American Folk Art Museum Announces Staff Promotions

  • NEW YORK, New York
  • /
  • July 19, 2021

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(New York, July 19, 2021)—Today, American Folk Art Museum’s (AFAM) Director and CEO Jason T. Busch announced four promotions:

  • Persephone Allen, Curator of Programs and Engagement
  • Emelie Gevalt, Curatorial Chair for Collections & Curator of Folk Art
  • Dr. Valérie Rousseau, Curatorial Chair for Exhibitions & Senior Curator of Self-Taught Art & Art Brut
  • Margarita Sánchez Urdaneta, Director of Publications and Editorial 

“‘My colleagues have received these promotions in recognition of their creativity, vision, and leadership,’ said Mr. Busch. ‘As we celebrate AFAM’s 60th anniversary, Persephone, Emelie, Valérie, and Margarita will continue their excellent work in collaboration with the Museum’s staff, partners, and community.’”

Persephone Allen is the creative force behind the Museum’s public programs for adults, typified by her work on AFAM’s Virtual Insights series. In spring 2020, she launched this series that engages global, national, and local audiences through conversations and discussions with artists, writers, curators, makers, and historians. Going forward, Emelie Gevalt will continue her incisive focus on advancing the visibility of the Museum’s collection and growing its historical folk art holdings. She will work with other cultural organizations on new approaches to traveling exhibitions, scholarship, programming, and partnerships while planning innovative shows that will inspire new ways of thinking about folk art. Throughout her tenure at AFAM, Dr. Valérie Rousseau has organized groundbreaking exhibitions, most recently the critically-acclaimed PHOTO | BRUT: Collection Bruno Decharme & Compagnie. She will lead efforts to build upon the Museum’s stellar program of exhibitions, oversee collaborative and innovative initiatives, and work to the enrichment and diversification of the Museum’s collection of 20th and 21st century art. Margarita Sánchez Urdaneta is poised to lead the Museum’s editorial and publications strategy. Through both traditional and emerging forms of publishing, she’ll produce content and organize editorial projects that present the Museum’s collection, archives, and exhibitions as portals for exploration, scholarship, and research. 

Persephone Allen 

Curator of Programs and Engagement

Persephone Allen organizes creative and cross-disciplinary conversations, symposia, workshops, and readings at the American Folk Art Museum. She has previously held positions in education and programming at The Frick Collection, Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University-New Brunswick, the Bard Graduate Center Gallery, and the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities, and completed internships at the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Frick, and the RISD Museum of Art. She holds an M.A. in History from the University of Edinburgh and an M.A. in Design History, Decorative Arts, and Material Culture from the Bard Graduate Center. Her Bard thesis on photography at the Bauhaus was recently published in Dust & Data: Bauhaus Trajectories in One Hundred Years of Modernism (2019). 

Emelie Gevalt 

Curatorial Chair for Collections and Curator of Folk Art

Emelie Gevalt is currently planning the forthcoming exhibition Unnamed Figures: Black Presence and Absence in Early American Vernacular Art. She most recently served as coordinating curator for AFAM’s heralded exhibition American Weathervanes: The Art of the Winds, as well as for a national tour of exhibitions from the Museum’s collection. Gevalt has previously held positions at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and Christie’s, New York, where she served as a Vice President and Senior Account Manager in the Estates & Appraisals department. In addition to her curatorial work, she is a doctoral candidate in American art history at the University of Delaware, where her scholarship has been supported by an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Curatorial Track Ph.D. Fellowship. Gevalt received her BA in Art History and Theater Studies from Yale University and her MA from the Winterthur Program in American Material Culture. Her research on early eighteenth-century painted chests from Taunton, Massachusetts, was recently published in the Chipstone Foundation’s American Furniture (2019). 

Dr. Valérie Rousseau

Curatorial Chair for Exhibitions and Senior Curator of Self-Taught Art and Art Brut

Dr. Valérie Rousseau curated the award-winning exhibition on performance art When the Curtain Never Comes Down (2015), as well as Art Brut in America: The Incursion of Jean Dubuffet (2015), PHOTO|BRUT: Collection Bruno Decharme & Compagnie (2021), and others presentations on Paa Joe (2019), William Van Genk (2014), and idiosyncratic visual narratives (2018). She authored the FILAF-winning publication Bill Traylor (5 Continents, 2018), “The Fate of Self-Taught Art” (The Brooklyn Rail, 2018), The Hidden Art (Rizzoli, 2017), and “Visionary Architectures” (Hayward Gallery, 2013). Rousseau holds a Ph.D. in Art History (Université du Québec à Montréal), which was supported by a scholarship from the Fonds de recherche du Québec Société et culture (FRQSC), a MA in Anthropology (École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris), and a MA in Art Theory (Université du Québec à Montréal). She is the recipient of a 2018 curatorial fellowship from the FACE Foundation focused on the intersection of psychiatry and the artistic avant-garde.

Margarita Sánchez Urdaneta

Director of Publications and Editorial

Margarita Sánchez Urdaneta is a writer, editor, educator, and artist. She has spearheaded several printed and online publications both in the United States and abroad. She is currently a Part-time Lecturer in the Fine Arts Department at Parsons, The New School, and has lectured in a number of universities, including Pratt Institute in New York. Her work has been featured at several international venues, including The Kitchen; Museo del Barrio; The BID; Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Bogotá; Galería Gabriela Mistral, among others. Sánchez Urdaneta holds an MFA from Parsons, The New School, a graduate degree in Journalism from the Universidad de Los Andes, and was a fellow at the Independent Study Program of the Whitney Museum of American Art and SOMA.

Christopher Gorman
American Folk Art Museum

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