FSU Art History alumna Katie McCampbell Hirsch (MA 2010) was appointed Director of the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art at the College of Charleston in April, 2021. Katie joined the Halsey Institute in August 2016 as a curator and director of the Institute’s strategic partnerships. In addition to collaborating on the exhibition schedule, she was responsible for the traveling exhibitions program and publications. She has curated exhibitions by Roberto Diago, Coulter Fussell, and Jibade-Khalil Huffman and has upcoming curatorial projects with Dyani White Hawk, Kukuli Velarde, and Nancy Friedemann-Sánchez. She has also taught a course on exhibition making in the College of Charleston’s Arts Management Program since 2017.
The Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art is a non-collecting museum that produces between five and seven exhibitions per year. Its focus is emerging, mid-career, and “oddly overlooked” artists. The Institute has a special interest in commissioning new work and providing an opportunity for artists to explore subjects, media, or presentations that they otherwise wouldn’t have the chance to pursue.
After receiving her MA in Art History at FSU, Katie worked for several years in Shanghai, China, first teaching English for the Walt Disney Company and then overseeing programming in Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Phuket for island6, a commercial gallery. She found Shanghai remarkable in many ways, particularly in that it allows for enterprising people to pursue career opportunities that might not have been an option in other locations. She explains, “island6 was seeking an English writer. They enjoyed taking risks and decided to give me a try.” It worked out well; Katie soon moved up to be senior curator at the gallery. She adds, “I also met my future husband there, so making that move to Shanghai changed the trajectory of my life on many levels.” She returned to the United States in 2016, first working in development at Spoleto Festival USA, an international performing arts festival in Charleston, and then joining the Halsey Institute.
Katie writes that her experiences in the Department of Art History gave her a lifelong network of dear friends and prepared her to work in the arts in three different sectors: academia, commercial, and now the museum world.
My five years at FSU gave me the foundation of knowledge that I’ve used to talk about pre-Columbian ceramics, contemporary Chinese new media, and now work by contemporary international artists that ranges from radical quilts to installation art. As a curator and now director, it’s my training in art history that pushes me to consider what questions artists are asking and answering with their work. Leading a space that uses visual art to prompt viewers to ask questions or reexamine knowledge is incredibly rewarding. I also love the energy that comes with working on a college campus.