Press RoomPress ReleasesHigh Museum of Art Announces Curatorial Promotions

High Museum of Art Announces Curatorial Promotions

June 26, 2024

ATLANTA, June 26, 2024 — The High Museum of Art announced promotions for  two of its curators today. Katherine Jentleson, who has served as the Merrie and Dan Boone curator of folk and self-taught art since 2015, will continue in that role and now also serve as senior curator of American art, overseeing the American art program. Michael Rooks, who joined the High in 2010, is now the Wieland Family seånior curator of modern and contemporary art. To support the growth of their respective departments, Jentleson and Rooks will expand their staff with new curatorial hires. Jentleson is directing the effort to fill the vacant post of Margaret and Terry Stent curator of American art, and Rooks has begun a search for the new position of assistant curator of modern and contemporary art.

“These promotions reflect the high level of accomplishment and responsibility that Katie and Michael have exhibited and embraced in their work,” said the High’s Director Rand Suffolk. “Organizationally, these changes will also support the growth and connectivity of our collections, presenting opportunities for new exhibitions and scholarship as well as cross-departmental collaboration.”

Jentleson’s new role leading the American art program acknowledges and reinforces the importance of folk and self-taught art within the larger canon of American art as well as the High’s exceptional collections in those areas. Under Jentleson’s leadership, the museum will continue to make strategic acquisitions that bridge work by trained and untrained artists in the collection, creating new opportunities for both canonical and previously marginalized artists to be seen as American innovators.
The addition of a new assistant curator of modern and contemporary art respectively acknowledges the great activity, diverse scope and strategic development of that department. Under Rooks’ leadership, the contemporary collection has grown by 26 percent with more than 800 acquisitions and presented nearly 50 special exhibitions featuring international artists including Yayoi Kusama, Michael Lin and Julie Mehretu.

Chief Curator Kevin W. Tucker added, “The creation of new leadership positions within these two departments is key to furthering our overall goals around curatorial excellence and distinctiveness, championing diversity across the High’s collections and exhibitions. I look forward to the results of Katie’s and Michael’s efforts as they take on their new roles.”

Katherine Jentleson
Katherine “Katie” Jentleson, Ph.D., is the senior curator of American art and the Merrie and Dan Boone curator of folk and self-taught art at the High Museum of Art. Her recent exhibitions include “George Voronovsky: Memoryscapes” (March 24-Aug. 13, 2023) and the nationally traveling exhibitions “Gatecrashers: The Rise of the Self-Taught Artist in America” (Aug. 20-Dec. 12, 2021) and “Really Free: The Radical Art of Nellie Mae Rowe” (Sept. 3, 2021-Jan. 9, 2022).

Since joining the High, she has overseen nine exhibitions and doubled the size of the collection with major acquisitions of work by Thornton Dial, Lonnie Holley, the Gee’s Bend quilters and Henry Church, many of which debuted in the newly expanded and thematically integrated folk and self-taught art galleries as part of the museum’s 2018 reinstallation. Her exhibitions, publications and collection-based initiatives have been awarded major support from Bank of America, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Art Bridges Foundation, the Dorothea and Leo Rabkin Foundation, Society for the Preservation of the American Modernists, the Terra Foundation for American Art and the Wyeth Foundation for American Art. Currently she is spearheading an ongoing quilt collecting initiative to build the museum’s holdings of quilts by Black artists. Many of the museum’s recently acquired quilts will go on view for the first time in Jentleson’s upcoming exhibition “Patterns in Abstraction: Black Quilts from the High’s Collection” (June 28, 2024-Jan. 5, 2025). Jentleson is also an active leader in the larger field of American art as co-executive editor of “Panorama: Journal of the Association of Historians of American Art,” a digital peer-reviewed publication that celebrates its 10th anniversary this year.

Before she became a curator, Jentleson worked as an arts journalist in New York. Through her editorial assignments and general experiences at galleries and museums there, she discovered her passion for self-taught artists and their historical legacy in the United States. In 2010, she began her graduate studies in art history at Duke University, where she studied American art broadly and focused her research on how the first generation of celebrated self-taught artists fit into the larger landscape of American modernism between the World Wars. During her graduate career she received awards and fellowships from the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Archives of American Art and the Dedalus Foundation, and she contributed research and writing to exhibitions at the American Folk Art Museum, the Ackland Art Museum, the Nasher Museum of Art, the Studio Museum in Harlem and Prospect.3 New Orleans. Jentleson adapted her dissertation into a peer-reviewed book “Gatecrashers: The Rise of the Self-Taught Artist in America” (University of California Press, Spring 2020) and the High Museum of Art’s 2021 exhibition of the same name.

Michael Rooks
Michael Rooks is the Wieland Family senior curator of modern and contemporary art at the High Museum of Art. His recent exhibitions include “Monir Farmanfarmaian: A Mirror Garden” (Nov. 18, 2022-April 9, 2023), “What Is Left Unspoken, Love” (March 25-Aug. 14, 2022) and “Al Taylor, What Are You Looking At?” (Nov. 17, 2017-March 18, 2018). Since joining the High in 2010, he has overseen more than 40 exhibitions and grown the collection by more than 26 percent with the addition of more than 800 artworks, including major acquisitions of work by prominent and influential artists of the 21st century including Amoako Boafo, Monir Farmanfarmaian, Teresita Fernández, Jeffrey Gibson, Arthur Jafa, Rashid Johnson, Alex Katz, Julie Mehretu, Shirin Neshat, Ebony G. Patterson, Sarah Sze, Kara Walker and Mary Weatherford, among many others. His exhibitions have been awarded major support from the U.S. Department of State, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation.

