This article was previously published in the special edition, ALUMNAE (December 2018).
Since her graduation from The Courtauld in 1991, Kaywin Feldman has held the role of Director in three separate cultural institutions, and commencing 11th March 2019, this number will become four. Recently appointed as the Director of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, Feldman will be the first woman to tackle this internationally important role, her next in a list of impressive career developments.
Before starting at The Courtauld, Feldman did her undergraduate degree in archaeology at the University of Michigan. Following this, she completed a master’s degree at the Institute of Archaeology at the University of London, before making the change to art history and completing a second master’s at The Courtauld. Here, she specialised in Dutch and Flemish art with Professor Joanna Woodall, who continues to teach at The Courtauld to this day.
(Image: National Gallery of Art)
Perhaps reflecting her beginnings in archaeology, Feldman began her career volunteering and working at the British Museum, only a short distance from The Courtauld in Somerset House. In 1996, aged just 29, Feldman returned to the USA and was appointed Director of the Fresno Metropolitan Museum of Art and Science in California. After three years in this role she moved into the role of Director at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art in Tennessee. The list doesn’t end here. In 2007, Feldman became the Director and President of the Minneapolis Institute of Art, a role she has flourished in for eleven years.
During her time at the Minneapolis Institute of Art (Mia), attendance to the museum doubled and the museum ‘opened its doors to community dialogue’, including the introduction of free admission and the provision of classes for immigrants to prepare for their naturalisation exams. Feldman’s belief in inclusion is echoed by the museum and as director she sought to “stand firm for their values”. This was manifest in the Mia’s billboard campaign in 2017 which opposed President Trump’s proposal to ban immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries. The billboard stated “We’re free. Everyone is welcome. Always.”
Feldman wrote in 2018 of the need for museum directors to “bravely [maintain] one’s personal and institutional true north in anxious and volatile times.” With her move to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, it is exciting to wonder what positive developments she will introduce to the museum: they will no doubt be as impressive and ground-breaking as her work has been thus far. The Courtauld is proud to have alumnae such as Kaywin Feldman, a monumental role-model in every sense, especially to young female students.