Shannon R. Stratton Named Exec. Dir. of OX-BOW School of Art and Artists' Residency

Shannon R. Stratton, photo by Jessica Labatte

Via PR

The Board of Directors of Ox-Bow School of Art and Artists’ Residency today announced the appointment of Shannon R. Stratton as the 110-year-old organization’s next Executive Director. Stratton is currently Interim Senior Curator-at-Large for the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, and Core Faculty for the MA in Critical Craft Studies at Warren Wilson College in Swannanoa, North Carolina, as well as an independent curator, working closely with the Poor Farm in Little Wolf, Wisconsin. She will join Ox-Bow full-time on February 3, 2020. 

“We are thrilled to have Shannon Stratton as our new Executive Director,” said Board Chair Steven Meier. “Her broad experience, national reputation in the arts community, and forward-thinking orientation to partnerships will be essential in moving Ox-Bow into our next century, growing our regional and national relationships and developing new platforms for intergenerational learning, discovery, and critical conversation.”

Stratton comes to Ox-Bow with experience as an educator, chief curator, and seasoned arts administrator, including 12 years as Director of Chicago’s Threewalls, a nonprofit arts organization she co-founded in 2003. Speaking to her appointment, she said, “I have deep respect for Ox-Bow as a place that convenes artists at all career levels to learn from and with each other. Ox-Bow reserves time and space for creative experimentation, collaboration, and innovative pedagogy in a way no other program does.” She noted its strategic partnership with the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), which has long connected Ox-Bow to an extraordinary slate of artists. 

As an alumna and former faculty member of both Ox-Bow and SAIC, Stratton is uniquely positioned to foster Ox-Bow’s approach to the creative process. “My time at Ox-Bow has had a lasting impact on my practice as an arts administrator, educator, curator, and thinker,” she said. “I look forward to leading one of the country’s most extraordinary artists’ residencies and schools, and continuing Ox-Bow’s legacy as a sanctuary for artistic practice and thought.” 

Elissa Tenny, Ox-Bow board member and SAIC President, said, “Shannon is a visionary, making spaces for artist-centric practice in galleries, museums, classrooms, and beyond for nearly two decades. I know that she will bring a depth of art education know-how to her executive leadership of Ox-Bow.” 

Stratton most recently served as Deputy Director of Curatorial Affairs and Chief Curator at the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD), in Manhattan, where she spearheaded four seasons of programming, launched the Burke Prize for artists working in craft media, and curated a number of significant exhibitions, including Tanya Aguiñiga: Craft and Care; Atmosphere for Enjoyment: Harry Bertoia’s Environment for Sound; and the recent Roger Brown: Virtual Still Lifes. She collaborated with guest curators and organizations to produce notable shows such as Derrick Adams: Sanctuary (curated by Dexter Wimberly) and Ebony G. Patterson: Dead Treez (curated by Karen Patterson for the John Michael Kohler Arts Center). Much of Stratton’s leadership focused on activating interstitial spaces at the museum and re-examining the collection, including authoring a new five-year acquisitions plan committed to strengthening the representation of POC and LGBTQI artists.

Prior to joining MAD, Stratton’s service at Threewalls (2003–2015) included launching the publication PHONEBOOK, a guide to artist-run, independent, and grassroots arts organizations in the United States; co-organizing the first Hand-in-Glove Conference, which gave birth to the national arts organization Common Field; and co-founding the Propeller Fund, administered by Threewalls and Gallery 400 at the University of Illinois at Chicago, which has provided funding to artist-run and organized public initiatives since 2010.

As a curator, Stratton has worked with hundreds of artists, including Theaster Gates, Sheila Pepe, Cauleen Smith, and Indira Allegra, through exhibitions and programs at institutions of all scales. She curated the traveling exhibition Fearful Symmetries, the first retrospective of the feminist artist Faith Wilding, and edited the subsequent publication. Stratton’s curatorial work has focused on manifestations of craft in contemporary art, as well as socially engaged practice, sound, and artist-built environments. 

Born and raised in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, she holds an MA in Art History, Theory, and Criticism and an MFA in Fiber and Material Studies from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and a BFA in Interdisciplinary Studio Arts from the Alberta College of Art and Design (now Alberta University of the Arts). 


Founded in 1910, Ox-Bow School of Art and Artists’ Residency is a separately incorporated nonprofit organization offering year-round programs that cater to degree-seeking students, professional artists, and those new to the field. Students from schools across the country visit Ox-Bow to study and make art on its 115-acre campus in Saugatuck, Michigan, 150 miles northeast of Chicago. After a century in operation, Ox-Bow’s mission has remained consistent: to serve as a haven for the creative process through instruction, example, and community. Ox-Bow connects artists to a network of creative resources, people, and ideas; an energizing environment; and a rich artistic history and vital future.