With New Urgency, Museums Aim to Cultivate Curators of Color

As a teenager growing up in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, Akili Tommasino used to cut class to visit artworks like the ancient Egyptian “Head from a Female Sphinx” with gaping eye sockets at the Brooklyn Museum, or Umberto Boccioni’s striding bronze figure, “Unique Forms of Continuity in Space,” at the Museum of Modern Art.

Wandering through the galleries, Mr. Tommasino also couldn’t help noticing that the only people of color he saw were the security guards; it wasn’t until he later studied art history at Harvard that Mr. Tommasino realized African-Americans like himself could also be curators, or even museum directors.

For decades the country’s mainstream art museums have excluded people of color — from their top leadership to the curators who create shows to the…

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