David Little steps down as director of Mead Art Museum at Amherst College

  • David E. Little, right, is stepping down as director and chief curator of the Mead Art Museum at Amherst College. He’s seen here leading a tour of an exhibit at the museum in 2019. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 9/1/2021 9:51:20 AM

AMHERST — David E. Little, the director and chief curator of the Mead Art Museum at Amherst College, is stepping down this week to become the executive director of the International Center of Photography (ICP) in New York City.

Since arriving at the Mead in 2015, college officials say, Little has made significant progress in diversifying the museum’s collections, provided exhibition space for emerging and mid-career artists, and overseen an acquisitions program that includes many pieces by artists of color to better reflect the college’s increasing diversity.

As one example, Little began what’s called the Rotherwas Project, which has juxtaposed exhibits of emerging artists in the museum’s Rotherwas Room, a space whose furnishings and decor come from a 17th-century English manor house.

The Rotherwas Project, college officials said in a statement, “called out the contrasts between the heavy, wood-paneled room, meant to evoke the power and wealth of England, with installations by artists whose work often directly critiques such structures of power, colonialism, and tradition.”

During his time at the Mead, Little has also increased the endowment by 33%, with some of those funds going to renovate the museum’s galleries and reconfigure exhibition space; he established an open storage classroom in the museum to provide more access to the the collection for students and faculty.

Little came the the Mead in 2015 after a previous stint as curator and head of the Department of Photography and New Media at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (MIA). He has also taught art in a number of different settings and once served as director of adult and academic programs at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

In a statement, Jeffrey Rosen, board president of the International Center for Photography, said “David brings to ICP an outstanding mix of skills and experiences, between his work as an educator, curator, fundraiser, and manager, and we are thrilled that he will be joining us.”

The ICP, located in lower Manhattan, includes a museum for photography and visual culture as well as a school that offers a range of educational courses and programming. Little, in a statement, said his background made the center a natural fit for him.

“Joining ICP is an ideal opportunity that unites my long-standing interests in photography and education, for an organization that has done so much to train and nurture generations of artists,” he said.

Amherst College has not yet announced plans to replace Little, but he himself was hired following a nationwide search after the previous museum director, Elizabeth Barker, left in Sept. 2014.

Pamela J. Russell, the college’s head of education and curator of academic programs, served as the Mead’s interim director before Little’s arrival.

Steve Pfarrer can be reached at spfarrer@gazettenet.com.
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