The ASU-LACMA Master’s Fellowship in Art History was founded four years ago as a partnership between Arizona State University and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA).
The goal of the program? To culturally diversify the leadership of art museums in the United States by supporting the professional growth of staff of color already employed at museums. black and white portrait of woman Roshii Montaño, assistant registrar at the Heard Museum, joins the ASU-LACMA Master’s Fellowship in Art History program. Download Full Image
Last year, the Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) came on board; this semester, the Heard Museum has signed on as a new partner. The Heard Museum’s first fellow, Roshii Montaño, joins the cohort of individuals already in the three-year degree program, along with three new fellows from LACMA.
“To remain a relevant and vital public resource, museums must do better at representing the diverse communities they serve,” said David Roche, Heard Museum CEO.  “Not only through exhibitions and programs, but also by the staff who are making creative and financial decisions for these institutions. There is a particular dearth of Indigenous representation in the museum field, and the Heard Museum believes that it must work to expand opportunities not just for Indigenous artists, but for museum administrators as well.” 
Roche noted that while graduate training in art history remains a requirement for many positions in the museum field, it is also one of the most significant barriers to equitable advancement. 
“Often, this means that talented potential employees must choose between subsistence living or pursuing graduate training,” Roche said. “And for many facing those circumstances, that is simply not a real choice. The Heard Museum is honored to partner with the ASU-LACMA Master’s Fellowship in Art History program to address this issue. Roshii Montaño, Heard Museum assistant registrar, is someone that we see as having the ability to make significant and lasting change in the field, and we look forward to supporting her in this new endeavor.”
The program combines rigorous academic training with on-the-job experience to develop a new generation of diverse museum professionals, including curators, educators, directors and registrars, as well as development, research and administrative staff, with the goal of investing in the existing pathway of talent and accelerating the careers of individuals already working in museums.
The fellows earn their master’s degree in art history from the ASU School of Art’s distinguished art history program in the Herberger Institute, while also working at LACMA, the ASU Art Museum, the Pérez Art Museum of Miami or the Heard Museum.
“Together we will advance our commitment to create a more equitable and inclusive field of arts and culture through higher education, mentorship and professional development,” said Forrest Solis, director of ASU’s School of Art. “Collaborating with the Heard increases the program’s network of mentors and diversifies curricular offerings, but most importantly it extends the program to include fellows from the Heard Museum, providing them the opportunity to achieve the academic and professional goals previously out of reach.
“In that effort, we eagerly welcome Roshii Montaño as the first ASU-LACMA Fellow from the Heard Museum. We also look forward to continuing to grow the expanding national network of museum partners in the years to come.”
The first group of fellows graduated in May 2021, and one fellow graduated this past May. All of the fellows who completed the program have been promoted in their institutions or have new roles with greater responsibility in other institutions.
This fall there are nine fellows total in the program: five are second-year fellows, and the other four are just beginning the program. 
Montaño is a queer Diné scholar currently working in Phoenix. She graduated from Stanford University with a bachelor’s degree in art history with departmental honors in 2020.
Soon after graduating, she joined the Heard Museum as an Andrew W. Mellon Fellow and was hired as assistant registrar in 2022. She has assisted in many exhibitions at the Heard Museum, contributed to the publication “Toward the Morning Sun,” and independently co-curated an exhibition at Idyllwild Arts. 

Woman's portrait

Ellen Joo

Ellen Joo
Montaño’s research interests include Indigenous queer performance, contemporary Indigenous art, decolonial theory and Navajo textile politics concerning gender, labor and economy.
Ellen Joo received her bachelor’s degree in art history from Chapman University in 2019.
She joined the Chinese and Korean Art Department as an intern in 2019 and was hired as a research assistant in 2021.
Joo plans to research East Asian ink paintings with a focus on Korean ink paintings of the Japanese colonial period.
Through a global modernist approach, she aims to analyze the ambivalence East Asian artists experienced toward the importation of Western goods and ideas in art.
Emily Le received her Bachelor of Arts in art history and English, with a minor in archaeology, in May 2021 from the University of Southern California.

woman's portrait

Emily Le

Emily Le
Le first joined LACMA in 2019 as an Andrew W. Mellon Undergraduate Curatorial Fellow, first in the Japanese Art Department and then in the European Painting and Sculpture Department.
She is now working in LACMA’s development department as the annual giving assistant.
As an ASU-LACMA Fellow, Le plans to further explore her research interests in Asian American, Asian Diasporic and Southeast Asian art histories, especially in relation to ideas of memory, counter-memory and post-memory.
Jackeline Lopez received her Bachelor of Arts in anthropology with honors from the University of California, Los Angeles.
She joined LACMA as an Andrew W. Mellon Undergraduate Curatorial Fellow in 2019 and was hired as a curatorial administrator in the Art of the Ancient Americas department in 2021.
Lopez is a first-generation Latina from South Central Los Angeles who draws on her anthropological training to understand emic and etic power dynamics in museum spaces.

