Thelma Golden is on stage at TED2009. She's the executive director of the Studio Museum in Harlem. In 1993 she co-curated the Whitney Biennial, featuring politically-charged art made mostly by non-white non-males.
The board game Masterpiece sparked her love of art. The game wasn't that interesting to play, but the cards themselves were reproductions of the art musuem's of Chicago's collection. She tacked the cards on her wall — her first curated collection.
Her work in understanding culture comes from following artists. She grew up liking JJ Walker's paintings (remember how amazing those were?), Jean-Michel Basquiat. Then started studying more work by black artists. (She shows a slide Frank Stella's "black art".)
For 1993 Whitney Biennial she decided to look at artist studio as laboratory, gallery as research institute and exhbition as "ultimate white paper."
Her "Black Male" exhibition — one painting shows Washington and his soldiers as men on blackface crossing the Delaware, done in paint by numbers style.
She asks: What does it mean to be African American and what can a museum do to answer this for everyone?
She is amazed by way artists can ask questions and address topics of race that go way beyond what is usually discussed in other forms of media.
She is creating a network of artists around world — beyond Harlem — focusing in Africa. Learning what they tell us about the future.