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).
Newcomb Art Museum
Coordinator for Interpretation & Public Engagement
Tom Friel received a BFA in Fine Art from The University of the Arts in Philadelphia, PA, and an MFA in Sculpture from Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, MI. He has exhibited his artwork throughout Chicago, Detroit and Philadelphia, as well as in San Francisco, CA, Omaha, NE and Basel, Switzerland. As an art educator, Friel has taught art classes, art appreciation, and hands-on workshops to kids, teens and adults in various media, as well as art appreciation for over ten 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 also written art and social criticism for badatsports.com, caretsandsticks.com and wowhuh.com, as well as other art publications. Most recently, Friel was Visitor Services Supervisor at Cranbrook Art Museum in Detroit, where he provided supplemental information and education resources to the museum’s visitors and led dynamic exhibition tours.
Newcomb Art Museum
Collections Manager & Exhibitions Registrar
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.
Newcomb Art Museum
Curator and Coordinator of Academic Programming
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.