The Baltimore Museum of Art has received a $3.5 million donation to support the position of chief curator, one of the largest endowment gifts the museum has seen since its founding in 1914.
The role will be renamed after the donors, the Baltimore-based philanthropists Eddie C. and C. Sylvia Brown. It is held by Asma Naeem, a specialist in American art and contemporary Islamic art who was appointed last August.
“We see this endowment for chief curator as being a very significant statement, especially naming a person of color,” Mr. Brown, the founder and chief executive of Brown Capital Management, said. “That really appealed to us.”
Before her appointment at the Baltimore Museum of Art, Ms. Naeem was the associate curator of prints, drawings and media arts at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery. She has taught art history at the University of Maryland and at the Catholic University of America.
The endowment and hiring of Ms. Naeem are part of a systemic transformation the museum is undergoing to better align with and serve a city where black people make up 63 percent of the population.
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Christopher Bedford, the director of the museum, said that the institution is attempting to “fundamentally” change through its exhibitions, acquisitions, public programs, staff and board over the next few years. “I think equally important is having philanthropic leadership within the community whose values are also commensurate with those emerging values of the institution,” he said.
Mr. and Mrs. Brown, the founders of the Brown Family Foundation, are former members of the museum’s board of trustees. They have been involved with the museum for more than 20 years and have contributed art and finances to broaden its collections of works by African-American artists.