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Our podcast series, Previously Unknown, returns this year with a new episode focused on a milestone moment for the art and disabilities movement in America.. Independent’s founding curatorial advisor Matthew Higgs hosts this timely conversation about the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s landmark acquisition of more than 100 works by artists practicing with the Oakland-based nonprofit Creative Growth Art Center. Tune in for more from our special guests Tom di Maria, the director emeritus of Creative Growth, and SFMOMA director Christopher Bedford.



Previously Unknown Podcast Episode 4: A Milestone Moment - Features - Independent Art Fair

Photography by Aubrey Mayer

Matthew Higgs is the director and chief curator of White Columns, New York's oldest alternative art space. Over the past thirty years Higgs has organized more than 200 exhibitions and his writing has appeared in more than fifty books and publications. He is currently a Contributing Editor at The Paris Review. Since 2010 Higgs has been the curatorial advisor to the Independent art fair and is, with Elizabeth Dee, the cofounder of Independent 20th Century.

Previously Unknown Podcast Episode 4: A Milestone Moment - Features - Independent Art Fair

Tom di Maria is the Emeritus Director of Creative Growth Art Center. With a wealth of experience and a deep commitment to disability arts, Tom has dedicated his career to promoting the work of artists with disabilities. Under his leadership, Creative Growth has flourished, gaining international recognition and acclaim. Tom's visionary approach has propelled the organization to the forefront of the contemporary art scene, fostering an environment of inclusivity and artistic excellence. Through his advocacy and tireless efforts, Tom has made a profound impact, empowering artists with disabilities and challenging societal perceptions of art and disability.

Tom di Maria has served as Creative Growth Art Center’s Director since 2000. As Director, he has developed partnerships with museums, galleries and international design companies to help bring Creative Growth's artists with disabilities fully into the contemporary art world. He speaks around the world about the Center’s major artists and their relationship to both Outsider Art and contemporary culture.  Prior to this position, he served as Assistant Director of the Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive, at UC Berkeley. Tom has also worked as the Executive Director of the San Francisco International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, and as Director of Development and Marketing at the San Francisco Film Society. He holds a B.F.A. from Rochester Institute of Technology and a M.F.A. from Maryland Institute, College of Art, in film and photography. Tom is also an award-winning filmmaker, with short film awards from Sundance, Sinking Creek, National Educational Media, and New York Experimental film festivals. In 2019, he was awarded the Visionary Award by the American Folk Art Museum in New York.


Previously Unknown Podcast Episode 4: A Milestone Moment - Features - Independent Art Fair

Photography by Don Ross, courtesy SFMOMA

Christopher Bedford was appointed the Helen and Charles Schwab Director of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) in 2022. Known for its remarkable collection of painting, sculpture, photography, architecture, design, and media art, SFMOMA is one of the largest museums of modern and contemporary art in the United States and a thriving cultural center for the Bay Area. Bedford is recognized as an innovative and dynamic leader, with a career focused on increasing community engagement and creating programs of national and international impact.

Prior to joining SFMOMA, he served as the Dorothy Wagner Wallis Director of The Baltimore Museum of Art (2016–22) and was also appointed as Commissioner for the U.S. Pavilion for the 2017 Venice Biennale, which presented an exhibition of new work by American artist Mark Bradford. Previously, Bedford served as the director of the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University (2012–16); the chief curator and curator of exhibitions at the Wexner Center for the Arts at The Ohio State University (2008–12); assistant curator and curatorial assistant in the Department of Contemporary Art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (2006– 08); and consulting curator in the Department of Sculpture and Decorative Arts for the J. Paul Getty Museum (2006–08).

Born in Scotland and raised in the U.S. and the U.K., Bedford has a Bachelor of Arts from Oberlin College, received a master’s degree in art history through the joint program at Case Western Reserve University and the Cleveland Museum of Art, and has studied in the doctoral programs in art history at the University of Southern California and the Courtauld Institute of Art at the University of London. Bedford is also a noted author and contributor to publications including Art in America, Artforum, and Frieze, among others.