University of Minnesota
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Robert J Smith III

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Robert Smith III is a curator and museum educator interested in how art and artists can serve as catalysts for a more just, democratic society. His current research investigates the political, economic, and aesthetic histories of two emerging fields—creative placemaking and social practice art—as they have become institutionalized in arts education, museums, government and urban planning, philanthropy, nonprofit organizations, and other arenas. His dissertation also focuses on the diverse practices of particular Black artists based in Minneapolis, Chicago, and Houston as they grapple with the persistence of structural racism and neoliberal geographies of disinvestment. Outside of the classroom, he has served on the Board of Directors of PFund Foundation, an LGBT community foundation based in Minneapolis, and has worked at the Walker Art Center and the Minnesota Historical Society. Before beginning graduate school, Robert worked on the fundraising team of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission in New York City (now, OutRight Action International) and was a volunteer at the Audre Lorde Project, the Ali Forney Center, and Queers for Economic Justice. Robert currently serves as Assistant Curator of Education for Learning and Interpretation at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Educational Background

  • BA: Africana Studies and Gender & Sexuality Studies, Brown University, 2009.


  • Toys of the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s: Smith, Robert, Kate Roberts and Adam Scher, eds., Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2014.


  • University of Minnesota Dennis Clayton Scholarship Award
  • Brown University LGBT Community Leadership Award
  • University of Minnesota College of Liberal Arts Fellowship
  • Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship
  • Mellon Mays Pre-doctoral Research Development Grant
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