Early exhibition highlights at the High include “Alex Katz, This Is Now” (June 21-Sept. 6, 2015) and two historical survey exhibitions in collaboration with The Museum of Modern Art, New York: “Picasso to Warhol: Fourteen Modern Masters” (Oct. 15, 2011-April 29, 2012) and “Fast Forward: Modern Moments, 1913-2013” (Oct. 13, 2012-Jan. 20, 2013). In addition to his responsibilities at the High, Rooks served as commissioner and cocurator of the U.S. Pavilion at the 12th International Architecture Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia, in 2010.

Prior to joining the High, Rooks held curatorial positions at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (MCA); The Contemporary Museum, Honolulu; and the Honolulu Academy of Arts (now Honolulu Museum of Art). At MCA, Rooks curated a dozen exhibitions including major career retrospectives of Roy Lichtenstein and H. C. Westermann, for which he was the principal author of the H. C. Westermann catalogue raisonné. As curator at The Contemporary Museum, Honolulu, Rooks curated more than 15 exhibitions, including projects by Michael Lin, Paul Morrison and Yoshitomo Nara, introducing audiences in Hawaii to a new generation of international contemporary art.

About the High’s American and Folk and Self-Taught Art Departments
The High’s American art collection includes nearly 1,300 paintings, sculptures, drawings and prints made by artists working within the United States between 1780 and 1980. From early American portraiture to the splendor of the Gilded Age, the High’s 19th-century collection includes excellent examples in landscape and portraiture in addition to one of the largest holdings of American neoclassical marble sculpture. The High’s notable American Impressionist collection began with major gifts from the J. J. Haverty Family and has grown to include works by Mary Cassatt, Theodore Robinson, Lilla Cabot Perry and John Singer Sargent. The collection is also distinguished by iconic 20th-century works by Romare Bearden, Elizabeth Catlett, Norman Lewis, Georgia O’Keeffe, Winold Reiss and Joseph Stella that demonstrate the flourishing of diverse styles in American modernism.

The High began collecting the work of living self-taught artists in 1975 and was the first general museum to establish a dedicated department for folk and self-taught art in 1994. Today, the High boasts one of the most significant collections of American folk and self-taught art in the world, which is especially rich in artworks by Southern and African American artists. Milestones in the department’s collection history include the museum’s 1982 acquisition of 30 drawings by the then relatively unknown artist Bill Traylor, the 1994 collaboration with Howard Finster that made the High the largest public repository of his work outside of Paradise Garden, Judith Alexander’s 2003 gift of 130 works by Atlanta artist Nellie Mae Rowe, and the 2017 gift-purchase with the Souls Grown Deep Foundation, which added 54 works and reaffirmed the High’s leadership in Southern self-taught art. Although known for its unparalleled holdings of work by Southern masters like Traylor, Finster, Rowe and Dial, the High also has major works by self-taught artists who worked outside of the South, including Henry Church, Myrlande Constant, William Hawkins, Martín Ramírez and Henry Darger.

About the High’s Modern and Contemporary Art Department
Since 2010, the modern and contemporary art department’s programs have been more robust than any point in the museum’s history. Today, contemporary art is an essential feature of the museum’s regional and national identity. Beginning with the United States Pavilion exhibition at the 12th Venice Architecture Biennale titled “Workshopping: An American Model of Architectural Practice” (Aug. 29-Nov. 21, 2010), the museum has presented nearly 50 original and traveling exhibitions of varying scale, including career retrospectives such as “Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors” (Nov. 18, 2018-Feb. 17, 2019) and smaller-focus exhibitions such as “Of Origins and Belonging, Drawn from Atlanta” (June 1- Sep. 29, 2019). The department’s foundational engagement with local artists was rekindled with such exhibitions as “Radcliffe Bailey: Memory as Medicine” (June 26-Sept. 11, 2011) and “Alejandro Aguilera, About the Modern Spirit” (Feb. 18-May 20, 2012).

The modern and contemporary collection encompasses art from 1945 to the present, including artworks across media and from diverse geographic locations and cultures. Since 2010, significant acquisitions by women and artists of color reflect the department’s ongoing commitment to diversity and inclusion. The department comprises more than 3,000 works of art, including 400 paintings, nearly 700 drawings, 1,600 prints, 250 sculptures and 20 video and new media works. The department provides a broad overview of the art of our time with outstanding examples of work by definitive artists who emerged in the postwar era; midcareer artists who have expanded and challenged the canon since the early 2000s; and recent acquisitions by emerging artists whose influential work suggests new directions for the future including Raque Ford, Dominique Fung, Jameson Green, Ulala Imai, Tomashi Jackson, Julia Jo, Leslie Martinez, Michi Meko, Ludovic Nkoth, Ding Shilun, Marcus Leslie Singleton and Salman Toor, among many others.

About the High Museum of Art
Located in the heart of Atlanta, the High Museum of Art connects with audiences from across the Southeast and around the world through its distinguished collection, dynamic schedule of special exhibitions and engaging community-focused programs. Housed within facilities designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architects Richard Meier and Renzo Piano, the High features a collection of more than 19,000 works of art, including an extensive anthology of 19th- and 20th-century American fine and decorative arts; major holdings of photography and folk and self-taught work, especially that of artists from the American South; burgeoning collections of modern and contemporary art, including paintings, sculpture, new media and design; a growing collection of African art, with work dating from prehistory through the present; and significant holdings of European paintings and works on paper. The High is dedicated to reflecting the diversity of its communities and offering a variety of exhibitions and educational programs that engage visitors with the world of art, the lives of artists and the creative process. For more information about the High, visit

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