Director Emerita, Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art at University of Florida. 

 “(…) the arts are “essential” to a meaningful and fulfilling life and are absolutely necessary to a livable, lovable community where people can thrive and prosper.” 

Rebecca M. Nagy 

Dr. Rebecca Nagy has devoted her career to work as an educator, curator, and administrator in art museums. She is director emerita of the University of Florida’s Harn Museum of Art, where she collaborated with a team of six curators to expand the Harn’s collections of historic African and Asian art, international modern and contemporary art, and photography. Her extensive travels and research in Ghana and Ethiopia resulted in the museum’s strong representation of works by contemporary African artists. Under her leadership the Harn added an 18,000-square-foot wing with galleries for contemporary art in 2005 and a 26,000-square-foot wing for Asian art in 2012. Throughout her career Nagy has curated exhibitions and published articles and exhibition catalogues on medieval, contemporary, and African art. While at the Harn, she co-organized the exhibition Continuity and Change: Three Generations of Ethiopian Artists (2007) with Achamyeleh Debela and worked with an international team from the Harn and the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Belgium to organize the traveling exhibition Kongo across the Waters (2014). From 2015-19 she was an editor for the scholarly journal African Arts and continues as a consulting editor. After her retirement in 2018, Nagy served as Interim Director of the Lightner Museum in St. Augustine (Gilded Age history and art), and as a consultant to the Trustees of the Matheson History Museum in Gainesville, Florida. 

Prior to her appointment as director of the Harn, Nagy spent 17 years at the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh, where she served as curator of African art and associate director of education. She was an adjunct faculty member at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. In the 1980s she was a lecturer at the Cleveland Museum of Art, where she also organized an exhibition of medieval textiles and taught at Case Western Reserve University. 

Nagy received her doctorate in art history from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and pursued graduate studies at the University of Erlangen in Germany. She has served as a Trustee of the Association of Art Museum Directors and President of the Florida Art Museum Directors Association and on the boards of the Florida Association of Museums, the Arts Council of the African Studies Association, and numerous civic organizations. She is a peer reviewer for the Accreditation Commission of the American Alliance of Museums. 

In 2019 Nagy relocated from Gainesville to Tampa, where she has continued her commitment to museums and civic engagement. She serves on the Planning and Development Committee of the Tampa Downtown Partnership; the Citizens’ Committee for Downtown Tampa of the Community Redevelopment Agency; the Committee on Foreign Relations, Tampa Chapter; the Board of Trustees of the Henry B. Plant Museum; the Advisory Committee of the Hillsborough Community College Art Galleries; and the Board of Trustees of the Rotary Club of Tampa.  

Important shows 

Major traveling exhibitions 

Nagy at Harn Museum with curatorial team, left to right: Robin Poynor, Hein Vanhee, Susan Cooksey, Nagy, Carlee Forbes

Kongo across the Waters, Harn Museum of Art, 2013. 

Worked with Guido Gryseels, Director, Royal Museum for Central Africa, Tervuren Belgium to lead an international team of curators who developed the exhibition. The exhibition traveled to the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum, Princeton University Art Museum, and the New Orleans Museum of Art. 


Continuity and Change: Three Generations of Ethiopian Artists, Harn Museum of Art, 2007 

Co-curated with Achamyeleh Debela. The exhibition traveled to the Diggs Gallery, Winston Salem State University. 



Sepphoris in Galilee: Crosscurrents of Culture, North Carolina Museum of Art, 1996 

Co-curated with Eric Meyers. The exhibition traveled to the University of Michigan Museum of Art and the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, Ann Arbor; and the Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University, Atlanta. 

Other exhibitions 

Deep Roots, Bold Visions: Self-Taught Artists of Alachua County, Harn Museum of Art, 2012 

Art of the Ethiopian Highlands from the Harn Museum Collection, Harn Museum of Art 2007 

Accent on Africa: Recent Acquisitions of African Art, North Carolina Museum of Art, 2003 

Designing in Raffia: Kuba Embroideries from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, North Carolina Museum of Art, 2001. 

