Museum Staff

Miriam Taylor

Interim Director

Miriam Taylor received both her B.A. in Journalism and B.A. in English from the University of Mississippi, and holds a Masters in Communications from the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York. As the External Affairs Manager and Associate Director of the Newcomb Art Museum she assisted in developing programs, events, and community partnerships and aided in producing and publicizing exhibitions such as "Bmike Odums’ NOT Supposed 2-Be Here," "EMPIRE by artist collective Fallen Fruit," "LaToya Ruby Frazier: Flint is Family", and the groundbreaking show "PerSister: Incarcerated Women of Louisiana," which was awarded the 2019 Museum Exhibition of the Year by the Louisiana Endowment for the Arts. As a grant writer, she has successfully raised funds for the museum from the Ford Foundation, The Helis Foundation, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation, and the New Orleans Arts Council.

Before joining the team at Newcomb, Taylor worked as the Communications Manager at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in New Orleans where she led the rebranding strategy for the institution, among other initiatives. Prior to moving to New Orleans, she worked in the communications industry in New York City at magazines such as Fast Company, Harper’s Bazaar, House Beautiful, and Rolling Stone. She has also worked as the director of marketing for Wealthview Capital, and as an instructor at Syracuse University and the University of Mississippi. Her writing has appeared in 64 Parishes, the New Orleans Times Picayune | Nola.com, the Syracuse New Times, Mississippi Magazine, and Fast Company, among other publications. Taylor is a graduate of the Bryan Bell Metropolitan Leadership Forum and a member of the Associate of Academic Museums and Galleries (AAMG), the Southeastern Museums Conference (SEMC), and the American Alliance of Museums (AAM). In 2017 she served on the host committee for the SEMC meeting in New Orleans, and in 2019 she served on the PR committee for AAM’s conference in New Orleans. Currently a doctoral candidate in Tulane University’s City, Culture, and Community program, Taylor’s research interest lies in socially engaged museum practices and the potential for positive change when cultural institutions work in active partnership with and for diverse communities, with a specific focus on institutions in the Gulf South.

Tom Friel

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.

Sierra Polisar

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.

Laura Blereau

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.