Contact: Gabriella Souza
[email protected]

BALTIMORE, MD— The Walters Art Museum announces the election of four new members to the Board of Trustees: Laura Banes, Ajay Kurian, Joel Pallikal, and Dr. Sarah E. Thomas.

“Our new board members possess strong backgrounds that include business, finance, and library sciences, and we are also excited to add one of the first professional artists to the Walters Board of Trustees. Their unique skills and experiences will assist the museum in our commitments to education, working with local artists, and engaging with our communities in meaningful and thoughtful ways,” said Julia Marciari-Alexander, Andrea B. and John H. Laporte Director. “The four members add to an already dynamic and innovative Board of Trustees, which the museum relies on for expertise, leadership, and connection to the community.”

Since its founding, the Walters Art Museum has been governed by an independent Board of Trustees. The new trustees will each serve three-year terms.

Bios for the newest members are below:

Laura Carson Banes is the U.S. Universities Coordinator for King’s College School, Wimbledon. She received her AB in History (American Studies) from Princeton University in 1984 and an MBA from the Yale School of Management in 1991. She is the mother of 3 adult children and currently she and her husband, John, divide their time between Roland Park and New York City. Laura became a member of the museum’s Engagement Committee in FY21.

Ajay Kurian is a Baltimore-born, New York-based, conceptual artist working in sculpture, painting, and installation. He studied Visual Arts and Art History at Columbia University and graduated in 2006. He serves as an adjunct professor at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) and some of his solo exhibitions that have taken place in Baltimore include: Polyphemus (Goucher College, Silber Art Gallery, 2020) and Work Harder Under Water (Rowhouse Project, 2015). His work has been featured in group exhibitions at the Whitney Museum of American Art, MoMA PS1, Governor’s Island, New York; The Øregaard Museum, Denmark; The Contemporary Art Museum of Raleigh, North Carolina; and the Kunsthalle Fridericianum, Germany. His work is also included in public collections such as the Aïshti Foundation Collection, Lebanon.

Joel Pallikal, CPA, is the Controller for EIP where he has primary oversight over the finance and accounting function of the management company. Joel earned dual degrees in Accounting and Operations Management from the University of Maryland, College Park (2011). He and his wife live in downtown Baltimore City and are originally from Ellicott City and Middletown, Maryland, respectively. Joel became a member of the museum’s Audit Committee in FY21.

Sarah Thomas, Ph.D., is the former Vice President for the Harvard Library and University Librarian and Roy E. Larsen Librarian for the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (retired 2019). In 2007, she became the first woman and non-British citizen to serve as Bodley’s Librarian at the University of Oxford. Prior to her work at Oxford, Thomas spent over a decade as university librarian at Cornell University in Ithaca. Thomas was raised in Haydenville, Massachusetts, and graduated from Smith College in 1970. She qualified as a professional librarian at Simmons College in 1973 and received her Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University in 1982 for a thesis on the Austrian author Hugo von Hofmannsthal and his relations with his publisher. She is married to Peter B. Hirtle, an archivist. They have two sons, Carter and Fletcher.


The Walters Art Museum is a cultural hub in the heart of Baltimore, located in the city’s Mount Vernon neighborhood. The museum’s collection spans more than seven millennia, from 5000 BCE to the 21st century, and encompasses 36,000 objects from around the world. Walking through the museum’s historic buildings, visitors encounter a stunning panorama of thousands of years of art, from romantic 19th-century images of French gardens to mesmerizing Ethiopian icons, richly illuminated Qur’ans and Gospel books, ancient Roman sarcophagi, and serene images of the Buddha. Since its founding, the Walters’ mission has been to bring art and people together to create a place where people of every background can be touched by art. As part of this commitment, admission to the museum and special exhibitions is always free.

Visitor Information
Admission to the museum is free. The Walters Art Museum is located at 600 N. Charles St., north of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. For general museum information, call 410-547-9000 or visit

Free access to the Walters Art Museum, online and in person, is made possible through the combined generosity of individual members and donors, foundations, corporations, and grants from the City of Baltimore, Maryland State Arts Council, Citizens of Baltimore County, and Howard County Government and Howard County Arts Council.