US Art Museums - Buying, Rennovating, Changing Leadership

1. DALLAS, TX.-(artsdaily.org )  The Dallas Museum of Art (DMA) today announced that Bonnie Pitman will step down from her position as the Museum’s Eugene McDermott Director in May 2011 for health reasons. Ms. Pitman will continue to work with the Museum and its Board of Trustees on special projects through April 2012, and will help with the search and transition to the new director. The Museum concurrently announced that Olivier Meslay will serve as the interim director. Mr. Meslay currently holds the joint position of Senior Curator of European and American Art and the Barbara Thomas Lemmon Curator of European Art.
“We have been incredibly fortunate to have had Bonnie in a leadership role at the Museum for more than a decade. She is an inspiring and visionary leader and has been a tremendous force for innovation and growth at the Museum,” stated John Eagle, President of the DMA Board of Trustees. “We deeply regret that her tenure could not be longer, but her health and well-being must come first and we accept her decision. We remain grateful for her dedication and service to the DMA and to the greater Dallas community.”
“The ten years I have spent at the Dallas Museum of Art have been the most professionally and personally rewarding of my career,” said Pitman. “As the Eugene McDermott Director and before that as Deputy Director, it has been an honor to work with the creative and dedicated staff and trustees of the DMA to transform our institution. The DMA is poised to be the center of this great city's cultural life for many decades to come. I look forward to assisting the Board, Olivier and the staff with the transition and appointment of a new director.”
Ms. Pitman joined the DMA as Deputy Director in 2000 and assumed her current role as Director in 2008. Her tenure at the Museum is distinguished by her development of innovative collection-based programming and her dedication to curatorial excellence and community engagement. In a time of economic uncertainty, Ms. Pitman has led the Museum to the completion of its Campaign for a New Century, which raised $187 million in support of its endowment and programs.
During her tenure as director, the DMA further invigorated its mission through a multi-year surveying of its audiences that was used for the development of new programmatic strategies for engaging the community. This research and the resulting initiatives are documented in the recent book Ignite the Power of Art, co-written by Ms. Pitman, which provides an important new model for how museums can provide more enriching experiences for diverse audiences. In putting this research into practice, the DMA’s attendance has grown more than 100% and more than half of these visitors participate in education and public programs. This research followed Ms. Pitman’s watershed report from the 1990s, Excellence and Equity: Education and the Public Dimension of Museums, which radically reframed how museums interact with their communities and set industry standards for best practices in the field.
“Bonnie’s vision and tremendous contributions have extended beyond the Dallas Museum of Art to the museum field at large,” said Eagle. “On behalf of the Board of Trustees, we thank her for her intelligence and her commitment, which have allowed us to better serve our audiences and have encouraged and inspired her peers to engage the public in exciting and meaningful ways.”
The Museum is forming a search committee to begin the process of appointing the next Eugene McDermott Director of the Dallas Museum of Art.

2. . LOUISVILLE, KY.- The Speed Art Museum has unveiled the design for a major expansion and renovation of its facilities, encompassing 200,000 square feet of new and renovated interior and exterior space. Growing out of the Museum’s long-range master planning process, the Speed commissioned wHY Architecture—led by Kulapat Yantrasast, working with his partners Richard Stoner and Yo-ichiro Hakomori —for the project.
The design includes the construction of two new buildings, both of which will link directly to the Museum’s existing structure and unify the Speed’s facility, which has grown sporadically over time. The Speed is uniquely positioned to serve as a cultural hub for the city as it is sited adjacent to the University of Louisville campus and the city’s busiest pedestrian thoroughfare—more than 5,000 people walk by the Museum site each day. The new structure to the north of the Speed’s historic original building (see above) is designed to be largely transparent—literally opening the Speed to the community. The project will also feature a new Art Park and public piazza on the Speed’s 6 acre site. Boston-based landscape architects Reed-Hilderbrand are designing the plan for the site in a modern-day realization of an idea first conceived by the Olmsted Brothers. Olmsted and his sons, who created an extensive park system in Louisville , envisioned the Museum site as greenspace linking the University of Louisville campus and the rest of the city’s park system, but their plan was never fully realized.
The total master plan consists of three phases and is estimated eventually to cost approximately $79 million for construction and growth to the Museum’s endowment. The budget for the first phase is $57 million, which includes construction of the new North Building and the adjacent Art Park and piazza, as well as an increase to the Speed’s endowment. This campaign is the largest ever undertaken by a cultural organization in Louisville. The Speed is already more than halfway to its goal for Phase I with $31 million raised to date. Work on Phase I, which encompasses the building of a new structure to the north, is scheduled to begin in 2011 and to be completed in 2015.
The complete expansion and renovation will take place in three phases, allowing the collection and staff to remain on site and the Museum to remain open to the public throughout the project. As noted, Phase I is scheduled to begin in 2011 and be completed in 2015. This phase includes the construction of a new 53,000 square-foot building on the north side of the existing facility as well as the outdoor Art Park and public piazza. To provide better access for those visiting the Museum and using the University of Louisville campus, the entry drive will be re-routed and the exterior of the existing parking garage will be planted with flowering vines to “green” its facade. Phase II includes the renovation of the Speed’s currently facility and its adjacent grounds. Phase III focuses on the construction of a new 5,000 square-foot building on the south side of the Speed’s current campus. The project will be environmentally friendly, and the Speed is seeking a LEED certification.
As the Museum moves forward with its expansion project, it is also in the midst of a comprehensive and systematic review of its 14,000-piece collection. This process is identifying key areas for collection growth and refinement, with the goal of strengthening the Museum’s holdings and making the collection more relevant and meaningful for its community and visitors. The expansion will provide flexible exhibition spaces to present the Speed’s collection and new acquisitions for the public, along with new facilities for collection care and research.
The expansion and renovation plans can be seen in detail, along with a computer animated “fly through” of the new design, in the special exhibition Unveiling the New Speed: A Model of the Future, currently on view at the

