Alliance of HBCU Museums & Galleries

Our Mission

The Alliance of HBCU Museums and Galleries (the Alliance) is an organization comprised of seventeen member colleges and universities classified as Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), each of which maintains and operates a museum or gallery and associated collections of art. Our primary goals are:

To contribute to the diversification of the museum and art world through the preparation and training of outstanding students and recent alumni from our member HBCUs in museum studies, art conservation, archives, and artistry.

To support the preservation, sustenance, and operations of our member museums and galleries and their collections and staff.

About Us

Recognizing the enormity of the task of enhancing efforts to diversify the arts community, and recognizing the other organizations and programs that support this effort, the Alliance works with key strategic partners to develop dynamic programs for our students. Through our annual diversity workshops and other collaborative meetings, we convene our key partners and other interested parties in order to facilitate, foster, and encourage collaboration, learn from best practices, address the challenges of our respective organizations or institutions, and discuss and brainstorm collaborative diversity initiatives for our students.

Our Founder

Dr. Jontyle Theresa Robinson

Dr. Jontyle Theresa Robinson, founder of the Alliance of HBCU Museums and Galleries, is a third-generation HBCU college graduate. Her grandmother Ethel Teresa Nathan Grovey finished an HBCU and received her Masters from Texas Southern University and while there was enrolled in classes taught by artist John Biggers. Her grandfather graduated from Paul Quinn College in Dallas, Texas. Robinson’s mother Irma Jontyle Grovey Robinson received her AB from Huston -Tillotson and an MBA and MA in Economics from Atlanta University. All HBCUs. Robinson grew up on the campus of Morris Brown College where her mother was affiliated for 37 years. Robinson’s father Fred Alonzo Robinson graduated from Clark College in Atlanta in 1948 and received his MDiv from Gammon Theological Seminary (United Methodist Church) which joined with the Interdenominational Theological Center in 1958.

Robinson graduated from Clark College in 1968. Her interests in the visual arts and music were deeply supported by her parents who were accomplished musicians and artists. Creating an Alliance of HBCU Museums and Galleries would be a natural progression for Robinson since she was aware of so much that is positive and inspiring emerging from these remarkable educational institutions over three generations. In 2016, Robinson conceptualized the Alliance of HBCU Museums & Galleries, a coalition of 14 Historically Black College and University Museums and Galleries. She is the inaugural director.

Presently, Dr. Robinson is a 2022-2023 UNCFMellon Fellow at the National Humanities Center, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina and is conducting research for Bearing Witness: Contemporary Works by African American Women Artists, 1996 and Revelations from Bearing Witness, 2026. Her groundbreaking research on Archibald Motley at the Chicago History Center resulted in New York City’s Kenkeleba Gallery “Three Masters: Archibald Motley, Eldzier Cortor, and Hughie Lee Smith.” In 1991, the Chicago History Center mounted “The Art of Archibald John Motley, Jr.” from her decade-long research which was also the foundation for the Whitney Museum’s exhibition “Archibald Motley: Jazz Age Modernist” on view from October 2015–January 2016.

She curated and co-authored “Bearing Witness: Contemporary Works by African American Women Artists,” the first exhibition/catalogue of contemporary African American women artists touring America, for the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art’s contribution to the 1996 Olympics. Spelman is the #1 HBCU in America. The Spelman College Museum of Fine Art is the only museum in the nation dedicated to art by and about women of the African diaspora. Initial plans for the Museum were spearheaded by arts faculty of which Robinson was a part who believed that visual art is an essential component of a liberal arts education and that it plays a significant role in encouraging intellectual growth and it has served as a vital resource for the Spelman community and the Atlanta University Center since it opened in 1995. The Spelman Museum is an internationally respected nexus for excellent exhibitions and programs, and has a renewed commitment to growing and exhibiting the permanent collection of art. Robinson was its first curator and the first curator of the Tuskegee University Legacy Museum.

Alliance of HBCU Museums and Galleries

Board Members

Prayy Robinson

Director’s Assistant & Recruitment Specialist for Alliance Programming 2024-2025

Prajjon Robinson’s a magna cum laude graduate of Georgia State University, she holds a B.S. in Interdisciplinary Studies with a concentration in Media Entrepreneurship. Prajjon Robinson also graduated with an Associate of Science from Georgia State. Initially pursuing Middle Grades Mathematics education, her academic journey led her to discover a passion for media and entrepreneurship. During Prayy!’s time at Georgia State, she served as a New Student Orientation Leader from 2021-2022 and was an active member of the Sustainable Book Club.

While completing her studies, she worked full-time, demonstrating dedication and ability to balance multiple responsibilities. Growing up on an HBCU campus, she was immersed in Black art, museums, and galleries from an early age, which has profoundly shaped her perspective and prepared her to contribute effectively to the Alliance’s board.

