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New Director and Chief Curator Jennifer McCabe's Mission for SMoCA

Erika Thomas  | May 21, 2019 | People

SMoCA’s newly-appointed director and chief curator is ushering in a new era of activism within the Scottsdale arts community and beyond.


Jennifer McCabe has always had a passion for working with artists. The former executive director and chief curator at San Francisco’s Museum of Craft and Folk Art says, “Inclusion within the arts is an ongoing mission. I want to bring a diverse voice to the table at SMoCA and within the contemporary space overall.” McCabe—who keeps a Post-it on her desk with the words “curatorial activism” scribbled on it as a reminder of her goal—is completing a second-year grant from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. “When I first wrote the grant to the Warhol Foundation, the idea was not only that new work would be made, but that it would be a wide range of diverse work,” she says.

Having previously taught modern and contemporary art at San Francisco State University, as well as at Arizona State University, she adds, “I love working with artists to help them bring social change to the public eye. Doing so creates a new perspective for viewers and opens up a thought process for people to better understand one another. This is one of the best things that art can do, and one of its greatest benefits.”

SMoCA’s recent exhibition, Double Agents, which featured the work of maverick fashion designer Carla Fernandez and her life partner, artist Pedro Reyes, epitomizes McCabe’s vision. “Fashion is an important part of our mission at SMoCA. Fernandez and Reyes combine fashion design with protest posters, sculpture, photography and video. Their work is multifaceted. They take risks and then present their ideas in a way that evokes a spirit of change in people.” Going forward, McCabe plans to partner with various institutions, bringing artists of all ethnicities, ages and genders to the forefront. “We’re a contemporary art museum and so we’re on the edge of culture and what risks people are taking. Museums in general haven’t left the best legacy for inclusion, and, now, we can change that.” 7374 E. Second St., Scottsdale


Photography by: Scott Foust | artwork by Janel Garza, “Environ” (2018) | shot on location at scottsdale museum of contemporary art