Independent Curators International supports the work of curators to help create stronger art communities through experimentation, collaboration, and international engagement.

Independent Curators International supports the work of curators to help create stronger art communities through experimentation, collaboration, and international engagement.

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Announcing the 2023 Curatorial Research Fellows

Left to right: Margaret Jacobs (Photo: E. Bixby), Ariana Faye Allensworth, Margaret Kross, Michelle Mlati

Mar 22, 2023

Left to right: Margaret Jacobs (Photo: E. Bixby), Ariana Faye Allensworth, Margaret Kross, Michelle Mlati

ICI is excited to announce the cohort of 2023 Curatorial Research Fellows: Michelle MlatiAriana Faye Allensworth, Margaret Jacobs, and Margaret Kross.

238 curators across 37 countries, 28 states, Washington D.C., and Puerto Rico submitted applications for four Fellowship opportunities: Curatorial Research Fellowships for curators of African descent based anywhere in the world and for BIPOC curators based in the United States, both under the Marian Goodman Gallery Initiative in honor of the late Okwui Enwezor; the Indigenous Curatorial Research Fellowship; and the Mississippi River Basin Curatorial Research Fellowship.

ICI’s Curatorial Research Fellowships program reflects the organization’s commitment to the advancement of new knowledge and practices. The program supports curators’ research, travel, and the development of their professional networks, promoting experimentation, collaboration, and international engagement in the field. Conceived to foster independent research, the Fellowships offer a framework tailored to each curator’s field of critical inquiry: Fellows receive mentorship specific to their research interests, as well as $10,000 in financial support. They also have access to ICI’s international networks of collaborators and programs to create opportunities for continued learning.

In 2023, we are thrilled to support the practices of these four curators, whose projects explore diverse and timely topics through rigorous research and innovative curatorial work.

Meet the Fellows:

Michelle Mlati (Brussels, Belgium): Michelle Mlati's project continues in-depth research into Sudanese and East African artists associated with The Forest and Desert School, a literary and artistic movement that emerged in Sudan in the 1960s. Documenting, translating, and archiving works produced by affiliated artists, the research will focus on the complex network of African and Arab identities represented in the School and culminate in an exhibition. Mlati will investigate the lineage of creatives who shaped and have been shaped by the School, many of whose works remain untranslated and understudied. The project contributes to a broader effort to bring greater visibility to Sudanese art and literature and builds on Mlati’s previous work, including a 2022 exhibition and research in Uganda and Kenya.

Learn more about Michelle and her project.


Margaret Kross (Pittsburgh, PA): During her Fellowship, Margaret Kross will research artistic strategies of abstraction and conceptual practice in considering the built environment within the Mississippi River Basin. She will focus on artists who, by utilizing these specific strategies, intervene in the fiction that the land is an abstract concept. The project will further her previous research interrogating how “immaterial” land policies and plans have a fundamentally material impact. This particular deep dive will explore how unseen beliefs that shape the built environment in turn shape psychological space. It aims to study how narratives of the land might, likewise, be reimagined and enter collective consciousness through abstract and conceptual gestures embedded in the artwork. Kross is based in Pittsburgh, PA, a city delineated by three rivers, though local lore has long mythologized an unseen “fourth river” beneath the ground. Using the “fourth river” as a conceptual anchor, the project seeks to map a metaphorical relationship between the oppressive materiality of the built environment in the Mississippi Basin region and the materiality of memory, emotion, and narrative.

Learn more about Margaret and her project.


Photo: E. Bixby.

Margaret Jacobs (Salem, NY): Margaret Jacobs (Akwesasne Mohawk) will develop new research into the various manifestations of kinship in contemporary Indigenous art, including familial connection, mentorship, and collaborative art practice. Aiming to challenge dominant discourses around Indigenous art and creative practice in New England, the project will encompass work by arts families in which traditional practice is taught through generations, as well as new ways of art-making taking place in urban or off-reservation spaces and in the resulting inter-tribal communities. The project will inform and build toward a 2024 exhibition at the Kimball Jenkins School of Art in Concord, New Hampshire, featuring works in a variety of media with an emphasis on rising artists.  

Learn more about Margaret and her project.


Ariana Faye Allensworth (New York, NY): Ariana Faye Allensworth’s research will examine geographies of Black sovereignty and world-building in California. The town of Allensworth, CA, a once Black utopia and the state’s first town founded, financed, and governed by Black Americans, will serve as the basis for her research. Stemming from Allensworth’s family connection to the town’s history, her project will draw from archival research and the work of contemporary artists whose practices engage with the Black geographic imagination and radical placemaking in the West. Culminating in a publication and public art installation, the project seeks to offer expansive and critical narratives of California – and American – landscapes.

Learn more about Ariana and her project.