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The New York Awards: Art

Thelma Golden and Lowery Sims

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They're an unlikely pair. Lowery Stokes Sims, 52, is mild-mannered and analytical; Thelma Golden, 34, is ambitious with a confrontational streak. But between them they've turned the Studio Museum in Harlem -- the sleepy 33-year-old institution formerly known for its feel-good, unambitious surveys of black artists -- into the cultural jewel in the crown of the new Harlem renaissance. "They've brought the institution to life," says Lisa Philips, director of the New Museum of Contemporary Art. "Their presence has really enhanced our standing," agrees Darren Walker, CEO of Harlem's Abyssinian Development Corporation. "The sum of the two is extraordinarily powerful." Since joining the museum in January 2000, Sims, as the museum's director, and Golden, as chief curator, have boosted its art-world cred -- "Freestyle," a sprawling survey of young black artists, was one of the biggest museum hits of the year -- while nurturing its grassroots connections to the community. "We are sitting on this incredible history that this museum has built around African-American art, one that still has to be written in different ways," says Golden. "People have been genuinely excited because it so needed to happen." Sims says simply: "It was the right time to come to Harlem."


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