Delyn Stephenson wins prestigious scholarship at Saint Louis Art Museum
While at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, Delyn Stephenson has had the opportunity to work in some of Saint Louis’ most important cultural institutions, including the Griot Museum of Black History and the National Blues Museum.
Stephenson continues to work with major cultural institutions in the city after graduating from UMSL. In August, the Saint Louis Art Museum named her one of the two laureates of the Romare Bearden Graduate Museum.
The prestigious paid scholarship is named after renowned black artist Romare Bearden and is designed to prepare graduate students of color seeking careers as art historians and museum professionals. This is part of the museum’s commitment to increase diversity in the field.
For the first time, the Saint Louis Art Museum has expanded the 30-year program from a one-year paid scholarship to a two-year paid scholarship. Due to the change, the museum welcomed two fellows this summer. Stephenson is a one-year fellow, while Shaka Myrick is the first two-year fellow.
“It was very exciting,” said Stephenson upon hearing the good news this summer. âIt was a relief. I was very, very nervous, but I also knew that everything happened for a reason. When RenÃ©e Brummell Franklin, Romare Bearden’s supervisor, called, it was one of the best days of my career so far. “
This now flourishing career began with family travel as a child.
âEvery time we traveled we would stop either at a museum or even at conservation sites – natural history type stuff,â she said. âI have always loved history. I’ve been exposed to it all my life. I also love the visual aspect of art, especially the sense that people can get from images. I have always found it very interesting.
There have been many stops over the years, but the Art Institute of Chicago was his favorite.
Despite a keen interest in art and history, Stephenson decided to study political science at the University of Missouri-Columbia after graduating from Ozark High School. Upon entering the program, she realized that it was not something she could do for the rest of her life.
An art history class caught her attention as she pondered her options. Stephenson wasn’t sure what she could do with a degree in art history, however. After researching the matter, she decided to change her specialty and pursue either a graduate degree in art administration or museum studies. She also took several business courses to complete her training.
Andrea Miller, PhD student at MU, recommended UMSL’s Museums, Heritage and Public History program after having had a positive experience. At the same time, Stephenson’s mother had recently moved to St. Louis, which made the decision much easier.
The program immediately impressed her.
âLoved it,â Stephenson said. âI liked the small size of the classes. I really enjoyed getting to know my teachers. I think the UMSL program does a very good job being part of the St. Louis community. I really learned a lot about the different institutions here and the history of Saint-Louis and how historians can work for the community. It was my favorite part.
The Griot Museum of Black History was one such institution.
As part of her internship, Stephenson and a handful of other UMSL students worked directly with Lois Conley, the museum’s founder, president and CEO, to produce “Still We Thrive: The Neighborhoods of Fountain Park, Lewis Place and The Ville. “
Year after year, St. Louis’s historically black neighborhoods of Fountain Park, Lewis Place, and The Ville lose some of their ties to their rich pasts as residents move away and historic buildings are demolished or replaced. Stephenson and his classmates did what they could to preserve the memory of these culturally important, but often overlooked places.
They helped create, research and produce the exhibit, interviewing residents of the three neighborhoods and pulling information from various archives.
âPlaces like Fountain Park and Lewis Place, the community disappears and the stories are lost,â she said. âHearing their stories today, I think it gives these neighborhoods a face and a name. “
Seeing the final product on display was moving for everyone involved.
âIt was amazing, especially because he had been in development for so long,â said Stephenson. âWe brought in the people we interviewed and photographed, and just seeing how thrilled they were to see their quarters in a museum created to serve African Americans in St. Louis was amazing.â
In addition to Stephenson’s work at the Griot Museum of Black History, she also interned at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis and worked at the National Blues Museum. She knew her next step was to apply for the Romare Bearden Graduate Museum scholarship.
Stephenson learned about the scholarship as an undergraduate student, noting its fame in the museum world. She did not get the scholarship when she first applied. However, it turned out to be a great learning experience and allowed her to strengthen her second candidacy, which won her the scholarship.
The scholarship provides hands-on experience and is tailored to the backgrounds and interests of scholarship recipients. Stephenson expects to participate in a bit of everything. So far, she has focused on development and fundraising, which she has done at the National Blues Museum.
âI do more of that here,â she said. âObviously, the art museum is on a larger scale. So I work with the development department and also do a lot of audience development – programming, engaging with community leaders and other institutions, which is a very important point for the art museum at the moment. .
One project she will be working on is the museum’s annual Kwanza celebration, which requires significant outreach efforts with the black community of St. Louis.
In addition to audience advancement and development, Stephenson will be involved in interpretation – an education outside of the classroom that helps people connect to important natural, cultural and historical resources. In particular, it will help to plan virtual outings for students.
Stephenson isn’t sure what the future holds after fraternity, but in a perfect world, she knows where she would be.
âDream museum – I would love to work at the Met Cloisters, which is in New York City,â she said. âIt is the home of a large part of their collection of medieval art. I was able to take many medieval art classes at the University of Missouri, and would love to work in a place that has that kind of collection and find different ways to engage with a community like New York.
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