Culling an interest in art history from a childhood board game, Thelma Golden knew her dream job even before she knew what to call it. She stumbled upon the title and role she was looking for -- curator -- at the age of 12, and started up the ladder early, landing at the Whitney Museum in 1988, just one year after college. She was a co-curator of the 1993 Whitney Biennial, a controversial landmark show that showcased overtly political art made by a significant percentage of nonwhite nonmales and paved the way for topics of race, gender and identity to be discussed institutionally.
Golden first burst into the limelight as a solo curator with "The Black Male: Representations of Masculinity in Contemporary American Art" at the Whitney in 1994. Brilliantly imagined and carefully envisioned (and provoking controversy from a few corners), the show cemented her reputation as a formidable and fearless curator. In 2005, Golden became director and chief curator of the Studio Museum in Harlem, re-dedicating the institution to forward-facing art from all corners of the African Diaspora. She keeps an eye on young and developing artists, while using the Studio Museum to write the history of collecting and art-making in Harlem and around the world.