Kate Haw 1992

Kate Haw '92
  • Executive Officer | National Gallery of Art
  • B.A., Religion | Sweet Briar College, 1992
  • M.A., Art History | University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1994

Kate Haw’s title at the National Gallery of Art is a mouthful: Executive Officer for Collections, Exhibitions, and Programs. But this expansive title reflects the broad responsibility she holds. She oversees the museum’s collections, ensuring that the art is well maintained, supervises the learning and engagement activities of the research library, and develops new exhibitions, including recent exhibitions on contemporary Native American art and the work of photographer Dorothea.

Kate Haw’s title at the National Gallery of Art is a mouthful: Executive Officer for Collections, Exhibitions, and Programs. But this expansive title reflects the broad responsibility she holds. Kate oversees the museum’s collections, ensuring that the art is well maintained, supervises the learning and engagement activities of the research library, and develops new exhibitions, including recent exhibitions on contemporary Native American art and the work of photographer Dorothea.

She never envisioned this career when she started college. “I grew up in a social world where frankly not much was expected of women in professional terms,” says Kate, Class of 1992. Sweet Briar opened her eyes. “It gave me a wider window into what women could do in the world and the confidence that I could do those things. It made me feel empowered to pursue a different path.”

She was especially impressed with art history professor Aileen Laing, Class of 1957, and “the amazing life she built that didn’t follow the path of the women I knew.”

Kate set out to earn a Ph.D. in art history, but after finishing her master’s degree decided to take a break. She found a job in the National Gallery’s curatorial department with help from another Sweet Briar alumna, Lynn Pearson Russell, Class of 1969. From there, she moved to New York where she ran an art gallery and then joined the American Federation of the Arts, which organizes touring exhibitions.

After four years curating exhibitions, she was asked to take over the external affairs activities, including fundraising and communications. “I took that job knowing it would actually open a lot more doors for me; because when you can raise money, a lot of higher-level leadership roles will open up to you,” Kate says.

From there, she become co-director of the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, a residency program for artists. Kate traveled back to Washington, D.C. to work as development director for the National Building Museum and then director of the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art. Returning to the National Gallery in 2020, Kate is excited about the museum’s push to become a place that is truly “of the nation and for all the people.”

“Like many museums, the National Gallery of Art hasn’t told as broad a story about the history of art as it could,” she says. “And it’s so exciting to be contributing to the diversification of the collection and the exhibitions and the people we bring in to do programs, which in turn will help broaden our audiences.”

She thinks back on her father’s reaction when she told him she was going to double major in art history and religion, with a minor in philosophy. “Well, it’s a good thing you’re a girl,” he told her. “I think he thought I would never make any money; but I’ve made a whole career out of it.”