Rock Hall chief curator Nwaka Onwusa leaves for new job at Hip Hop Museum in New York

CLEVELAND, Ohio – The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame will break ground soon on its upcoming expansion, but the museum has already begun making changes to its operations. Vice President and Chief Curator Nwaka Onwusa has left the building to become the creative director at the Hip Hop Museum, scheduled to open in late 2024 in New York City.

Rock Hall veteran Shelby Morrison who has worked in various capacities during her 18 years at the museum, most recently as director of artist relations, has been promoted to vice president of curatorial operations.

Onwusa first joined the Rock Hall in 2019 as director of curatorial affairs and was promoted to vice president and chief curator in 2020 after her predecessor Karen Herman stepped down.

Onwusa, who spent a decade at the Grammy Museum in her native Los Angeles before coming to Cleveland, contributed to many of the Rock Hall’s most diverse exhibits, including the Induction All Access: Photography by Kevin Mazur,” and “Play It Loud,” one of the largest exhibits in the museum’s history. She was the lead curator on the “It’s Been Said All Along: Voices of Rage, Hope and Empowerment,” exhibit.

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During her time at the Rock Hall, the Compton native was feted and featured by BET, Rolling Stone and Essence and various other publications for her work and being the first Black female chief curator at the museum.

Rock Hall CEO and president Greg Harris said he was happy for Onwusa and by extension her former employer. “It’s great. She sent me a note a couple of weeks ago and we’re already talking about what we can do together,” he said chuckling.

“She’s still figuring out exactly what it is, but we’ve already got curators talking,” Harris said.

The Hip Hop Museum, formerly known at the Universal Hip Hop Museum, is a non-profit founded in the Bronx by “business owner and entertainment manager,” Rocky Bucano, along with several prominent hip-hop artists, including Kurtis Blow, LL Cool J, Ice T and others.

Chaka Khan celebrate at the Rock Hall

Chaka Khan signs autographs and greets fans following her Q&A session at the Rock Hall. Khan was celebrating her 50 years in music and her 70th birthday.

During her time at Rock Hall, Morrison has been a part of many important moments, including interviewing Chaka Khan for the celebration of the singer’s 50th anniversary in the music industry and her 70th birthday.

Morrison also had an informative virtual down with artists Amanda Shires and Martina McBride for “Women In Country” as part of the museum’s Women’s History Month celebration this past spring.

Most recently, she was personally thanked by Public Enemy’s Chuck D and Flava Flav for her work on the “Hip Hop at 50: ‘Holla if Ya Hear Me” exhibit when they came to Cleveland in June to celebrate its opening.

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