Legacy Russell, a rising star curator and author, has been named chief curator and executive director of the Kitchen, one of New York’s oldest and most revered nonprofit cultural spaces, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.
A native New Yorker, Russell currently serves as associate curator of exhibitions at the Studio Museum in Harlem, where she also oversees its acclaimed residency program.
Russell will assume her new post in September, succeeding Tim Griffin, who has led the art space since 2011. (Griffin is moving to Columbus, Ohio, where his wife, Johanna Burton, directs the Wexner Center for the Arts. He will teach art history and English at Ohio State University.)
Russell is, according to Griffin, the first Black executive director to lead the institution.
“As we respond creatively, think radically, mourn deeply, engage critically, and hold tenderly this transformative moment in New York, across America, and around the globe, I am inspired by the ways artists show us how to do the work of reimagining and remaking our existence in the world,” Russell said in a statement.
Russell, who is the author of (2020) and the forthcoming book , is a canny fit for the Kitchen, which has offered an open-minded, interdisciplinary space for artists ranging from Joan Jonas to Bill T. Jones to experiment. Russell’s research and curatorial work focuses on performance, with a special emphasis on how artists engage with Black and queer digital culture.
Before arriving at the Studio Museum, Russell worked at the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Brooklyn Museum. She attended Macalester College in Minnesota and earned a graduate degree in art history from Goldsmiths, University of London.
She credits her enduring appreciation for the creative community to early exposure to downtown nightlife and the energy of the New York art scene. Speaking with Artnet News’s Naomi Rea on the Art Angle’s podcast, Russell described her curatorial approach: “It’s really allowing the artists to shape the vision and participate in an equal playing field with the curators, the public programmers, the educators.”
Russell helped to organize an array of institutional projects at the Studio Museum, including shows of artists Garrett Bradley, Michael Armitage, Dozie Kanu, and Chloë Bass.
“Legacy is the most recent of the brilliant arts professionals who have risen in their careers at the Studio Museum and gone on to enrich other institutions throughout the country,” Studio Museum director Thelma Golden, who Russell considers a mentor, said in a statement. “I look forward eagerly to seeing where she will take the Kitchen in the next phase of its important history.”