3.   BENTONVILLE, ARK. (artsdaily.org) The Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art announced three endowments from the Walton Family Foundation.
“We are in the fortunate position of having a founding donor family that understands the need for stability and sustainability going forward, and therefore has worked with us to create the base endowments upon which we will build and grow,” Dr. Bacigalupi said. “These extraordinary gifts mean we are now able to turn to our community with confidence when we ask for its participation and involvement – confidence that we are here for the duration and that we will be a force in this region and in the field of museums and art history for generations to come.”
To operate a museum of the scale and ambition of Crystal Bridges, an initial operating budget of approximately $16-20 million has been forecasted, putting the Museum in the company of institutions such as the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the St. Louis Art Museum and the Phoenix Art Museum. The largest portion of these expenses will be met by the operating endowment, which has been funded by the Walton Family Foundation with a gift of $350 million.
The second endowment is for acquisitions, supported by a $325 million gift. This endowment will provide annual funding for purchases for the collection, or will accumulate a fund balance to prepare for periodic major acquisitions.
The third endowment is for capital improvements. Crystal Bridges has a campus of eight pavilions, all of them unique and site specific. To ensure that capital needs are met, the Foundation has made a grant of $125 million for future improvements and maintenance. This endowment will primarily be a rainy day fund.
These three endowments will be supplemented with other gifts and memberships, as well as earned income. The Walton Family Foundation gift will be enhanced with contributions from other donors.
“We seek thoughtful, strategic investments that create and strengthen partnerships with our grantees and the communities they serve. By investing in the endowment of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, my family has laid a foundation on which this institution can continue to grow as a resource for our community, state and nation,” said Alice L. Walton, member, Walton Family Foundation Board of Directors. “This endowment investment is core to the Foundation’s goal of further enhancing the quality of life in Northwest Arkansas and enabling the region to continue to flourish.”


4. AUSTIN, TEXAS (artsjournal.com) More Texas Turnover: Ned Rifkin Resigns From The Blanton
More turnover at the top of a yet another Texas museum: Earlier this week, Ned Rifkin resigned as director of the Blanton Museum at the University of Texas at Austin, less than two years after he arrived. The university's provost, Steven W. Leslie, immediately promoted the deputy director for external affairs and operations, Simone Wicha, to the top slot.
Rifkin stays on at the university to do research and teach, but his quick replacement probably reflects unhappiness with within the Blanton/university. The exact nature of Rifkin's difficulties -- or disagreements with the powers that be -- are unclear, but his departure has been rumored for weeks.
Rifkin came to the Blanton from the post of Undersecretary for Art at the Smithsonian. Before that, at the job he held until 2001, he was director of the Menil Collection in Houston, where he faced a board divided by his leadership and performance, a situation recounted here on 29-95.com. Rifkin also once headed both the High Museum and the Hirshhorn Museum.
In the press release announcing Rifkin's resignation from the Blanton, Leslie said the university appreciated his knowledge, and noted that Rifkin had improved student involvement with the museum, but not much else.
It was Rifkin, who reorganized the Blanton's staff last April, who had promoted Wicha from director of development to deputy director.
Like the Blanton -- Austin's largest art museum -- both Houston's biggest, the Museum of Fine Arts, and Dallas's, the Dallas Museum of Art, are experiencing leadership change. The MFA's beloved director, Peter C. Marzio, died last December, and Bonnie Pittman, the DMA's much-loved director, recently announced that she would step down because of health reasons.

