Charmaine A. Nelson was appointed to the position of Provost Professor of Art History in the Department of the History of Art and Architecture at the University of Massachusetts – Amherst in 2022. She did her undergraduate and MA in Art History at Concordia University (Montreal, Canada) and her PhD in the same discipline at the University of Manchester, UK. From 2020 to 2022, she was a Professor of Art History and a Tier I Canada Research Chair in Transatlantic Black Diasporic Art and Community Engagement at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design University (NSCAD) in Halifax, Canada. Prior to this appointment she worked at McGill University (Montreal, Canada) for seventeen years (2003-2020) and at the University of Western Ontario (London, Canada) for two (2001-2003), where she became the first black person appointed as a tenured or tenure-track professor of Art History in Canada.
In 2020 at NSCAD she launched the Institute for the Study of Canadian Slavery, the first-ever research centre focused on the overlooked 200-year history of Canadian participation in Transatlantic Slavery. As the director of the Institute, Charmaine created impressive research outcomes and did considerable public outreach in the form of blogs, lectures, media interviews, podcasts, an art exhibition, and an international workshop. She also organized panels and oversaw the competition for the first cohorts of seven Institute fellows (2021-2022) comprised of graduate students and artists-in-residence. Nelson now brings this promising research centre to Amherst in the form of the Slavery North Initiative which will retain its focus on Canadian Slavery while expanding its scope to also focus on the understudied histories of slavery in the American North.
Charmaine has made ground-breaking contributions to the fields of the Visual Culture of Slavery, Race and Representation, and Black Canadian Studies. Much of her research examines the nature of power relations, resistance, and cultural production within the context of Transatlantic Slavery.
She has written about “high” art, “low” art, and popular culture from the eighteenth century to the present. Her seven books include The Color of Stone: Sculpting the Black Female Subject in Nineteenth-Century America (2007), Slavery, Geography, and Empire in Nineteenth-Century Marine Landscapes of Montreal and Jamaica (2016), and Towards an African Canadian Art History: Art, Memory, and Resistance
An incredibly active scholar, Charmaine has given over 300 lectures, papers, and talks across Canada, and the USA, and in Mexico, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Norway, Spain, the UK, Central America, and the Caribbean. Her university lectures include Harvard, Oxford, Princeton, Stanford, the University of Toronto, the University of British Columbia, and Yale.
She is also actively engaged with lay audiences through her media work including ABC, CBC, CTV, BBC One, The Boston Globe, The New York Times, and PBS. She has blogged for the Huffington Post Canada and written for The Walrus. Charmaine was a consultant and on-camera expert for the CBC’s Black Life: A Canadian History and Hungry Eyes Media’s BLK: An Origin Story which won five Canadian Screen Award in 2023.
Charmaine has also held several prestigious fellowships and appointments including a Caird Senior Research Fellowship, National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, UK (2007) and a Fulbright Visiting Research Chair, University of California – Santa Barbara (2010). She was the William Lyon Mackenzie King Visiting Professor of Canadian Studies at Harvard University (2017-2018) and a Fields of the Future Research Fellow at Bard Graduate Center in New York City (2021). In 2022, she was inducted as a fellow in the Royal Society of Canada and elected as a member of the American Antiquarian Society.