Wonderful Women Wednesday: Camille Giraud Akeju

Each week, the Archives features a woman who has been a groundbreaker at the Smithsonian, past or present, in a series, titled Wonderful Women Wednesday. 

Camille Giraud Akeju was the Director of the Anacostia Community Museum from 2005 to 2016. Under her leadership, the Museum broadened its mission and scope to address the impact of historical and current events on urban communities, both locally and nationally.

Before the Smithsonian, Akeju served as the president of the Harlem School of the Arts beginning in 1999. During her six-year tenure, the number of staff increased by thirty percent, the organization’s budget grew by more than a million dollars, and enrollment expanded by five percent each year. 

Akeju earned a bachelor’s degree in fine arts and a master’s degree in art history from Howard University. During her time at the university in the 1970s, Akeju taught printmaking classes in schools as part of an internship with the Smithsonian American Art Museum. As a result of this experience, she began to recognize museums as institutions that could not just display art, but also bring art to communities.   

In 2005, James Early, former director of Cultural Heritage Policy at Smithsonian’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, praised Akeju. “She is a community builder and knows how to build relationships with people and their organizations.”

Akeju stands at a podium.

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