Staff Feature: Juana Williams, UICA's Exhibitions Curator

  Juana Williams , Photo Credit: Jeff Cancelosi

Juana Williams, Photo Credit: Jeff Cancelosi

UICA is proud to welcome the newest member of our team, Exhibitions Curator, Juana Williams. Williams comes to us from Detroit, MI, where she most recently worked as Assistant to the Chair at Wayne State University Department of Art and Art History. Williams is an active freelance contemporary art curator and arts advocate.

As the newly appointed curator, what are you most excited about?

I’m most excited about connecting with the community and determining how I can best serve them, as well as giving opportunities to emerging artists. As the curator, I hope to continue forming relationships between UICA and surrounding communities, and create exhibitions that not only serve the community but also create avenues for discourse around contemporary culture. 

So Juana, how would you describe your new role at UICA?
What is it that an Exhibitions Curator does?

In addition to serving as a representative of UICA, as the Exhibitions Curator, I will be responsible for overseeing all exhibition-related matters and programming designed to engage viewers, and managing the exhibitions team.

What did you do before you started working at UICA?

I have held various positions within multiple art institutions throughout my career but I most recently worked as the assistant to the Chair of the Wayne State University Art and Art History Department handling art administrative duties. I also worked as an independent curator.

Grand Rapids is a dynamic city. It’s rapidly developing and holds a unique space, not only in Southwest Michigan, but also in the nation. I’m excited to be part of such an energetic city and to figure out how I can help UICA continue to play a major role in the current development of Grand Rapids.
— Juana Williams, UICA's Exhibitions Curator


What is your proudest moment?

My proudest moment of my career thus far was the opening of my first independently curated exhibition. My first chance to see my ideas come into fruition was exciting and propelled my career forward. As a curator, opportunities for my visions to become realized in a tangible way and to be well received by audiences are rewarding experiences. 

Who is your biggest inspiration?

Although it sounds cliché, my mom is my biggest inspiration. Through the life she lives, she inadvertently teaches me that nothing is impossible.

Favorite exhibition you’ve seen?

Last year I went to the Brooklyn Museum of Art to view We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965-85. It was the most impactful exhibition I’ve seen thus far. I happened to be in the final stages of completing my Master’s Thesis, of which a significant portion discussed the important roles Black women artists played during the Civil Rights Era. It was an incredible experience to see works by so many artists that I admired and studied. More importantly, to be in a space filled with the artistic voices of so many Black female artists, who typically do not receive appropriate recognition, was absolutely surreal.

What has been your most rewarding experience in the arts?

I worked as an artist’s assistant a few years ago on an installation that consisted of 10,000 tar-dipped feathers suspended from the ceiling. The process of helping tie string to each feather individually and attaching each feather to a net was a long, repetitive process but when the final moment came to hoist the installation into place, it was very rewarding. Although my passion is more in studying art and creating exhibitions, having a hand in the literal manifestation of an artist’s complex imagination was gratifying. My participation in the process of creating the work also gave me a contrasting and greater understanding of the message of the piece.

What do you like to do when you’re not in the office?

I love to spend as much time as possible in nature and traveling. Exhibitions, art museums, beaches, and places to hike or camp guide a lot of my traveling. I also spend more time than I’d like to admit perusing used bookstores and getting lost in the imagined worlds of fiction books.