John Beardsley is the inaugural Curator of the Cornelia Hahn Oberlander International Landscape Architecture Prize

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John Beardsley is the inaugural Curator of the Cornelia Hahn Oberlander International Landscape Architecture Prize
John Beardsley, 2020. Photo © Ronda Ann Gregorio, courtesy The Cultural Landscape Foundation.

WASHINGTON, DC.- The Cultural Landscape Foundation today announced that influential writer, curator, historian, and professor John Beardsley is the inaugural curator of the Cornelia Hahn Oberlander International Landscape Architecture Prize (“Oberlander Prize”). Beardsley has curated several influential exhibitions, including “The Quilts of Gee’s Bend” at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City and the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, has authored noted books such as Earthworks and Beyond: Contemporary Art in the Landscape, and has organized numerous symposia, among them Cultural Landscape Heritage in Sub-Saharan Africa. Beardsley was most recently Director of Garden and Landscape Studies at the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection in Washington, D.C. The biennial Oberlander Prize is the first international landscape architecture prize that includes a U.S.$100,000 award and two years of public engagement activities. The inaugural Oberlander Prize will be awarded in 2021.

Working independently, the Oberlander Prize Curator is responsible for developing the Prize’s intellectual content, will support the jury process, and will have a primary role in developing the public engagement activities focusing on the laureate(s). The public programs are key to reaching the goal of increasing the recognition, visibility, and legibility of landscape architecture as a global, cultural, and professional practice.

An advisory board comprising no more than twelve people will assist the Curator. TCLF will provide the Curator’s administrative support.

The Curator’s roles and responsibilities were developed by the Oberlander Prize Advisory Committee, chaired by Elizabeth K. Meyer, the Merrill D. Peterson Professor of Landscape Architecture at the University of Virginia School of Architecture. Beardsley was selected by the Prize Advisory Committee to be the inaugural Oberlander Prize Curator.

“I am thrilled that John Beardsley has agreed to be the Oberlander Prize Curator,” said Elizabeth K. Meyer. “The Oberlander Prize Advisory Committee quickly and unanimously agreed that he would be the perfect person to lead the Prize process in its early years. John’s knowledge of the cultures of landscape studies, landscape architectural history, and contemporary landscape architecture practice is both broad and deep. The landscape architecture community, and the cultures of landscape, are indebted to John for taking on this momentous new program.”

Trained as an art historian, John Beardsley earned an A.B. from Harvard and a Ph.D. from the University of Virginia. He is the author of numerous books on contemporary art and design, including Earthworks and Beyond: Contemporary Art in the Landscape (fourth edition, 2006) and Gardens of Revelation: Environments by Visionary Artists (1995), as well as many titles on recent landscape architecture. He has extensive teaching experience in the departments of landscape architecture at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, 1985–96; the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, 1989–92; and Harvard University, Cambridge, where he was an adjunct professor at the Graduate School of Design (GSD) from 1998 to 2013, teaching courses in landscape architectural history, theory, research, and writing.

Beardsley has also worked as a curator at numerous museums, including the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C., 1974–78; and the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1981–89. Among the exhibitions he has organized or co-organized are “Black Folk Art in America” (Corcoran Gallery of Art, 1982); “Hispanic Art in the United States” (Museum of Fine Arts Houston, 1987); and "The Quilts of Gee's Bend" (Museum of Fine Arts Houston and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 2002). In 1997 he was curator of the visual arts project "Human Nature: Art and Landscape in Charleston and the Low Country" for the Spoleto Festival U.S.A. in Charleston. While at the GSD, he co-organized the exhibitions “One Hundred Years of Landscape Architecture at Harvard” (2000) and "Dirty Work: Transforming the Landscape of Nonformal Cities in the Americas" (2008), the latter examining efforts to improve environmental conditions in low-income communities across Latin America.

Beardsley was most recently Director of Garden and Landscape Studies at the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection in Washington, D.C., where he oversaw a fellowship program, a lecture series, an annual symposium, a publications program, summer internships, and a series of installations of contemporary art in the institution’s historic gardens, as well as a new Mellon-funded initiative in urban landscape studies. His publications during his tenure include the edited volumes Landscape Body Dwelling: Charles Simonds at Dumbarton Oaks; the proceedings of the 2010 symposium, Designing Wildlife Habitats; and the proceedings of the 2013 symposium, Cultural Landscape Heritage in Sub-Saharan Africa, which received the Elisabeth Blair MacDougall Book Award from the Society of Architectural Historians in 2018.

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