George Bireline, Decade: 1984-1994, City Gallery of Contemporary Art, Raleigh NC., 1994 

Yoruba Art: A Living Tradition, North Carolina Museum of Art, 1994 

Saints and Heroes, North Carolina Museum of Art, 1998 

Textiles in Daily Life in the Middle Ages, Cleveland Museum of Art, 1985 


Review of Elizabeth W. Giorgis, 2019: Modernist Art in Ethiopia. Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press. 339 pp in African Studies Quarterly, Vol. 19, No. 1, February 2020, pp. 24-25 

Nagy Martin Rebecca and Alissa Marie Jordan: “Cutting Edge of the Contemporary: KNUST, Accra, and the Ghanaian Contemporary Art Movement”, in: African Arts (2018) 51 (3): 1–8. 

Nagy Martin Rebecca, Cooksey, Susan, Cohen, Joshua I and others: African Arts 51:3: (Autumn 2018) 

African Arts presents original research and critical discourse on traditional, contemporary, and popular African arts and expressive cultures. Since 1967, the journal has reflected the dynamism and diversity of several fields of humanistic study, publishing richly illustrated articles in full color, incorporating the most current theory, practice, and intercultural dialogue. The journal offers readers peer-reviewed scholarly articles concerning a striking range of art forms and visual cultures of the world’s second largest continent and its diasporas, as well as special thematic issues, book and exhibition reviews, features on museum collections, exhibition previews, artist portfolios, photo essays, edgy dialogues, and editorials. 

Nagy Martin Rebecca: Entries on Agegnehu Engida, Gebre Kristos Desta and Skunder Boghossian, Dictionary of African Biography, Oxford University Press, 2011. 

Nagy Martin Rebecca: Continuity and Change: Three Generations of Ethiopian Artists, Harn Museum of Art, 2007 

Continuity and Change: Three Generations of Ethiopian Artists tells the story of modern and contemporary art in Ethiopia from the 1940s to the present and explores the role Emperor Haile Selassie plays to support artists as part of a purposeful strategy for the modernization of Ethiopia. 
It also examines the influence of the Addis Ababa Fine Arts School, one of the leading art academies in Africa. In particular, Continuity and Change focuses on those artists who were and are active in Addis Ababa within the context of the political and social upheavals of 20th-century Ethiopia. Artists active in Addis Ababa are still largely unknown outside Ethiopia and a narrow circle of international curators and collectors. Continuity and Change introduces a number of these artists to U.S. audiences for the first time. 

Nagy Martin Rebecca: “Exhibition Preview: Continuity and Change: Three Generations of Ethiopian Artists,” African Arts, Vol. 40, no. 2, Summer 2007, pp. 70 – 85. 

Nagy Martin Rebecca: “Adbar and Angel: Evocations of Spiritual Forces in Contemporary Ethiopian Art,” with Achamyeleh Debela, Proceedings of the Sixth International Conference on the History of Ethiopian Art, Institute of Ethiopian Studies, Addis Ababa University, 2004. 

Nagy Martin Rebecca: “Robes of Honor and the Survival of a Tradition in Nigeria,” exhibition brochure, Gallery of Art and Design, North Carolina State University, 2001. 

Nagy Martin Rebecca (Editor): North Carolina Museum of Art Handbook of the Collections, 1998, editor. 

Nagy Martin Rebecca: Sepphoris in Galilee: Crosscurrents of Culture, North Carolina Museum of Art, 1996. Editor, with Carol L. Meyers, Eric M. Meyers, and Zeev Weiss. 

Nagy Martin Rebecca: George Bireline, Decade: 1984-1994, City Gallery of Contemporary Art, Raleigh, 1994. 

Nagy Martin Rebecca: Textiles in Daily Life in the Middle Ages, The Cleveland Museum of Art, 1988. 

Nagy Martin Rebecca: For Church and Court: Works from the Medieval Collection, The Cleveland Museum of Art, 1984. 

Nagy Martin Rebecca: “A Fourteenth-Century German Tapestry of the Crucifixion,” Metropolitan Museum Journal, 16 (1981), pp. 75-86. 

Interesting links 

Cooksey, Susan: “Contemporary Ghanaian Artists and Recent Harn Acquisitions”, in: Coffee with The Curators, 

Nagy Martin Rebecca: “Continuity and change: three generations of Ethiopian artists”, in: African Arts (Vol. 40, Issue 2),|A165575757&v=2.1&it=r&sid=AONE&asid=f7c9d091 

“The Role of the Campus Museum in an Age of Distributed Education”, in: Center for The Future of Museums Blog, 

“Rebecca and Paul Nagy First to Contribute to Harn Museum’s Expansion” on:,, 2021  

“RAAMP Practicum: Institutional Development”