U-M Museum of Art names African Art Internship in honor of James L. and Vivian A. Curtis

U-M Museum of Art names African Art Internship in honor of James L. and Vivian A. Curtis

AunRika Tucker-Shabazz, Inaugural James L. and Vivian A. Curtis African Art Intern

The University of Michigan Museum of Art (UMMA) has named a student internship in African art to recognize the tremendous contributions of Dr. James L. Curtis (MD ‘46, HScD ‘16) and the late Vivian A. Curtis (MSW ‘48). The naming also commemorates Dr. Curtis’s 100th birthday on April 27, 2022.    

James L. Curtis, M.D. graduated from the U-M medical school in 1946. Dr. Curtis was among the very first Black U-M students to live in the Victor Vaughn dormitory for male medical students during World War II. He went on to pursue specialty training in psychiatry at a time when fewer than 100 Black physicians in the U.S. had trained for a specialty. Dr. Curtis later served as associate dean of student affairs at Cornell University Medical School and retired from the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons as clinical professor of psychiatry and director of psychiatry at Harlem Hospital Center. 

The Curtises have a long history of philanthropy at U-M. The Curtis Collection at UMMA comprises hundreds of artworks donated by the Curtises from Africa and the African diaspora. The collection ranges from African sculptures, beadwork, and other objects of the late 19th and early 20th centuries to photographs, paintings, and prints by 20th century Black American artists, including a number of prints and etchings by Jacob Lawrence.

In addition to their extraordinary generosity at UMMA, they have supported the School of Music, Theatre, and Dance, the Department of Afroamerican and African Studies, and an endowed graduate student support fund at the School of Social Work was named in their honor in 2008 —  the Vivian A. and James L. Curtis School of Social Work Research and Training Center. 

“We are honored to recognize the extraordinary contributions of the Curtises through the naming of this internship,” said UMMA Director Christina Olsen. “Applied learning through opportunities like student internships are key pathways to careers in museums and the arts.” 

The inaugural James L. and Vivian A. Curtis African Art Intern is AunRika Tucker-Shabazz, a doctoral candidate in the U-M Department of Sociology. A researcher and social theorist, Tucker-Shabazz is a publicly engaged scholar who uses critical theories of power, history, and social change to enrich community wellbeing. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Williams College and masters from U-M. At UMMA, Tucker-Shabazz is researching the extraordinary collection of artwork donated over several decades by James L. and Vivian A. Curtis.