Rachel Jobe Reese appointed Director and Curator

Rachel Jobe Reese appointed Director and Curator

Institute of Contemporary Art at University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

Rachel Jobe Reese. Photo: Doug Dalrymple.

November 18, 2019
Rachel Jobe Reese appointed Director and Curator
Institute of Contemporary Art at University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
752 Vine Street
Chattanooga, Tennessee 37403
United States
Hours: Monday–Friday 10am–4pm,
Saturday 12–4pm


The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC) has appointed Rachel Jobe Reese as Director and Curator of its Cress Gallery of Art, beginning January 2020. Reese joins UTC from Telfair Museums in Savannah, GA, where she has been since 2015.

The University’s Fine Arts Center, which houses the Cress Gallery, is currently undergoing a major capital renovation through Fall 2020. During this period, Reese will lead the future visioning and new strategic initiatives around the growth of the exhibitions program, including driving the gallery’s new mission, vision and identity. This new identity will require major fundraising planning and development, rebranding initiatives, as well as deep campus and city-wide engagement. Reese will lead the transition and growth of the gallery, its relationship with the student body, Chattanooga publics, and the larger Tennessee communities with the goal of sharing and advancing interdisciplinary contemporary art practices in the Southeast. Additionally, Reese will oversee the care, maintenance, and management of the University’s Permanent Collection of Art and will teach one undergraduate course per year.

Reese states, “I’m excited to get on campus and engage with the energetic faculty artists and students. It’s a very exciting time for contemporary art in Tennessee and Chattanooga. I’m thrilled to bring my passion for contemporary art and artists in the Southeast to UTC through artist-driven conversations, and I’m looking forward to joining new colleagues in the city and state that already share artist-centric missions. As before, the Cress remains free and open to all, and I’m encouraging visitors old and new, local and from afar, to stay tuned to what we are working on, offer input, and feel ownership in engaging with the growth of the Cress, which will be a socially-responsive commons between the student body, Chattanooga communities, and global contemporary art practice.”

Dr. Joe Wilferth, Interim Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at UTC, remarks on Reese’s appointment and the opportunity it presents: “The capital renovation of the university’s Fine Arts Center is timely, especially with Rachel’s expertise and leadership in mind. That is, we’re excited about this new space, and we’re looking forward to the vision Rachel brings to our campus. She will help us re-imagine and envision innovative ways that contemporary art will connect and inspire collaborations among campus, Chattanooga-based, and regional partners. We’re excited about the future of the Cress Gallery as an epicenter for such inspiration and collaborations.”

Aggie Toppins, Head of the UTC Department of Art, adds: “I am delighted to welcome Rachel Reese to UTC and to Chattanooga. The Department of Art prioritizes student curiosity and agency, champions interdisciplinary contemporary art practice, and strives for an inclusive learning environment. This, combined with the strong curatorial history of the Cress Gallery, our Department’s healthy community partnerships, and the university’s enthusiastic leadership create the ideal conditions for reimagining the Cress Gallery of Art’s mission, vision, and identity.” 

From 2015-2019, Reese served as Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at Telfair Museums where she stewarded the permanent collection of modern and contemporary art, including the Kirk Varnedoe Collection, as well as organized 20 special exhibitions in the Jepson Center—including the recent retrospective and catalogue for Suzanne Jackson: Five Decades (Telfair Books, 2019), and solo exhibitions with Erin Johnson, Ken Ueno, Carrie Mae Weems, Paul Stephen Benjamin, William Wegman, Triple Candie, Nick Cave, and KCHUNG Radio, among others. Reese held prior positions at Atlanta Contemporary in Atlanta where she curated the 2015 exhibition Pratfall Tramps; Fleisher/Ollman Gallery in Philadelphia; and Deitch Projects, Petzel Gallery and Andrew Kreps Gallery in New York. Reese is a 2014 curatorial alumni with ICI; was a former editor of Burnaway magazine and responsible for the organization’s first print issue, and her writing and artist interviews have appeared in BOMB Daily, Temporary Art Review, TWELV Magazine, and Art Papers; she also published a free newsprint of artists’ writings called Possible Press from 2010–15. Reese has taught Critical Issues contemporary art courses at PAFA in Philadelphia and Georgia State University in Atlanta. She frequently guest curates, juries and lectures for nonprofit arts organizations nationally, and holds an MFA from City College in New York and a BFA from the University of Georgia.

About The Cress Gallery of Art and UTC
The Cress is an institutional member of the Association of Academic Museums and Galleries (AAMG). Founded in 2000, the Cress Gallery gained national reputation from its Diane Marek Visiting Artist Series, which was established in 2006 and is a cherished program and tradition at UTC. Over twelve years, the Marek Visiting Artist Series afforded over 35 national artists the opportunity to engage with UTC students, faculty, and Chattanooga publics through exhibitions and public programs in the Cress, supported Friends of the Cress Gallery. The Cress Gallery bears the name of artist and UTC Guerry Professor of Art Emeritus George Ayers Cress (American, 1921–2008) a dedicated lifetime advocate of the University’s Gallery of Art and its importance for both campus and community. The Cress is always free and open to the public.

The UTC Department of Art strives to be at the forefront of undergraduate education in the making and study of art. As art has power and is woven into all aspects of the world around us, UTC Art aims to nurture diverse voices through curriculum, programming, pedagogy, and community engagement. UTC Art’s mission is to offer an accessible, rigorous, and supportive learning environment that exposes students to a wide range of creative processes and intellectual models for contemporary practice. Faculty guide students as they strive to meet their individual goals, preparing them for successful futures in diverse fields. With over 300 students and 16 full-time faculty, UTC Art offers BFA degrees with concentrations in Graphic Design, Painting and Drawing, Photography and Media Art, and Sculpture as well as BA degrees in Art Education, Art History, and Studio Art. UTC is a comprehensive, community-engaged campus of the UT System and an NASAD-accredited institution. UTC is an EEO/AA/Titles VI and IX Section 504/ADA/ADEA institution.

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Institute of Contemporary Art at University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
November 18, 2019

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