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Curtis, Ariana


Racial constructions in the U.S.; Latino urban experiences; Blackness in U.S., Latin America, and the Caribbean; African Diaspora; urban immigration/migrations; neoliberalism/globalization


Geographic Focus

Background And Education

Education And Training

Professional Biography

  • Dr. Ariana A. Curtis is dedicated to building inclusive frameworks that disrupt systemic marginalization, misrepresentation, and erasure. She is the first curator of Latinx Studies at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC). In this role she leads museum research and collections that center Latinidad through an African American lens. She is curator of the award winning NMAAHC Latinx collections portal and has held leadership roles in major Smithsonian initiatives including Our Shared Future: Reckoning with Our Racial Past and the American Women’s History Initiative. Additionally, Ariana is a founding member of the Black Latinas Know Collective and a board member for Duke University Libraries, the National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures (NALAC), and the Museum Association of the Caribbean. 

    Among her many conference presentations and keynote addresses, Ariana has spoken at South by Southwest, Chautauqua Institution, The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, The Sundance Film Festival, The Intercultural Leadership Institute, and TED Women. Her TED talk has over 3 million views. She has published in The Public Historian, contributed chapters to Museum Metamorphosis Cultivating Change through Cultural Citizenship, the anthology Pan African Spaces: Essays in Black Transnationalism, and served as both author and editorial committee member for the publication Smithsonian American Women: Remarkable Objects and Stories of Strength, Ingenuity and Vision from the National Collection. Ariana has appeared in national media outlets including Refinery29, LatinoUSA, and The Root and was featured in the 2020 exhibition Voices of Resilience at the Springfield Museums in her hometown of Springfield, Massachusetts. 

    Previously, Ariana was curator of Latino Studies at the Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum. In addition to leading Latinx-centered programming, she curated two bilingual exhibitions: Gateways/Portales, which received honorable mention in the 2017 Smithsonian Excellence in Exhibition Awards and Bridging the Americas, which was exhibited in both Washington, D.C. and in Panama City, Panama. She also organized Revisiting Our Black Mosaic, a 2014 symposium about race and immigration in the Washington, D.C. metro area, co-sponsored by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

    Ariana is the recipient of the 2022 Museum Leadership Award from the Association of African American Museums, the DC Mayor’s Office 2020 Somos Award for Art and Creative Economy, the 2016 Community Sustainability Award from Afro-Latino Fest NYC, and the 2016 and 2020 Professional of the Year Award from the National Association of Latino Fraternal Organizations.

    She is a Fulbright scholar with a doctorate in Anthropology from American University, an MA in Public Anthropology from American University, and a BA from Duke University.

Awards And Honors


Selected Publications


Organizer Of Event



Mailing Address

  • 1400 Constitution Ave NW
    MR 1403
    Washington DC, 20560