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New Hires at the Nelson-Atkins


Two Important Curatorial Hires Announced at Nelson-Atkins Museum

Museum Also Announces Appointment of New Chief Marketing Officer

Kansas City, MO. April 9, 2024 – The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City has announced two hires in its Curatorial division, as well as a new Chief Marketing Officer. Tahnee Ahtone joins the museum as Curator, Native American Art, coming from the Kiowa Tribal Museum in Carnegie, Oklahoma, where she served as Director/Curator. Rachel Kabukala will be the museum’s new Associate Curator, African Art, returning to the museum after pursuing her PhD, and following a prior position as a Curatorial Assistant at the Nelson-Atkins. Rob Persaud, Kellogg MBA and Ingram’s 40 Under Forty Honoree with marketing, innovation, and strategy experience across nonprofit and for-profit entities, joins the leadership team as the new Chief Marketing Officer.

“Discovering the depth and breadth of Tahnee’s experience during a national search was very gratifying,” said Julián Zugazagoitia, Director & CEO of the Nelson-Atkins. “We are grateful to the Mellon-Wingate Leadership in Art Museums Initiative for providing support for this key curatorial position and are excited that Tahnee has joined the museum. We are likewise excited to welcome back Rachel Kabukala, who is now rejoining us as a curator, and Rob, a strategic thinker with creative vision.”

Ahtone, an enrolled citizen of the Kiowa Tribe and descendant of the Seminole and Mvskoke nations, has an extensive background in museums and collections consulting. Most recently,Tahnee Ahtone, Curator, Native American Art she served as Director/Curator of the Kiowa Tribal Museum in Carnegie, Oklahoma. Other appointments include Tribal Nations Liaison and Curator of Ethnology, American Indian and Textile Collections at Oklahoma History Center; Director of the Curating Indigeneity Project in New York; and Curator at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center in Mashantucket, Connecticut.

Exhibitions Ahtone has organized include “Lighting Pathways: Matriarchs of Native American Art” (2024) at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, “Kiowa Creation Murals” (2023–2024, which had an international tour; and “Amos Haskins: Native Whaler” (2016–2017) at the Mystic Seaport Museum. She has served as an advisor and consultant for reinstallations at the Brooklyn Museum, the Gilcrease Museum, the Wallraf-Richartz Museum in Cologne, Germany, and the City of Boston Public Art Commission, to name only a few.

Ahtone is a Ph.D. candidate at Swansea University in Wales, UK. She earned her ALM degree from Harvard Extension School at Harvard University and BFA from the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe. She also completed the competitive Center for Curatorial Leadership Fellowship.

“I am excited to join The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, where I will serve our larger community by building pathways between tribal nations and the art world,” said Ahtone. “It is important to me, and this experienced and forward-thinking team, to work together to foster relationships in Native American art with respect and humility.”

Ahtone’s family has had a long involvement with the Nelson-Atkins and many of the museum’s supporters as friends, colleagues, and artists. A Cradleboard by her great-grandmother, Tahdo Ahtone, was an early acquisition and is currently on view in the Native American Gallery. Tahnee Ahtone began work at the museum on February 19th.

Rachel Kabukala is rejoining the Nelson-Atkins staff as Associate Curator, African Art. Kabukala had been Curatorial Assistant in African Art in March 2018 when she co-organized A State of the Field Convening: The Future of African Art at the Nelson-Atkins which brought together an international group of scholars, directors, curators, students, and community members to determine how the museum might play a defining role in the future of the field. Following that, Kabukala left the museum to pursue her Ph.D. in Art History at Indiana University with a focus on African Art. During her time away, Kabukala achieved significant milestones in her academic Rachel Kabukala, Associate Curator, African Artand professional journey. She successfully completed her Ph.D. coursework and exams and is now ABD (All But Dissertation). Kabukala took on a leadership role in directing provenance research of the African art collection at the Eskenazi Museum of Art at Indiana University. Her expertise also extended to organizing exhibitions. She served as guest curator for Radical Revisionists: Contemporary African Artists Confronting Past and Present at Rice University’s Moody Center for the Arts in 2020.

Kabukala also curated the premier solo show of the Kinshasa-based artist collective, Kongo Astronauts, in 2022 at the University of North Texas’s CVAD Galleries. The exhibition, Congo Gravitational Waves // A Metadigital & Tantalean Tale, showcased her commitment to bringing diverse and thought-provoking art to audiences. She also consulted for NAMA throughout her studies on various projects, including supplying selections for our upcoming 90th-anniversary publication and participating in the 2023 CCL/Mellon Foundation Seminar in Curatorial Practice.

“I feel fortunate to have started my museum career at the Nelson under the direction of then-curator Dr. Nii Quarcoopome and I’m thrilled to return as the Associate Curator of African Art,” said Kabukala. “I am honored to once again be entrusted with the care and growth of this renowned collection, and I look forward to re-engaging as an active member of the Kansas City community.”

Kabukala has visited the museum periodically and will relocate to Kansas City in the summer.

“Tahnee’s and Rachel’s scholarship, their passion for their respective subjects, and their commitment to deep work in communities will make them wonderful additions to our team,” said Dr. William Keyse Rudolph, Deputy Director, Curatorial Affairs, Chief Curator and Head, Architecture, Design and Decorative Arts. “We look forward to sharing the invigoration that they will bring to two of our most important collections.”Rob Persaud, Nelson-Atkins, CMO

Rob Persaud, who served as the interim Chief of Staff and Chief Strategy Officer at United Way KC, has also managed brands at Kraft and PepsiCo during his 25-year career. As CommunityAmerica’s CMO, he played a critical role in shaping the credit union’s long-term strategic vision and elevating its marketing efforts. Persaud looks forward to increasing museum engagement with people of all communities through storytelling, philanthropic development, and interdisciplinary collaboration. He joins the museum’s leadership team in a newly enhanced role.

Photo credits: Ann Sherman Photography, Anna Powell Denton, Nicole Bissey Photography

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

The Nelson-Atkins in Kansas City is recognized nationally and internationally as one of America’s finest art museums. The museum opens its doors free of charge to people of all backgrounds.

The Nelson-Atkins serves the community by providing access to its renowned collection of more than 42,000 art objects and is best known for its Asian art, European and American paintings, photography, modern sculpture, and Native American and Egyptian galleries. Housing a major art research library and the Ford Learning Center, the museum is a key educational resource for the region.

The Nelson-Atkins is located at 45th and Oak Streets, Kansas City, MO. Hours are 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Saturday, Sunday and Monday, 10 a.m.–9 p.m. Thursday and Friday, closed Tuesday and Wednesday. Admission to the museum is free to everyone. For museum information, phone 816.751.1ART (1278) or visit nelson-atkins.org.

For media interested in receiving further information, please contact:

Kathleen Leighton, Manager, Media Relations and Video Production
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art