Introducing Emily G. Hanna | Mingei International Museum

“Wherever there are people, there are people making things. The joy is discovering the works themselves, the makers and the traditions that inform the making.”

The Museum is thrilled to welcome Emily G. Hanna as the new Director of Exhibitions and Chief Curator. Previously, Emily worked at the Birmingham Museum of Art as the Senior Curator and Department Head, as well as the Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Emily received a B.A. in Art History from Oklahoma State University and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Art History from the University of Iowa.

Where do you find inspiration for exhibitions? And what is your process for creating them?

Inspiration is never lacking! Wherever there are people, there are people making things. The joy is discovering the works themselves, the makers, and the traditions that inform the making. For me, inspiration for an exhibition can come from encountering an incredible object, exploring a particular material, or understanding how a tradition is tied to a particular place.

Exhibition planning often begins with inclusive brainstorming—having conversations, sharing ideas and seeking input and advice from many sources. In my experience, the more you open up the process and involve people in the early stages, the more connected they feel to the final product.

What excites you most about being the new Director of Exhibitions and Chief Curator at Mingei?

I love Mingei’s global collections, its mission, and purpose. It resonates very closely with the purpose of my own work over the years. Now, I’m meeting staff and finding the people are as wonderful as the place! It’s an honor to have been chosen for this position, and I look forward to exploring the collections and getting to know the communities of San Diego.

Why do you think folk art, craft, and design are important?

Folk art, craft, and design are things we live with every day. So many art and craft traditions are tied to cultural identity—they are tied to people and their histories. When we marvel at the brilliant design of an indigo-dyed textile from West Africa (one from Mingei's collection is featured above) or the perfection of a fanner basket from Charleston, we are also acknowledging something more profound, and that is the history of people in a particular time and place and the way in which creativity and making is central to their identities.

What was the last museum you visited?

The last place I visited museums was in Santa Fe during Indian Market week this past August. Santa Fe is a very inspiring place at any time of year, but during the market, the whole downtown is transformed into an open-air showcase for hundreds of Indigenous artists, showing ceramics, jewelry, basketry, weaving, and so many other art and craft forms. The museums and galleries always have incredible exhibitions planned for market week. I really loved an exhibition entitled Clearly Indigenous: Native Visions Reimagined in Glass, which featured glass by Native American artists.

Is there anything else you’d like to share about yourself?

It is a great privilege to do this work—to have a platform from which to celebrate the creativity of people from around the world. There’s a lot of joy in this work. I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity and really look forward to getting started.

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Explore folk art, craft, and design from across cultures and time.