Kathy Curnow

Kathy Curnow

(Cleveland) August/September Residency Year: 2023


Kathy Curnow (Ohio) is an Africanist who specializes in Nigerian art history, particularly that of the Edo (Benin Kingdom), Itsekiri and Nupe. Besides teaching, she’s the curator of Cleveland State’s African and African American Art Collection. She’s written numerous articles, academic book chapters, academic books and textbooks, and fiction. She was a Smithsonian History of Art Senior Fellow for a book about the Benin Kingdom’s 15th/16th-century Oba Esigie. She won a 2022 Ohio Arts Council Individual Award for Excellence in Fiction.

“Africa has been a part of my life since my dad took me to anthropological museums as a kid, since my mom took me to see the National Ballet of Guinea, and since I started buying records in junior high. I’m an art historian, and began to specialize in African art in grad school.” She moved to Nigeria the month after finishing her Ph.D. at Indiana University and spent nearly 20 years there, off and on.

You can begin to learn more about Africa through an ongoing project Kathy developed starting in 2017. Bright Insight lets viewers explore the places and creations that have shaped the continent from the distant past to the present, communicating vital information via accessible language. Learn about the region through layered, map-based, multimedia presentations and experience curated historical tours of various parts of Africa.

While at Surel’s Place, Kathy will be working on the second mystery novel in her series set in late 15th-century Benin City (now in Nigeria). “While I’ve written many academic works, I’d like to reach more readers and pull them into the worlds I’ve experienced.” She will also be leading a multi-part workshop in “world-building” with a group of students from One Stone through our pARTner program. Eager to involve students in combining art history with new technology, such as virtual worlds, websites, documentaries and interactive books – Kathy has proposed a workshop that features world-building projects based on past events. “I find historical events great inspiration for stories.”