The Toledo Museum of Art (TMA) has named Johanna Minich, Ph.D. as consulting curator of Native American art. Her role includes managing TMA’s growing collection of Native American artworks, supporting the Museum’s exhibitions and assisting in developing gallery displays and presentations. She has more than two decades of museum and teaching experience and specializes in Native North American art history.
“The Toledo Museum of Art is committed to building an innovative curatorial program that blends scholarship and connoisseurship with equity and inclusion to present stories that encompass a global art history,” said Adam M. Levine, Toledo Museum of Art’s Edward Drummond and Florence Scott Libbey director and CEO. “Native American art is a central component of that history, and Johanna Minich will help us expand the stories we tell through her scholarship, acquisitions and by building sustainable relationships with Indigenous communities.”
Before joining the Toledo Museum of Art, Minich served as the assistant curator for Native American art at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA), where she fostered relationships with Virginia Native artists, adding artworks to VMFA’s collection. She assisted in repatriating several objects VMFA acquired early in its collecting history, an experience she called both gratifying and educational. Minich also led the charge to display Indigenous art in the American galleries.
“My professional life has been devoted to the study of, and appreciation for, the arts of Native North America. The dismantling of centuries of a one-sided narrative regarding the history of Native peoples is a project both daunting and fraught with the potential of criticism from numerous viewpoints. Yet, it also offers the opportunity to explore questions never even conceived of in the past,” said Minich. “Creating lasting partnerships and reciprocity with Native communities is vital, and that is my primary initiative for the Toledo Museum of Art as I help the Museum highlight the importance of Indigenous people and their art to the North American narrative. My doctoral research focused on the Hopewell culture of ancient Ohio, so in a way, this feels like coming home.”
Her work resulted in numerous exhibitions, including “American Land, American People,” (2020), which presented works by Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, Howling Wolf, Eileen Yatsattie and historic artists, some who remain unidentified, alongside paintings by Thomas Moran, Frederic Remington and Walter Ufer. Asher Brown Durand’s most important painting, “Progress,” acquired by VMFA during Minich’s tenure, became the focal point for VMFA’s exploration into new ways of presenting the history of America with the inclusion of Native American stories.
She also organized two traveling exhibitions — “Hear My Voice: Native American Art of the Past and Present” (2017) and “In Our Own Words: Native Impressions, 2015-2016” (2017). As a result, VMFA received generous funding and gifts of art. Her other exhibitions included “Untold History” (2022); “Words Matter” (2022); and “Native American Art” (2015), a permanent installation.
Before serving with VMFA’s curatorial team for eight years, Minich was a lecturer and art history instructor at the University of Mary Washington (Fredericksburg, Virginia); Bright Point Community College, née John Tyler Community College (Chester, Virginia); and Virginia Commonwealth University (Richmond, Virginia). She also taught English as a second language for Teachers for Africa in Ethiopia. “As a college instructor, I was able to introduce students to material and history entirely new to them, and as a museum curator I have been given the opportunity to reach even wider audiences. My experience as an educator taught me the value of piquing people’s curiosity and instilling a desire to learn more, and I apply this same principle in my curatorial approach,” Minich said.
Minich is also the president of J. Minich Art Curation and Consulting, offering counsel with collection management, exhibition development and more. She was a contributing editor for “Ceramics of Ancient America: Multidisciplinary Approaches” — the first volume to bring together archaeology, ethnography and art history in the analysis of pre-Columbian pottery. She holds multiple degrees in art history including a doctorate from Virginia Commonwealth University (Richmond, Virginia) and undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Georgia (Athens, Georgia).