woman's portrait

Jackeline Lopez

Jackeline Lopez
Her goals as a scholar in the ASU-LACMA fellowship are to investigate implicit cultural practices that expect and even prompt emerging BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color) museum professionals to specialize in the very same curatorial areas that tokenize them and to help center Indigenous ontologies and narratives in Mesoamerican studies.
The ASU-LACMA program also has a new director beginning this fall: Cecilia Fajardo-Hill, an independent curator and art historian focusing on Latin American and Latino art, has joined ASU’s School of Art as visiting faculty. Fajardo-Hill was the chief curator of the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach, California, and the director and chief curator of the Cisneros Fontanals Arts Foundation and the Ella Fontanals Cisneros Collection.
She is editor of the upcoming book “Remains Tomorrow: Themes in Contemporary Latin American Abstraction,” published by Hatje Cantz (2022), and has published and curated extensively on contemporary Latin American and international artists. Most recently, she co-curated the exhibition “Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960-1985,” a survey of radical artistic practices by women artists in Latin America, for the Hammer Museum.
In addition to the Heard Museum joining the ASU-LACMA fellowship program, ASU is partnering with the Heard to offer a new class in January 2023, in conjunction with an exhibition at the muesum titled “Substance of Stars,” which opens Oct. 1. The exhibition was sparked in part by the work of Herberger Institute Professor Wanda Dalla Costa, who is also contributing her writing for the exhibition and publication. At LACMA, Virginia Moon, assistant curator of Korean art, will teach a course as part of an ongoing effort to partner on graduate education.
On Sept. 12, ASU and LACMA will host “ASU-LACMA: The Changing Face of Museum Leadership” at the ASU California Center in downtown Los Angeles. This event, which is open to the public, will be moderated by Deborah Cullen-Morales of the Mellon Foundation and includes as panelists:

  • Miki Garcia, director, ASU Art Museum.

  • Michael Govan, CEO and Wallis Annenberg Director, Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

  • Dhyandra Lawson, recent graduate and assistant curator, Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

  • Matthew Villar Miranda, recent graduate and visual arts fellow, Walker Art Center.

  • Franklin Sirmans, director, Pérez Art Museum, Miami.

  • Celia Yang, recent graduate and major gifts officer, Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Miki Garcia, director, ASU Art Museum.
Michael Govan, CEO and Wallis Annenberg Director, Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
Dhyandra Lawson, recent graduate and assistant curator, Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
Matthew Villar Miranda, recent graduate and visual arts fellow, Walker Art Center.
Franklin Sirmans, director, Pérez Art Museum, Miami.
Celia Yang, recent graduate and major gifts officer, Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
Communications and media specialist, Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts
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For Arizona State University’s PhD recent graduate Julie Bethany Rakes, it all started as a failed experiment that ended up being an impactful discovery for the microbiology community. Recently in Nature Communications, Rakes and Regents Professor Ferran Garcia-Pichel reported on a new bacterium that preys on soil cyanobacteria in biocrusts. In this publication, they describe the newly discovere…
For Arizona State University’s PhD recent graduate Julie Bethany Rakes, it all started as a failed experiment that ended up being an impactful discovery for the microbiology community.
Recently in Nature Communications, Rakes and Regents Professor Ferran Garcia-Pichel reported on a new bacterium that preys on soil cyanobacteria in biocrusts. In this publication, they describe the newly discovered predator’s life cycle, attack mechanism and its ecological impact.  ASU PhD graduate Julie Bethany Rakes looking for signs of Cyanoraptor in the soil ASU PhD graduate Julie Bethany Rakes often had to wait until it rained to rush out to the field and look for the absence of cyanobacteria in circular plaques. Photo courtesy Bethany Rakes
Bacteria are everywhere and play a major role in maintaining ecological processes all around the world. For instance, in the desert soil, cyanobacteria use photosynthesis to produce energy. Similar to plants, their role in oxygen production and nitrogen fixation is key for the survival of other organisms. Cyanobacteria form communities that live on the soil’s surface forming biocrusts.
These communities bring vast benefits by trapping dust, preventing erosion, and increasing nutrients and water level in the soil. Unfortunately, and despite their role in maintaining the ecosystems, cyanobacteria are the favorite prey of a newly discovered predator: Candidatus Cyanoraptor togatus (C. togatus).
“There was something killing the biocrusts. It was not a virus, and it was not a small animal. It could only be another bacterium,” Garcia-Pichel said. 
Healthy cyanobacterial biocrusts resemble soil when they are dry, but when wet, their green pigmentation is visible. Except that biocrusts that have been attacked by Cyanoraptor show clearings of cyanobacteria in circular patterns, known as plaques, similar to tiny fairy rings. In the field, researchers were able to identify the disease by observing those unusual plaques.
“I first spotted them in Casa Grande, Arizona, and then continued this process of watching for rainstorms and immediately running to the field, sometimes driving six hours or more to identify them in multiple places in the Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts,” Rakes said. 
They worked in the field and in the lab to isolate the disease-causing bacteria. After isolation, bacteria were cultivated and their life cycle and mechanism of attack were established. 
In an early stage, Cyanoraptor propagate as tiny spherical cells called propagules. These cells don’t grow or divide; instead they just lurk and patiently wait for their prey. When the cyanobacterium gets close enough, Cyanoraptor attack attaching to the prey forming a specialized docking structure, dissolving the prey’s skin-like cell wall and entering the prey’s cell.  
The propagules of Cyanoraptor are considered weird as far as bacteria go. They have an outer compartment bound by two membranes. Researchers suspect that this compartment plays a key role in the attack, by holding and then releasing proteins that break down their prey’s outer membrane and allow it to enter the weakened cell body. This compartment is also how Cyanoraptor gets its species name, togatus, because they appear to be swathed in a robe, or toga. 

