Mary Jane Jacob

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Mary Jane Jacob is an American curator, writer, and educator from Chicago, Illinois. She is a professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and is the Executive Director of Exhibitions and Exhibition Studies. She has held posts as Chief Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles and at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago.

Since 1990 Jacob has been a pioneer in the areas of public, site-specific, and socially engaged art. Jacob is the author and editor of many key texts including Conversations at the Castle: Changing Audiences and Contemporary Art (1996) and Culture in Action: New Public Art in Chicago (1993).[1]

Jacob has mounted exhibitions, and created public art opportunities that have featured the work of some of the most influential artists in contemporary art including Mark Dion, Suzanne Lacy, Ernesto Pujol, J. Morgan Puett, Pablo Helguera, Marina Abramović, and Alfredo Jaar. The Women's Caucus for Art honored Jacob as a 2010 recipient of the organization's Lifetime Achievement Award.[2]

Jacob received her M.A. in the History of Art and Museum Studies from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.[3]

Curatorial approach[edit]

Jacob has an approach to curation that focuses heavily on site, history, social context, and audience relationships. These approaches are most evident in her influential project Culture in Action: Public Art in Chicago.[4]

In September 2014, she opened an exhibition, A Lived Practice, co-curated with Kate Zeller, and launched a four-volume series ob Chicago Social Practice History distributed by the University of Chicago Press.

Exhibitions and projects[edit]

In 1991 and again in 2000–2008 Jacob was the curator of visual arts projects for Spoleto Festival USA[5] in Charleston South Carolina. This was the site of Places With a Past (1991) and Places With a Future (2005).[6]

In 1996 Jacob was the curator of Conversations at the Castle: Changing Audiences and Contemporary Art[7] as part of the Arts Festival of Atlanta [8] for the 1996 Olympics.

Books and publications[edit]

Jacob has written and edited over three dozen books and exhibition publications. Her most recent books include Dewey for Artists (University of Chicago Press, 2018), The Studio Reader: On the Space of Artists (University of Chicago Press, 2010)[9] and Learning Mind: Experience into Art (University of California Press, 2010).


Jacob is a professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in Sculpture. Jacob is the executive director of exhibitions and exhibition studies.

Museum affiliations[edit]

From 1976-80, Jacob was the associate curator of modern art at the Detroit Art Institute.[6] She served as the chief curator at the Museums of Contemporary Art in Chicago from 1980-86. She served as the chief curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles from 1986-89.[6]


  1. ^ Culture in Action: New Public Art in Chicago (1993),; accessed January 25, 2018.
  2. ^ "Women's Caucus for Art". Women's Caucus for Art. Retrieved March 12, 2014.
  3. ^ "Guide to the Mary Jane Jacob Papers MSS.003". Retrieved 2020-02-25.
  4. ^ Jacob, Mary Jane, Michael Brenson, and Eva M Olson. 1996. "Culture in Action", Art Journal. 55 (3): 95.
  5. ^ "Spoleto Festival USA 2014". Retrieved 2014-02-03.
  6. ^ a b c "Mary Jane Jacob CV". Retrieved 2014-02-03.
  7. ^ Jacob, Mary Jane, and Michael Brenson. 1998. Conversations at the Castle: changing audiences and contemporary art. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.
  8. ^ "The Atlanta Arts Festival". Retrieved 2014-02-03.
  9. ^ Jacob, Mary Jane, and Michelle Grabner. 2010. The studio reader: on the space of artists. Chicago: University of Chicago Press

External links[edit]