thompson Fellow for Arts Papers.
Kendra C. Thompson received a BA in Journalism and Mass Communications from New York University and has spent close to two decades working in communications and media. Kendra has held roles in field and post-production for programs airing on Fox News, BET, SyFy, Sky TV and Netflix.
From 2019-2022, Kendra worked as the artist-centered program associate for the Joan Mitchell Center in New Orleans where she supported the onboarding and residency sessions for over seventy national and New Orleans based artists.
Having completed an internship in house framing, Kendra also holds a post baccalaureate in Construction Management from Louisiana State University. Her goal is to create and maintain sustainable spaces for artists and their communities. In her work at NAM, Kendra supports the staff by creating, writing, and managing materials that support the museum’s mission and programming.