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Dianne Smith Papers

Identifier: SC28

Collection Scope and Content Summary

The Dianne Smith Papers include professional art practice materials such as exhibition materials, art making materials, press, professional correspondence, and administrative materials. The collection also contains material concerning her teaching career, including syllabi from her position at the Lincoln Center, as well as personal materials including correspondence, documents of Smith's family history, and personal education materials.


  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1979 - 2020
  • Creation: 1928 - 2021



This collection has no restrictions.

Publication Rights

Permission to publish material from the collection must be requested from the Barnard Archives and Special Collections. The Barnard Archives and Special Collections approves permission to publish that which it physically owns; the responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.

Reproduction Restrictions

Reproductions can be made for research purposes.


Dianne Smith is a contemporary artist born in 1965 as Dianne Patricia Goldson. She is the only surviving child of Merva and Peter Goldson, who immigrated in the 1960s from Belize to the Bronx, New York, where Dianne was raised. Her uncle was Belizean politician Philip Stanley Wilberforce Goldson. In 1979, Dianne graduated from Angelo Patri Middle School MS 391, and from LaGuardia High School of Music and the Performing Arts in 1983. She attended the Los Angeles Trade Technical College studying Fashion Design in 1983, and then Otis College of Art and Design where she majored in Fashion Design in 1984.

In the 1980s, Dianne pursued a career in modeling; her first fashion show was at Lerners Department Store in 1985. After returning to New York she met, befriended, and became runway-coached by Willi Ninja (of voguing fame) at the Fashion Institute of Technology. She signed with the Black-owned modeling agency "Rage" in 1989 and moved to Milan, then Desenzando del Garda, Italy between 1989 and 1990. Between 1989 and 1991 she traveled to and modeled in multiple cities in Italy, France, Switzerland, Belgium, England, Togo, Benin, Cote d'Ivoire, and Nigeria.

Dianne returned to the United States in 1991 and married Valerè Smith Béhanzin, grandson of the last King of the Republic of Dahomey, modern day Republic of Benin. Dianne and Valerè moved to Los Angeles, California in 1992, and then returned to New York City in 1993 in order for Dianne to pursue her art career. She moved to Harlem and officially began her career as an artist in 1994. She worked retail management to support her art career between 1994 and 2001, after which she divorced Smith Béhanzin and transitioned into a full-time artist.

Smith was invited to teach at Lincoln Center Education between 2005 and 2015, and she received her MFA and PhD in Creative Practice from at the Transart Institute at Plymouth University UK School of Art, Design and Architecture in Berlin, Germany in 2012. She was appointed Director of Public Engagement at the Allentown Art Museum in Allentown, Pennsylvania and served in this position between 2016 and 2019. She currently lives and works in Harlem, New York, and has taught at Columbia University Teachers College, Lehman College, Brooklyn College, City College, and St. John's University.

Smith has artworks in the private collections of Danny Simmons, the UFA Gallery, Vivica A. Fox, Cicely Tyson, Arthur Mitchell, Terry McMillian, and Tasha Smith. She has also exhibited artwork at s.h.e. Gallery in Boontoon, New Jersley, the RFA Gallery in New York City, Hearne Fine Art in Little Rock, Arkansas, the UFA Gallery in New York City, at Winston Salem State University's Diggs Gallery in Winston Salem, North Carolina, the Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York City, Columbia University's Wallach Gallery, and at Barnard College in New York City.

The Dianne Smith Papers were co-organized by curator Peter "Souleo" Wright. For over a decade, Dianne and Souleo have forged a professional and personal bond. Souleo has curated numerous exhibitions that included Dianne's work. His professional capacity includes working closely with Dianne to place her work and papers in major permanent collections and archives.

An updated bio and information about Dianne's works can be found on her website.


4.5 Linear Feet (2 cartons, 1 document box, 1 oversize box)




Dianne Smith (born 1965) is a contemporary artist working from Harlem, New York. The contents of the Dianne Smith Papers include her art making and art practice materials, her teaching materials, personal and family documents, and photographs.

Collection Arrangement

This collection is physically in the original order in which it was received. The records are arranged into four series, which are as follows:

Series 1, Artwork and Professional Art Practice

Series 2, Teaching Materials

Series 3, Personal Materials

Series 4, Photographs

Acquisition Information

Donated by Dianne Smith, with co-organization by Peter "Souleo" Wright, 2021, 2023.

Processing History

This collection was processed and the finding aid written by Martha Tenney and Kaya Alim in May 2021. Martha Tenney processed an addition to the collection and updated the finding aid in 2023. Descriptive Rules Used: Finding aid adheres to that prescribed by Describing Archives: A Content Standard. Finding aid written in English.

Guide to the Dianne Smith Papers
Martha Tenney and Kaya Alim
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2023: Finding aid updated to reflect addition to collection.

Repository Details

Part of the Barnard Archives and Special Collections Repository

3009 Broadway
New York NY 10027 United States