Redell Hearn is the new Chief Educator at the New Orleans Museum of Art.  She was named to the position in February and is charged with leading the museum’s Learning and Engagement department. 

A native of Los Angeles, Hearn received her bachelor of arts in African American Studies and African American Art, her master’s in Museum Studies and a Doctor of Philosophy in Humanities with a focus on museology from Syracuse University. 

She has more than two decades of experience in museums and higher education including stints at the Mississippi Museum of Art and the California African American Museum. 

Hearn has also served as a museum consultant for the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Holocaust Memorial Museum and the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation. 

In 2002, Hearn was named the founding director for the Master of Arts in Museum Studies program at Southern University at New Orleans — the first graduate-level museum studies program in Louisiana. And in 2016, Hearn was awarded a Fulbright Specialist Grant in Museum Studies. She was based in Dakar, Senegal, where she worked with three local museums on special projects and conducted museum professional development training. 

Today, in addition to her work at NOMA, Hearn is also an adjunct faculty member in Johns Hopkins University’s Master of Arts in Museum Studies program.

At NOMA, Hearn’s work will focus on expanding how the museum thinks about learning through its current exhibitions and public programs. She will also develop new higher education opportunities for professional development within the organization.

Hearn has lived in New Orleans for more than two decades and says she sees a need for the community’s voice to be reflected within the museum’s programming.

Hearn talked with Verite about her career journey, inspiration and vision for NOMA’s Learning and Engagement Department. 

Q: What inspired you to begin this type of work? How did you initially get involved in museums?

A: I grew up going to museums and cultural centers in LA. 

One of my earliest memories is being at the National California History Museum and standing in front of a diorama with my father and with my family. I have the full circle [moment] sitting here at the New Orleans Museum. 

Q: How do you feel being named as the new chief educator at NOMA? 

A: It’s very important to be a voice, not just in the room, not just at the table, but in the conversation. So in the capacity that I’m in now as chief educator, I’m also part of the senior staff.

Dynamics change when you’re there. I think about diversity, equity, access, inclusion. Equity is the lane that’s very important for me.

You can be inclusive, but not be included at all. But the equitable part is important to me, and that was part of the conversation that I had in terms of me coming here to this institution. 

The Cascade Pool is featured in the Sculpture Garden outside of the New Orleans Museum of Art. Credit: Richard Sexton

Q: How will you cultivate community and identity within NOMA’s programming and exhibitions?

A: It’s important that we identify the communities that we serve, and then the communities that we would like to serve or that we can do more for. So for me, it’s looking at what’s not being said or what approach are we taking? How do we extend this where it’s genuine?

We’re also in the process of developing a position on our board of directors and a committee that focuses on community. So we have people that are really interested in and motivated from the board to be part of this.

Q: What do you hope visitors and students learn by visiting NOMA? What experience do you want them to have?

A: The main thing that I would want people to have is to be present in the experience that they’re having here. I am very much into understanding what’s going on, the bigger picture with life, the challenges we have, I get that.

I’m very good at putting the pause button and just enjoying the moment. That’s really what I’d like to see that experience carried over to this space.

Q: What is your vision for NOMA’s Learning and Engagement Department?

A: Well, one of the programmatic things that’s very important to me is bringing the internship fellowship program back. So my idea for internships and fellowships is that you’re in the institution and you’re working, but you’re also learning, you’re studying at the same time.

In addition to that, I see it as the opportunity to expand and refine our community, the communities that we serve but also to expand that to reflect on what we do, not just in what we say. 

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New Orleans native Nigell Moses graduated summa cum laude from Xavier University of Louisiana with a bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication. She is a published contributing writer, with stories in The...