Associate curator of prints and drawings Britany Salsbury joined the museum this past spring, having held the same title at the Milwaukee Art Museum. Earlier, she worked in research and fellowship positions at the Rhode Island School of Design, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Morgan Library & Museum, and Art Institute of Chicago. She earned MPhil and PhD degrees from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, an MA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and a BA in art history and English at Case Western Reserve University.
Salsbury’s first museum experience was at the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland, where she interned for about three years as a CWRU undergraduate. Later, she developed a love of prints and drawings during a graduate internship at the Art Institute of Chicago. “One of my assignments was to go through the collection of 19th-century European prints and drawings to help decide which works to include in an upcoming exhibition,” she says. “I spent most of the summer in a storage room, going through every box. There were so many artists I had never heard of, so many types of work I had never seen—I absolutely loved it.” The experience led her to focus on prints and drawings when she returned to school for her PhD.
Now back in Cleveland, Salsbury is delighted to be here. “I always dreamed of working at this museum, especially with its prints and drawings collection, which is widely considered one of the best in the country,” she says. “My area of specialty is 19th-century French works on paper, so I’m excited to work with that part of the collection.” Drawing on her experience collaborating with contemporary artists during a fellowship at the Museum of Art at the Rhode Island School of Design, she hopes to build the CMA’s collection of contemporary prints and drawings.
Salsbury’s first major project is the exhibition Charles Burchfield: The Ohio Years, 1915–1920, opening December 22 in the Julia and Larry Pollock Focus Gallery. A native of Salem, Ohio, Burchfield attended the Cleveland School of Art (precursor to today’s Cleveland Institute of Art) and spent intense, formative years in Ohio before moving to Buffalo in 1921. “We have an outstanding collection of his watercolors,” Salsbury says. “Loans from the Burchfield Penney Art Center in Buffalo and a few private collectors will make for a total of about 30 works.” The show features Church Bells Ringing, Rainy Winter Night, a drawing from 1917 that is a highlight of the CMA’s collection, alongside some Cleveland-specific works, such as drawings of Wade Park and a poster design for a competition celebrating the CMA’s opening in 1916. “I think visitors will be excited to see the local connections of an artist who went on to play such an important role in early 20th-century American art.”
Cleveland Art, September/October 2018