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March 29, 2005

American Art Expert Jessica F. Nicoll Named Museum of Art Director

NORTHAMPTON, Mass.—Jessica F. Nicoll, chief curator of the Portland (Maine) Museum of Art and an authority on American art and culture, is the new director of the Smith College Museum of Art.

Nicoll has published many scholarly articles on Winslow Homer and a variety of other topics including the architecture of Federal-era mansions and Quaker quilts. Her piece about itinerant artists is forthcoming in the Encyclopedia of New England Culture.

Nicoll’s appointment begins Aug. 1. She succeeds Suzannah Fabing, who is retiring after a 13-year tenure, during which the museum underwent an extensive renovation and expansion.

“The Smith College Museum of Art’s elegant new facility, outstanding collection and wonderful staff make the institution a powerful educational resource for its community and have made this an irresistible opportunity for me,” said Nicoll, a Smith College alumna. “As a graduate of Smith, I find this opportunity doubly exciting—a chance to do the work I love for the benefit of a community that I care about deeply.”

Nicoll joined the Portland Museum of Art as curator of American art in 1992 and, three years later, was appointed chief curator and William and Helen Thon Curator of American Art. During her tenure, Nicoll curated more than two dozen exhibitions featuring folk art, fabric collages, contemporary abstract works, paintings, drawing, prints and photography.

Nicoll also oversaw the restoration, interpretation and reinstallation of the museum’s Federal-era McLellan House and the historic L.D.M. Sweat Memorial Galleries. Under her leadership, the professional curatorial staff and museum collection grew.

“Jessica has all the qualities we are looking for. She is a strong museum administrator, has extensive curatorial experiences and is articulate and passionate about the role an art museum can play in a liberal arts education,” said Christopher B. Loring, director of libraries and chair of the search committee.

Provost Susan C. Bourque noted, “The Museum of Art is one of the cultural resources that makes Smith College an exceptional institution—not only for our faculty and students but also for the wider community.”

After earning a bachelor’s in art history and American studies from Smith in 1983, Nicoll received her master’s in early American culture and museum studies at the University of Delaware. A guest curator in Delaware’s Winterthur Museum from 1985 to 1986, Nicoll returned to Massachusetts to accept a post as a curator of exhibits at the Old Sturbridge Village, which she held from 1986 to 1992.

In Sturbridge, Nicoll served as project director for the exhibitions “Meet Your Neighbors: New England Portraits, Painters and Society, 1790-1850” and “Changing Times, Changing Lives: Women in Rural New England in the early 19th century.”

Among her professional activities, Nicoll serves as a member of the New England Advisory Committee of the Archives of American Art at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

The search committee was composed of trustees, faculty members, representatives of the student body and Alumnae Association and Museum Visiting Committee members.

The Museum

Widely regarded as one of the most distinguished college museums in the country, the Smith College Museum of Art is best known for its 19th- and 20th-century European and American collection. In addition, it is developing holdings in Asian, African and Latin American art. The permanent collection features works by Manet, Monet, Picasso, Copley, Eakins, Stella, Motherwell, O’Keeffe and many other famous painters, along with noteworthy sculpture and classical antiquities, prints, drawings and photographs.

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