Who's Who of Professional Women


Driven by a lifelong passion for drawing and painting, Nancy R. Shaw thrived over the course of her nearly 30-year career. She initially didn’t even think she could make a living in the art field, but, encouraged by her mother to follow her dreams, she decided to give it a chance. Her perseverance paid off in 1972, when she landed the role of assistant curator of American art at the Detroit Institute of Arts. The job was everything she was hoping for; a stepping stone into the industry, a chance to share her love with others, and a home. After only three years, Ms. Shaw was promoted to the position of Curator of American Art, and became the first woman to hold that title. She remained in the position for more than two decades before eventually retiring and becoming a curator emerita and specialist in late 19th and early 20th century American art in 1998. One of the highlights of her time with the Detroit Institute of Arts was the opportunity to meet legendary artist Andy Warhol.

To prepare for her professional endeavors, Ms. Shaw earned a Bachelor of Arts, magna cum laude, from Oakland University in 1969 and a Master of Arts from Wayne State University in 1973. She ensured that she remained connected to her peers by becoming a member of the Wayne State University Alumni Association.

​With such an illustrious background, Ms. Shaw thought it only natural to find ways to pass her experiences on to the younger generations. From 1991 to 1998, she served as an adjunct professor of art and art history at Wayne State University in Detroit, Mich., and in 1991, she contributed to the book, “American Art in the Detroit Institute of Arts, Vol. I.” The second volume was released in 1997 and the third volume was released in 2005. Ms. Shaw also contributed to exhibition catalogues and professional journals. In recognition of her hard work, dedication and success, she was honored with inclusion in numerous editions of Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in the South and Southwest, Who’s Who in the World, and Who’s Who of American Women. She was also featured in one issue of Who’s Who in American Education. Reflecting back on her career, Ms. Shaw can honestly say that she loved every moment of it.

A friend, Cindy Shaw, writes:

What a wonderful tribute to a wonderful lady!
Nancy’s passion for the arts also translates to her unique style and passion about the clothing she wears so well!!
She is awesome in every way!

I own a few of her paintings and feel inspired every day I see them, especially when a gentle ray of sunshine sparks an energy connected to the well being of all!
She is a gift!

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