the gentlewoman

The Reader

It was six years ago that Kimberly Drew created Black Contemporary Art, a wildly successful Tumblr page that celebrated work that the art establishment didn’t seem to register. No surprise to anyone who’s met and been charmed by the 26-year-old best known to her 119,000 Instagram followers as @museummammy, Kimberly didn’t stay on the fringes for long. Now, as social media manager for the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Kimberly has her greatest platform yet to influence the young, creative and socially-minded. And, as she tells Mattie Kahn, she's no time for naysayers.

Kimberly Drew

Mattie: Social Media Manager is one of those titles that could mean many things. What is it that you do, exactly?

Kimberly: I commission and create content for the Met's social media channels. The museum has more than two million followers on Instagram alone, so it's quite a platform to be steering.

M: That's vast. How you do you stay on top of all the public engagement—the traffic must be intense?

K: I wouldn’t call myself a master of it. I try to meditate when I'm offline, but at the same time, what I do is really addictive. When people say to me, "Unplug! Unplug!", I"m like, "Don't you understand how amazing the Internet is?"

M: You must need serious stamina to keep up with the pace of it.

K: It comes down to endurance. Your brain is like a muscle when it comes to online—always working. But when I'm in the zone and just scanning channels, I love it: I can take in 15 different strands at once, from all across the world. Like I said, amazing.

M: In a way, entertaining and responding to virtual audiences is solitary work. Do you prefer your own company?

K: Well, I’m an only child and my parents treated me like an adult from a young age. I also went to a super-conservative boarding school, St George’s School in Rhode Island, so being away from home and in a world that was completely foreign certainly helped me become more self-assured.

M: It certainly seems to have paid off—you've risen to prominence very quickly. I mean, you've been featured in The New Yorker already. How do you feel, being described as a Millennial role model?

K: Well, it's humbling obviously, but it also makes you wonder about all the legendary artists you get to meet through your work, or that you read about. You realise that they're also just people who go to yoga, have kids and walk their dogs.

M: Ah, so you do take some time offline, reading! Do you have a book on the go?

K: At the moment, it's Rebecca Carroll's I Know What the Red Clay Looks Like—it's a gorgeous anthology of essays by black women writers such as Gloria Naylor, Nikki Giovanni and June Jordan. All the icons in one book. I've been floating and weeping my way through it.

M: That's the beauty of being an editor, or media manager, you get to bring all your heroes together. If you could commission any two artists to collaborate on work, who would it be?

K: I love the idea of unleashing a poet like Morgan Parker into a gallery with photographers like Carrie Mae Weems or Lorna Simpson. What poets can do for photography; I want to see that brain-meld.

M: The arts are having a tough time in the United States at the moment, with the current administration’s proposed funding cuts. Is it a dispiriting time for you?

K: As a daughter of black studies, you’re always kind of ready for doomsday but I don’t have time for negativity. I've decided I'm a career optimist.

June 2017. Interview by Mattie Kahn. Portrait by Thomas McCarty. Would you like to be the next featured reader? Then sign-up sister and tell us about yourself!