With over thirty years of experience working in art museums, Joseph Mella managed, curated, and oversaw the operations of the Vanderbilt University Fine Arts Gallery and its collections. Prior to arriving at Vanderbilt in 1992, Mella served as Curator of Exhibitions and Collections at the Rockford Art Museum, Rockford, Illinois, and in a similar capacity at the Art Museum of Southeast Texas, Beaumont. He holds an M.A. in Modern Art History, Theory, and Criticism from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where he also completed a Certificate in Art Collection Care and Maintenance. Mella received a B.F.A. in Printmaking from the University of Iowa, Iowa City.
Mella has curated and organized over one hundred exhibitions, including a major retrospective and national tour of painting, drawings and prints by the Ecuadorian master of the twentieth century, Oswaldo Guayasamín, and the “Star Chamber,” a site-specific interactive sculpture by British land artist Chris Drury. Mella also established programmatic collaborations with other university galleries throughout his career that include Fisk University, Bucknell University, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, University of Memphis, State University of New York, Potsdam, and collaborations beyond the academic world such as a series on public art that has brought such highly recognized artists to Vanderbilt as Frank Stella, Tom Otterness, Stephen Antonakos, Beverly Pepper, and Richard Haas.
In his previous role, Mella was responsible for the establishment and subsequent development of a prominent collection of contemporary graphics, photographs, drawings and artists’ books with strengths found in work by living women artists such as Mona Hatoum, Donna Ferrato, Carrie May Weems, Maria Magdalena Campos Pons, Louise Bourgeois, Alison Saar, Kara Walker, Shirin Neshat, Leslie Dill, Koo Kyung Sook, Sue Coe, Kiki Smith, Lorna Simpson, Fransje Killaars, and Christine Baumgartner, as well as other highly recognized international artists such as Gerhard Richter, Martin Puryear, Ian Hamilton Finlay, Bruce Conner, Hamish Fulton, Robert Colescott, Joseph Kosuth, Michael Craig-Martin, Enrique Chagoya, Sigmar Polke, Willie Cole, Alexis Rockman, Mel Chin, and Terry Winters.