5.   BALTIMORE, MD.-  (artdaily) The Baltimore Museum of Art’s Board of Trustees today announced its selection of the Maryland-based architecture firm Ziger/Snead to work with the Museum on its ambitious $24 million capital renovation. The decision follows a comprehensive year-long selection process. The BMA’s much-anticipated renovation—scheduled to be completed in 2014 during the BMA’s 100th Anniversary—will create dynamic spaces for art and people and ensure the BMA is a magnet for new generations of visitors.
In January 2010, the Board formed an Architect Selection Committee and, recognizing the abundance of highly qualified firms in our state, voted to consider only architecture firms headquartered in Maryland. This is the first time the BMA has focused a search exclusively on Maryland-based architects for a project of this scale. It is estimated that the entire renovation project will create 185 jobs in construction and related industries.
The capital renovation is the result of nearly a decade of careful planning by the Museum’s Board of Trustees and staff, including a long-term strategic plan, an architectural master plan, and a campaign feasibility study. Ziger/Snead will undertake conceptual design planning throughout the summer.
“We have long admired the BMA’s original building designed by John Russell Pope and we see this as an opportunity to bring fresh, relevant, welcoming, and dynamic changes to greatly enrich each visitor’s experience,” said Steve Ziger. “We also fully recognize how critically important this project is to the BMA, our City, and the broader community.”
The $24 million project will bring significant improvements for the visitor experience, including enhancements of galleries housing three major art collections—Contemporary, American, and African; improvements to the East Lobby; and upgrades to visitor amenities. Much needed improvements in essential infrastructure, including two new roofs and a state-of-the-art building automation system, will improve care of the 90,000 works of art in the BMA’s world-class collection. The BMA will remain open and will continue to offer free admission during the renovation to ensure its service to the community.

6.  CLEVELAND, OH.- "The Cleveland Museum of Art acquired two noteworthy objects of the ancient Andean Wari people at auction. The unique and celebrated Bag with Human Head is a painted animal hide pouch in superb condition exhibiting a remarkably lifelike head that may represent a young warrior; and Vessel with Litter Group is a ceramic container depicting an unusually elaborate sculptured vignette: a dignitary who sits in a litter carried on the shoulders of four porters.
Both objects are rare and will be showcased in a 2012-13 traveling exhibition on the art of the Wari organized by the Cleveland Museum of Art. Wari: Realm of the Condor is the first North American special exhibition devoted to the arts of the Wari, who may have forged the first empire of the ancient Andes. The museum’s Wari collection consists of a combination of important objects and textiles and represents artwork of the Central Andes (today, mainly Peru), a major Amerindian cultural region that was home to the Inca empire.
“The acquisition of these two Wari objects demonstrates the museum’s commitment to pursue works of art that will strengthen our ancient American collections, and to use the exhibitions we originate as opportunities to develop our holdings in specific areas,” stated C. Griffith Mann, Ph.D., the museum’s deputy director and chief curator. “Works of art like this bag have a remarkable physical presence, and bring us face to face with a past that scholars are still working to understand.”
Vessel with Litter Group, Ancient Andean Wari people. Middle Horizon, 600-1000 A.D. Ceramic, slip; height: 28 cm.
Only a few Wari ceramic litter scenes are known, and this is the most elaborate among them. This ceramic vessel shows a seated lord whose striped tunic and facial decoration may refer to regional origin or social position. The porters wear the same facial decoration along with simple clothing that befits their status: loincloths and ring-like headbands. The figures sit atop a domed chamber that is encircled by a register of chevron designs. Litters were generally reserved for persons of distinguished status.
The Wari Culture
The Wari were a people of the Andes Mountains in Peru who, between about 600 and 1000 A.D., forged a cosmopolitan society that many today interpret as one of the western hemisphere’s first empires. Important forerunners of the more famous Inka of the 15th and 16th centuries, the Wari built a sprawling capital city that is one of the largest, most impressive archaeological sites in South America. Like other ancient Andean cultures, the Wari did not write and thus relied upon the arts as durable forms of communication, leaving behind a legacy of finely made textiles, ceramics, luxury ornaments of precious materials and sculptures of stone or wood."  Art Knowledge News