As a curator, gallery director, artist and educator, Jayme McLellan has worked in the arts in Washington, DC since 1996. In addition to organizing exhibitions for artists, she founded two non-profit visual arts and advocacy organizations and one contemporary art gallery where she serves as director. As an activist, from 2012 to 2014, she also led an effort to try to save the Corcoran museum from closing.
McLellan began her career as an artist and soon started showing the work of artists living and working around her. Her first exhibitions were in pop-up spaces, homes, and bars. Her first professional job in the arts was at D.C. Arts Center (1998-2001). In 2002, McLellan co-founded Transformer, an artist-centered art space in Washington, DC that thrives to this day. McLellan and Victoria Reis created Transformer to support the under-represented artists of the region, and to match them with their national and international counterparts to build a wider audience and support for their work and ideas.
She founded Civilian Art Projects in Washington, DC in 2006 as an extension of her work at D.C. Arts Center and Transformer to support emerging artists. Civilian represents a group of artists who primarily have solo exhibitions in order to present a new series of work that often pushes the understanding of the media. McLellan works with the artist to create the exhibition and education programs. Special attention is paid to widening the artist’s audience and communicating the artist’s practice through outreach, events, and small group convenings. She has curated and organized over one hundred exhibitions and numerous public programs and events through Civilian resulting in sales, reviews, and placement of work in permanent museum collections.
McLellan has also curated several projects independently, including the international exhibition and book (Akashic 2013) HARD ART DC 1979 that was on view in 2014 at the Center for Documentary Studies and Duke University in North Carolina and will soon be on view at the Agnes B. gallery in Paris, France. In 2007, as assistant curator for DARFUR/DARFUR, McLellan organized exhibitions for the City Museum in Ljubljana, Slovenia; the Glenbow Museum in Calgary, Canada; the Provisions Library in DC, and a public square in Paris. In 2009, she curated a site-specific exhibition of artists from New Orleans called “Frontier Preachers” for the 40,000 square feet Soap Factory space in Minneapolis.
Other projects include the Tandem Project (1999-2000), a residency and exchange project for artists impacted by the Balkan War. Co-curated by Katherine Carl, the project resulted in an exhibition at D.C. Arts Center and the Signal 66 art space, and a residency for five artists from the countries of the former Yugoslavia. The importance of this project continues to have a positive impact on the artists’ careers to this day and launched at least one of their careers in the U.S.
In 2015, she was awarded a Dorothy Liskey Wampler Professorship of Art Fellowship at James Madison University. In 2014 she was invited to a residency with the SCCA–Ljubljana and the Igor Zabel Association for Culture and Theory, supported by the U.S. Embassy Ljubljana, the City of Ljubljana’s Department for Culture and ERSTE Foundation. The residency included workshoping with emerging curators about sustainability issues and the different systems in the U.S. that could be adapted to this post-communist country to support artists.
Finally, McLellan leads classes on professional practices for visual artists at GW/Corcoran and she has taught professional practices and curatoral practice at institutions such at the Corcoran College of Art + Design, American University, Maryland Institute College of Art, St. Mary’s College of Maryland (where she received her BA), and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden.