Former Portland curator lands job at Boston museum

Rob Wolfe, Portland Press Herald, Maine
·2 min read

Mar. 13—The former curator of the Portland Museum of Art has taken a leadership role at a Massachusetts nonprofit that includes directing art and exhibits for a museum and outdoor sculpture garden near Boston.

Jessica May, who left the PMA in September, will be director of art and exhibitions starting April 12 for The Trustees of Preservations, a nonprofit that preserves natural and historic places in Massachusetts. As part of her role, May will serve as artistic director for the deCordova Museum and Sculpture Park, a 30-acre sculpture park and museum in Lincoln, Massachusetts.

"This is such an innovative model for how a museum can thrive now and into the future," May said in an email Saturday. "I'm absolutely delighted to be part of the amazing and ongoing legacy of the DeCordova, and to work with colleagues across the Trustees' network of properties to continue building their broad-based and exciting art programs for all visitors."

May announced her departure as chief curator at the PMA last summer. During her eight-year tenure she led a reinstallation project called "Your Museum, Reimagined," in which curators reinstalled the museum collection and catalog, digitized nearly 20,000 artworks and built the Osher Study Room, a dedicated space for educational visits and viewing of pieces from the collection. She also led the opening of the PMA's outdoor sculpture park, according to a news release from the The Trustees of Preservations.

May worked to diversify the museum's collection and the makeup of its exhibition, acquiring such works as "A Midsummer Night's Dream" by Tim Rollins & K.O.S., "PEOPLE LIKE US" by Jeffrey Gibson, "Barrel Basket" by Theresa Secord, "Occupation of Alexandria" by Kara Walker and "Ghetto Wall #2" by David Driskell.

"We are so excited and pleased to welcome Jessica to the Trustees in this new and important leadership position," Jocelyn Forbush, acting CEO and president of The Trustees, said in s statement. "While we have long been an organization caring for and protecting important cultural sites, only in our recent history have we leveraged the power of contemporary art to engage and excite our audiences and to activate our places. With the addition of deCordova and Fruitlands, our work has been expanded and Jessica will ensure that this work will be of the highest curatorial standard."

Before coming to Portland in 2012, May was associate curator of photographs at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Fort Worth, Texas. She was replaced at the PMA by Shalini Le Gall, who came to the museum in early 2020 after five years as curator of academic programs at the Colby College Museum of Art.