Apply - Curatorial Assistant of Contemporary Art


The mission of the Santa Barbara Museum of Art (SBMA) is to integrate art into the lives of people. We do this through a commitment to serving and educating the public, championing artistic expression, and enhancing the quality of life in the community through areas of collection, research, preservation, and exhibition of works of art and the advancement of knowledge about them. The guiding principle behind this mission is our belief in the power of art to ignite imagination, stimulate thought, and generate personally rewarding experiences.

Founded in 1941, SBMA has grown from 12,000 to 71,000 square feet to include galleries, an auditorium, a Family Resource Center, Café, and Museum Store. In addition, the Ridley-Tree Education Center at McCormick House, a 12,500 square feet studio art facility, offers art classes and workshops for students of all ages. SBMA is currently undergoing a major renovation that, when complete in early 2020, will benefit visitors by enhancing gallery space, expanding offerings to the community, and address the critical issues of seismic retrofitting and improving safety.

SBMA’s collection currently numbers over 28,000 objects and is of a magnitude and quality more commonly found in cities with far larger populations. The Curatorial Department is divided into four areas that signify the museum’s active areas of concentration: 19th Century European Art, Asian Art, Contemporary Art, and Photography and New Media. Additionally, the museum’s collection is strong in Greek Art and Antiquities and American Art, as well as Latin American Art (housed in the Department of Contemporary Art).  Works from SBMA’s permanent collection are displayed alongside diverse and international exhibitions that are either organized by the museum or travel to SBMA from other prominent art institutions.


The Contemporary Art department at SBMA oversees the collection of art produced after 1945 and is strong in works by West Coast and Southern California artists from the modern to the present. Primary to its Latin American holdings are works by Mexican modernist painters.

Since its inception, SBMA has played a significant role in the exhibition and acquisition of works by contemporary artists, many experiencing their first museum exhibitions, such as June Wayne (1950), John Altoon (1959), Ynez Johnston (1952), Melvin Edwards (1965), and others.  Early career exhibitions at SBMA also include Mark Rothko (1946) and Philip Guston (1967), among many others. SBMA's Director, Larry J. Feinberg, arrived in 2008 and, among many other accomplishments, renewed the Museum’s commitment to contemporary art. Programs since have helped to reestablish the Museum as a vital venue for postwar art, beginning with Yinka Shonibare, MBE: A Flying Machine for Every Man, Woman, and Child and Other Astonishing Works (spring 2009); Diana Thater: Butterflies and Other People (winter 2010); Charles Garabedian: Retrospective (winter 2011); Ori Gersht: Lost in Time (summer 2011); SBMA’s Getty Pacific Standard Time exhibition, Pasadena to Santa Barbara (winter 2012); Interventions: Brian Bress (summer 2012); the major group exhibition Labour and Wait (summer 2013); Geometry of the Absurd: Recent Paintings by Peter Halley (fall 2015); SBMA’s Getty Pacific Standard Time LA/LA  exhibition, Valeska Soares: Any Moment Now (fall 2018); and many others.


Curatorial Assistant – Contemporary Art provides general administrative, clerical and curatorial assistance in the area of Contemporary Art. Duties include research and cataloguing of the permanent collection; assistance and research regarding temporary and permanent collection exhibitions; communication with members of all other museum departments, artists and representatives, vendors, catalogue distributors, and the public. The individual in this position conducts research for and composes a wide variety of texts for internal use and publication; and occasionally leads special tours and talks. A large part of the position involves clerical assistance and departmental tasks including the completion of forms as well as the development and administration of project budgets. The Curatorial Assistant also makes telephone inquiries, conducts correspondence, and attends meetings with colleagues, and patrons.


  • Assists Curator in research and other areas of exhibition preparation, including contact with lenders and other institutions.  Assists in managing travel exhibition details.
  • Handles and processes all incoming and outgoing loan requests in assigned collection areas. 
  • Serves as liaison to other departments in handling and installation of works of art as assigned, processes forms and notification of art movement, including label copy, and handles conservation records in appropriate collection areas.


  • Provides general administrative, clerical and curatorial support to Curator, including processing of accounting forms, completing curatorial correspondence, and overseeing completion of monthly reports by required deadlines. 
  • Coordinates preparation and maintenance of exhibition schedule with Curators, Exhibition Designer and Director of Facilities.
  • Attends Curatorial meetings, Events Committee meetings, and Exhibition Committee meetings, and processes forms re same.
  • Handles correspondence, telephone inquiries, appointments and other departmental needs


  • Assists in research, responds to inquiries, and provides other curatorial assistance as assigned.  Helps establish and maintain collection files within assigned areas of responsibility.
  • Handles and processes all incoming and outgoing loan requests in assigned collection areas. 
  • Serves as liaison to other departments in handling and installation of works of art as assigned, processes forms and notification of art movement, including label copy, and handles conservation records in appropriate collection areas.


Education: A Bachelor of Arts in Art or Art History is required; a Master of Arts is preferred.

Applicants with a demonstrated knowledge of contemporary art desired.


  • Previous museum experience is desirable.
  • Excellent communication skills, organizational abilities, and a solid general knowledge of art history. 
  • Strong research skills and demonstrated writing capabilities are required. 
  • Must be familiar with Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Outlook, and Excel. It is helpful to have knowledge of TMS collection database software, as well as Photoshop and basic graphic design skills.
  • Accuracy, excellent proofreading skills, thoroughness, and attention to detail are essential. 
  • Must be able to move between administrative and curatorial responsibilities and be comfortable with multitasking. 
  • Foreign language skills are desirable, particularly some Spanish.   


  • Seated in an open office area with regular co-worker interaction.
  • Must be able to sit for long periods of computer use.
  • Occasional evening and weekend hours as necessary.

APPLICATION DEADLINE:          July 15, 2018

START DATE:                            August 15, 2018

Contact Information

Please email to:

Santa Barbara Museum of Art, 1130 State Street
Santa Barbara, CA 93101


Fax: (805) 966-6840

Download an Application

Santa Barbara Art Museum

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Thurs 11 am - 8 pm
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Santa Barbara Museum of Art
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Santa Barbara, CA 93101
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