Cyanoraptor’s “attack” phase, waiting to ambush its cyanobacterial prey. Cyanoraptor was first identified in biocrusts from the Sonoran Desert.

Individual attack phase Cyanoraptor cells surround and attach to their cyanobacterial prey.

Cyanoraptor’s “replication” phase, where it lodges within the cyanobacterium’s cytoplasm and begins to filamentously grow and divide before its eventual release as attack phase cells.

The results of Cyanoraptor’s predation on M. vaginatus, its preferred prey. A) A healthy M. vaginatus filament before predation. B) M. vaginatus after predation, demonstrating a loss of cellular integrity that results in ghost-like filaments. 

Circular areas of clearing, or “plaques,” are clear signs of bacterial predation within biocrusts. Plaques have been found in the Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts.
Once inside, Cyanoraptor eats away at the prey, growing larger and larger into a sausage-like cell. When it is long enough, this predator starts dividing into many cells all at once, eventually killing the prey and become propagules again, waiting for the next unfortunate victim.
“It is a predator that gets into the cell of their prey and eats them from inside, which is horrendous,” Garcia-Pichel said. “It is really like a microbial horror movie.” 
As cyanobacteria die, all the things that biocrusts do to benefit the desert are gone. Valuable properties like nitrogen cycling, dust trapping and moisture retention are drastically diminished. 
“In general, this means that there could be serious consequences for desert health, fewer nutrients, less stable soil and water retention, so a reduction in time plants and other organisms can be active. With the loss of these functions, organisms that rely on these services, such as plants, may suffer, which could then have further consequences up the food chain,” Rakes said.
This momentous discovery would not have been possible if it hadn’t been for Rake’s tenacity, and her refusal to give in to what at first seemed to be a failure. Fortunately for the future of cyanobacteria, she persevered. 
Her discovery also demonstrated that predatory bacteria can shape the structure and function of microbial communities around the world, that they are not just an interesting biological rarity.
This experience has given her some wisdom to pass on to other graduate students:
“Follow up on those results that are unexpected or even appear to be flat out wrong,” She said. “When I found myself saying, ‘That’s weird,’ it was often something that I just didn’t understand yet. As Ferran wisely told me: ‘In experiments you cannot explain, the microbes are talking to you.’”
The full genome of the newly discovered bacteria can be accessed through the NCBI database under BioProject PRJNA730811. Read more about this paper in Science; it was highlighted as a part of their “in other journals” section in a note titled “Little fleas have lesser raptors.” Rakes and Garcia-Pichel are affiliated with the School of Life Sciences (SOLS) and with the Biodesign Center for Fundamental and Applied Microbiomics. This investigation was done in collaboration with Shannon Lynn Johnson, a scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory and a SOLS doctoral alumna.
Graduate Science Writer, School of Life Sciences

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