Last November, Kimberly Drew gave up a coveted role as social media manager at the Metropolitan Museum of Art to begin a freelance career. On a mission to reconnect with her passions, Drew focused on her love of writing. The new venture turned out to be the challenge she craved, as her profile of Alicia Keys landed the cover of Glamour magazine and her loving homage to Lupita Nyong’o graced the cover of Vanity Fair.
A year later, she’s making a name as one of the most revolutionary Black art curators and activists—and as a creative writer headed straight to your favorite-author list with her first book, This Is What I Know About Art, out in June. She will also release The Black Futures Project, coedited with New York Times Magazine writer Jenna Wortham, in October. “When I left my job, my goal was to make it one year as a freelancer,” she reflects. “It was a moment of vulnerability, because I loved working at [the Met], and I never want that to get lost in what it meant to leave.”
Known in the social world as @MuseumMammy—a nod to her work with art institutions and her determination to reclaim the historically derogatory tag given to Black women or female caregivers—the young visionary was raised in Orange, New Jersey, which nurtured her artistically. “There’s just so much around us, whether it’s the Montclair Art Museum, the Met or the Liberty Science Center,” she says. Exposure to creative spaces and the support of her family gave Drew the encouragement to pursue art as a career.
In 2011, while majoring in art history and Afro-American studies at Smith College, she started her blog, Black Contemporary Art, on Tumblr, solidifying her advocacy of Black artists. “Black art is not rare,” Drew notes. “I was miseducated to think there aren’t Black artists or opportunities to see their work, and that’s so untrue.”
Today, whether Drew is modeling for Chromat’s New York Fashion Week show, doing an Instagram takeover for Prada, designing for Reebok or focusing on her books, her mission is the same. “I think about Black people with every opportunity I get,” she explains. “There’s a level of excellence I’ll bring because I know my success relates to the success of other people.”