Currently, she is preparing for the GRE and LSAT in pursuit of a dual degree program. In addition to her academic endeavors, she is the owner of Strange Solstice LLC and serves the Alliance of HBCU Museums and Galleries as a recruitment specialist and assistant to the CEO.

Anna Barber

Barber is a 20-year fundraising veteran turned fundraising consultant, bringing development best practices to the masses. She is the Founder and Principal Strategist of Barber & Associates, a boutique fundraising consulting firm, that works with clients on structuring comprehensive campaigns, fundraising trainings, and leadership level giving strategies. The firm’s current and former clients include institutions of higher education, museums, social justice organizations, corporations, foundations, start-ups, and healthcare entities, among others.

Prior to starting the firm, Barber was the first Central Major Gifts Officer at the Smithsonian Institution, and a member of the National Museum of African American History and Culture’s (NMAAHC) fundraising team that surpassed its private philanthropic goal of $350M. In 2017, her work at NMAAHC was featured in The Chronicle of Philanthropy. At NMAAHC, Barber secured $42M in leadership ($1M+) and major ($100K) gift support, highlighted by the closure of 22 individual one million-dollar gifts, 90% contributed by first-time donors to the Smithsonian. Leading into NMAAHC’s Grand Opening in 2016, she led the effort to host a $1M per plate fundraiser at the home of Pauletta and Denzel Washington and a mid-level fundraising event that generated $5M from $25K donors.

Prior to the Smithsonian, Barber spent 10 years working as a frontline fundraiser in intercollegiate college athletics. She served as the director of major gifts for Michigan State University Athletics, the assistant director of development at Miami University in Ohio and Management Associate at Arizona State University.

Barber earned a Juris Doctorate (Intellectual Property) from Arizona State University and a Bachelor of Science (Political Science) from Howard University.

Debbie Hess Norris

Debra Hess Norris, Chair, Department of Art Conservation and Professor of Photograph Conservation at the University of Delaware. She has authored more than 45 articles/ book chapters on the care of photographic materials and taught/ secured support for 165+ preservation workshops and initiatives worldwide. With Jennifer Jae Gutierrez, she co-edited – Issues in the Conservation of Photographs – published by the GCI (2010). Today with Nora Kennedy and Bertrand Lavédrine, she is co-editing a book on the Conservation of Photograph and Image Collections featuring contribution from ninety-six authors worldwide.

Norris is delighted and honored to serve on the board and to work in collaboration with the Alliance for HBCU Museums and Galleries. Additional board service includes work for Foundation for the Advancement in Conservation, Conservation Center for Art and Historic Art Materials, American Friends of the National Gallery of Denmark, the University of Delaware, and advisory councils, including Our World Heritage and the External Advisory Board for NYU Abu Dhabi. Norris was the chair of Heritage Preservation (2003- 2008) and president of the AIC (1993-97) and has led many preservation initiatives worldwide. She has worked with APOYOnline to develop workshops in Colombia, Cuba, and Brazil.

Norris co-led the Middle East Photograph Preservation Initiative (MEPPI) with the Arab Image Foundation, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Getty Conservation Institute. Norris helped to develop the Iraqi Institute for the Conservation of Antiquities and Heritage (IICAH) in Erbil, Iraq, now led by the Smithsonian Institution.

In 2002, Norris was inducted into the University of Delaware’s Alumni Wall of Fame. She has received the AIC Rutherford John Gettens Merit Award for outstanding service (1998), the Sheldon and Caroline Keck Award for excellence in the education of conservation professionals (2004), the AIC University Products Award for distinguished achievement in the conservation of cultural property (2008), and the College Art Association/ AIC Award for Distinction in Scholarship and Conservation (2016).  In May 2018, Norris was named a Francis Alison Scholar, UD’s top faculty honor.

She is grateful for these many meaningful partnerships and service opportunities and our collective work to enhance equity and inclusion within the profession of art conservation, to strengthen understanding through cultural heritage preservation, and to encourage and empower future leaders in and advocates for the art and culture sector worldwide.

Outside of conservation, Norris has served UD as an interim associate dean for the arts, the humanities, social sciences, and graduate education and as vice provost for graduate and professional education. She currently serves as the interim dean for the College of Arts and Sciences.

Elizabeth W. Easton

Elizabeth Easton is the Director of the Center for Curatorial Leadership (CCL), a non-profit organization she co-founded with Agnes Gund in 2007 to train museum curators in the fundamentals of management and leadership. Now in its sixteenth year and with almost 400 alumni around the world, CCL’s mission is to expand and diversify the pool of curators who are empowered to lead museums and contribute to the field at large.

She previously served as the first elected president of the Association for Art Museum Curators from 2003-2006, and as chair of the Department of European Paintings and Sculpture at the Brooklyn Museum from 1999-2007. Easton earned her Ph.D. at Yale University, writing her dissertation on Edouard Vuillard’s interiors of the 1890s.

