“The way we can easily connect with so many of our audience members, who are moved by hip-hop or aspects of their own culture that they don’t always see reflected in the museum’s programming, is to vitally important to me,” says Naeem.
She remembers feeling a combination of admiration and intimidation when she first visited the museum in her hometown as an undergraduate student at nearby Johns Hopkins University, where she majored in the history of art and political science. She then earned a law degree from Temple University in 1995, focusing on domestic violence while working for the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. In 2000, she began pursuing ethics allegations against attorneys at the Office of the Bar Counsel (now called the Office of Disciplinary Counsel) in Washington, a branch of the DC Court of Appeals.
However, she found “trying to right the wrongs of the world” through the legal system exhausting and began a career change. “The history of art, as well as the civic space of the museum, offered a kind of limitless combination of how to shape a public good,” said Naeem, who earned a master’s degree in art history from American University in 2003 and a Ph.D. . from the University of Maryland in 2011 while continuing to work in law and raising three children with her husband, Babar Shafiq, an orthopedic surgeon.
One of Naeem’s top priorities in his new job will be to help the museum find visitors lost during the Covid-19 shutdown. In FY2023, the BMA expects to reach 75% of its pre-Covid attendance. Other priorities include the retention and compensation of museum staff, who voted last summer to form a union, part of a wave of organizing efforts at museums across the country. Thornton, the chairman of the board, said museum management had met three times with the union’s bargaining team.
“Asma is obviously close to the people in the institution who felt they needed a union, and her past legal experience will come in handy as we continue to work on a collective bargaining agreement,” he said. .
In 2020, the museum’s management waived the sale of three of its top-notch paintings for $65 million, funds largely intended to create an endowment for better salaries. Current and former museum directors had criticized this plan to use funds from the sale of art, known as deaccessioning, for operating costs rather than acquisitions and direct maintenance of the collection, in accordance with the guidelines of the Association of Art Museum Directors. . Thornton said this experience underscored the importance of fundraising by Naeem and the board to achieve the institution’s lofty salary goals.
. art museum Baltimore choose its curator chief as next director