As program officer with the Vilcek Foundation, Zahra Banyamerian is responsible for the strategic planning and implementation of the Vilcek Foundation Prizes. She leads the development of the annual prizes program, including working with consultants to develop and facilitate the call-for-applications for the Vilcek Prizes for Creative Promise, and the juried review of candidates for all of the Vilcek Foundation Prizes programs. Banyamerian also works closely with President Rick Kinsel on the development of new prizes and awards aligned with the Vilcek Foundation mission and vision.
Prior to being appointed program officer, Banyamerian served as the contemporary curatorial fellow with the Vilcek Foundation. In this capacity, Banyamerian worked to develop exhibition programs and arts initiatives for the foundation centering immigrant and foreign-born artists. She led the development of events and publications to promote the Vilcek Foundation’s 2022–23 exhibition of Nari Ward: Home of the Brave with Nari Ward, recipient of the 2017 Vilcek Prize in Fine Arts.
Born in Iran, Banyamerian immigrated to the United States in 2011. To her work with the Vilcek Foundation she brings a wealth of experience in fine arts administration and curatorial leadership. Prior to joining the foundation staff, Banyamerian was a senior program officer with the New York Foundation for the Arts, running NYFA’s Leadership Initiatives and Curatorial Affairs programs. In this role, Banyamerian developed incubator programs for leaders of color in the arts, strategizing, designing, and marketing professional development programs, workshops, and courses for arts administrators and arts professionals. While at NYFA, Banyamerian also facilitated the Immigrant Artist Mentoring Program, building networks of support for emerging and established immigrant artists in the greater New York area.
As a curator, Banyamerian has led the development of several exhibitions and installations for the New York Foundation for the Arts. Her exhibitions—including In a Different Light, Invincible Beings, and Memory Manifests—center and explore concepts of borders, movement, and migration.
Banyamerian completed her Master’s in Art History at the City College of New York; her thesis explored the intersecting roles of nostalgia, politics, and gender in artistic production in Iran.
In addition to Banyamerian’s work as a curator and arts administrator, she is trained as a painter and printmaker. Banyamerian earned her BFA in painting and an MA in art studies from the University of Tehran and a post-baccalaureate degree in studio art from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.