She is the recipient of the Wilbur Cross Medal—the highest honor accorded to alumni of Yale University’s Graduate School—and in 2008 was appointed Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et Lettres by the French Government. She is a trustee of MASS MoCA and has served on the boards of the Town School, the Spence School, Studio in a School, and the International Foundation for Art Research (IFAR). She is on the Visiting Committee of the Department of Paintings Conservation at The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the advisory boards of a number of other cultural institutions.

Stephanie Sparling Williams

Stephanie Sparling Williams is the Andrew W. Mellon Curator of American Art at the Brooklyn Museum, where she leads the collecting and exhibition programs for the museum’s historically significant collection of American art. Her curatorial practice is predicated on interdisciplinary research, writing, and teaching on American art, and foregrounds Black Feminist space-making. Her scholarly work is invested in the space of the museum, with a focus on African American art and culture, and the work of U.S.-based artists of color. Related interests include material histories, cross cultural exchange, strategies of address, and contemporary art that engages with the history of the United States. Before coming to the Brooklyn Museum, she was the Associate Curator at the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum, and a Visiting Lecturer in Art History and Africana Studies at Mount Holyoke College. Prior to her appointments at Mount Holyoke, she was the Assistant Curator at the Addison Gallery of American Art, and in 2016-2017, she was the John Walsh Fellow at the Yale University Art Gallery.

Sparling Williams was the recipient of the 32nd Annual James A. Porter Book Award at Howard University for her monograph Speaking Out of Turn: Lorraine O’Grady and the Art of Language (UC Press).

She holds a Doctorate in American Studies and Ethnicity from the University of Southern California (USC) and a Certificate in Visual Studies, also from USC.

Ian McClure

Ian McClure was appointed the Susan Morse Hilles Chief Conservator at Yale University Art Gallery and Conservation Advisor for the Yale Center for British Art in 2008. He is currently head of the shared Conservation Center. Construction of the Center was completed in early 2015. In 1983 he was appointed Director of the Hamilton Kerr Institute, a department of the Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge, UK, a center for paintings conservation and research and the graduate education of painting conservators. In 2005 he was also appointed Deputy Director, Conservation at the Fitzwilliam Museum.

Jamaal Sheats

Jamaal Sheats, the Director and Curator of Fisk University Galleries and an Assistant Professor in the university’s Art Department. Since joining the Galleries in 2015, he has curated 18 exhibitions, expanded and nurtured partnerships, and designed innovative programs to foster access to, and engagement with the collections. The Student Gallery Ambassador Program, Babies in the Gallery, and the STEAM Series are exemplary efforts. To further amplify programming, Sheats instituted the Friends of the Gallery campaign. An art advocate committed to training and preparing diverse art leaders, he led a team that secured Ford Foundation and Walton Family Foundation funding (Diversity in Art Museum Leadership Initiative) to establish the Fisk University Museum Leadership Program.

Jonathan Beckham

Jonathan Beckham is a seasoned corporate and technology transactions lawyer who is intimately involved in counseling clients on transactions and other matters that both facilitate and relate to the ongoing digital transformation of industry. He advises leading technology and data center providers, enterprise customers (and their operations, procurement, and technology teams), investors, landlords and other institutions and entrepreneurs on a variety of sophisticated commercial, technology, and corporate matters. Jonathan provides clients with practical and efficient solutions that address their unique needs and requirements based upon expertise across a variety of disciplines and industries, familiarity with technologies, trends and best practices, and an understanding of applicable service level, regulatory and data security and privacy risks, and other commercial concerns.

Our Staff

Jordan Barrant

Alliance’s Grants Writer

Jordan Barrant, the Alliance’s Grants Writer, is a writer, curator, and interdisciplinary artist based in Chicago. Jordan is an alumna of Spelman College and a current Master’s candidate at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), pursuing a degree in Visual and Critical Studies. Alongside her studies, she has held positions at the Studio Museum in Harlem, the California African American Museum, and Art21. She has also completed residencies at the National Gallery of Jamaica and Artpace San Antonio and is a noted author with publications including the Studio Museum in Harlem, the National Gallery of Jamaica Blog, and the Institute of Contemporary Art Boston’s Venice publication.

Genevieve Antoine

Data and Program Coordinator

Genevieve Antoine was in the Conservation Internship for Broadening Access (CIBA) at the Lunder Conservation Center, Smithsonian Institution American Art Museum. She, also, participated in the Yale SMITAH and worked for a full year with photographs conservator Paul Messier in the Lens Media Lab at Yale and is a Physics and Chemistry major graduate from Tuskegee University. She and Prajjon Robinson have agreed to do recruitment for 2024 and 2025.

Heather Afriyie

Web Designer and Graphic Specialist

Heather Afriyie, the Alliance’s web designer and graphic specialist, is a deaf graphic designer, and she’s a graduate from the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). Her expertise includes high quality graphic design work such as logos, flyers, and website designs as well.