Deputy Director, Curatorial Affairs

Deputy Director, Curatorial Affairs

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

Kansas City, MO   |   September 4, 2019

About The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art (the Nelson-Atkins or the Museum) is where the power of art engages the spirit of community. The Museum welcomes and provides free admission to all, delivering unparalleled opportunities to enjoy, appreciate and understand the finest visual arts and the varied cultures they represent – on campus, online and throughout Kansas City.

Operating an annual budget of more than $30 million, the Nelson-Atkins maintains collections of nearly 40,000 works of art and welcomes over 500,000 visitors a year. Recognized as one of the finest encyclopedic art museums in the United States, the Museum’s vast holdings provide the opportunity to create new connections and unique experiences at every turn.

The Museum’s collections span art of the ancient world, Africa, Asia, and the Americas to modern and contemporary works. In June 2015, the Nelson-Atkins welcomed the Marion and Henry Bloch Collection, comprising 29 masterworks by the leading Impressionist and Post-Impressionist artists of the 19th century — among them Paul Cézanne, Edgar Degas, Paul Gauguin, Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Georges Seurat, Alfred Sisley, and Vincent van Gogh. Well known for its European collection, this transformative gift has become a distinctive jewel among the Museum’s holdings. The Donald J. Hall Sculpture Park, “Kansas City’s unofficial backyard,” is one of the Museum’s best features, including the Nelson’s iconic Shuttlecocks.

As an institution of national and international renown, the Nelson-Atkins establishes and adheres to the highest professional standards and practices in research, scholarship, presentation, interpretation, and care of its collections. The Museum serves as a vital partner in the educational, social, and cultural life of Kansas City, using its collections and programs to build an environment where people can gather, share, and contemplate the greatest creations of humankind.

At a time in which digital technology is pervasive, the Nelson-Atkins has become an oasis of face-to-face experiences; at the same time, the Museum embraces the new possibilities that digital tools can support sharing their collections beyond their walls and enhancing the experience inside the Museum. The Nelson-Atkins is a defining component of any visit to Kansas City and a dynamic partner in the region’s educational, social, and cultural life. The Museum occupies a special safe place for all to engage with the greatest art and scholarship while providing a place for self-discovery and civic discourse.

An unprecedented critical mass of local cultural activity provides an opportunity for the Nelson-Atkins to assume a leadership role as an innovator and catalyst, connecting with traditional and new audiences and differentiating itself through the great art collections in its care. It is a moment for the Museum to become a transformational force; a place both for individual contemplation and social interaction, and one that provides life-transforming encounters with original works of art.

A cultural gem for the Kansas City community, the Nelson-Atkins is a progressive, community-centric museum that has the world watching. The Museum is renowned both nationally and internationally and is poised to grow in years to come. Under the leadership of the Menefee D. and Mary Louise Blackwell Director & CEO, Julián Zugazagoitia, the Museum is on an ambitious path of growth and expansion.

At the core of the Nelson-Atkins’ vision for the future is the goal of playing a central role in Kansas City life by catalyzing connections to neighbors; an ever-expanding range of visitors; and community, civic, and cultural partners in the city and the larger region. Kansas City has a wealth of cultural resources with an increasing local presence and global influence. Together, along with the Nelson-Atkins, they have fueled a cultural renaissance in the city.

For more information and history on The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, please visit

The Opportunity

For the Nelson-Atkins’s next Deputy Director, Curatorial Affairs (Deputy Director), it is an opportune time to join a vibrant, healthy organization which has been experiencing and is poised for growth, and shepherd it into a promising future. The Deputy Director provides leadership, strategic vision, administrative and managerial oversight for the Museum’s curatorial, collections management, exhibitions planning, and conservation departments. The Deputy Director is responsible for the administration, coordination, and successful implementation of all operational aspects of curatorial affairs.

The Deputy Director encourages and models interdepartmental communication and actively identifies and increases efficiencies within museum workflow on a continual basis. This position also motivates staff, provides and models effective project management skills, and represents the museum to internal and external audiences and partners. Direct Reports include all curatorial positions, exhibition planners, conservators, registrars, and administrative staff.

Reporting to the Director and CEO, the Deputy Director will play a critical role in reimagining and interpreting the Museum’s incredible collections.

This position is challenged by the diversity of responsibilities. In a rapidly evolving institution, the Deputy Director is required to lead change while managing a wide variety of curatorial functions. This leader must be able to successfully plan and implement various processes and programs related to the curatorial affairs division of the Museum.

As a member of the senior leadership group, the Deputy Director must be able to think and plan strategically and operationally and to then execute those plans personally and through staff members and others throughout the institution. The Deputy Director must be willing to work in close partnership with the Deputy Directors of Education and Presentation in developing experiences that engage visitors in meaningful conversations about art. This leader must be able to build relationships that can be effective in all circumstances.

Specific responsibilities include:

  • Management & Mentoring: Provides leadership and direction of the Curatorial, Exhibitions Planning, Collections Management, and Conservation departments; develops and implements exhibition and operational budgets, policies, procedures and schedules, collaborating closely with other museum staff. Mentors staff, encouraging professional development and growth.
  • Strategic Planning: Plays a key role in the Museum’s long-range institutional planning efforts, such as establishing programmatic and collection development priorities, exhibitions planning, conservation planning, and general strategic planning for the Curatorial Affairs division.
  • Permanent Collection: Provides direction and planning in all activities related to the Museum’s permanent collections, including acquisition and cataloguing of art objects. Develops and implements practices that cultivate and conceptualize the collection along with accessioning and deaccessioning exhibitions in order to attract and provide interest for the visitor.
  • Research and Interpretation: Oversees the research in the collection and the dissemination of research through oral, written, and other means of communication to provide the widest possible access to both in internal staff and the public. Partners with the Deputy Director of Education in the development and implementation of interpretive strategies.
  • Donor Development: Works closely with the development staff on fundraising; actively cultivating relationships with existing major and potential donors, and collectors. Plays an active role in building and garnering support for future museum growth, including participation in a potential capital campaign.
  • Community Engagement: Serves as a professional and passionate advocate for the Museum in order to strengthen relationships between the museum and partners in the community.
  • Project Management: In partnership with relevant divisions, contributes to the design, construction, and execution of the installation of exhibitions and/or gallery renovations with the intention of providing cultural material for the visitor’s edification and entertainment. Works with curators on long range plans for implementation of reinstallation of galleries. In concert with the Director/CEO and other members of the senior leadership team, identify and strategize around opportunities for expansion of the Museum.
  • Division Fiscal Management: Reviews and recommends annual budgets prepared by curatorial departments. Holds department heads accountable for budget results.
  • Division Communication: Acts as liaison between the Director/CEO and the curators and between the Curatorial division and other divisions within the museum. Serves as a spokesperson for curatorial affairs, organizes, and chairs regular meetings of the curatorial affairs division. Establishes and maintains an effective system of communication throughout the Curatorial Affairs division.
Candidate Profile

The ideal candidate will have the following professional and personal qualities, skills, and characteristics:

Strategic Leadership and Management Acumen

The Deputy Director is skilled at building and leading high-performing, diverse teams of the highest degree of professionalism and guiding team members’ growth and development. The Deputy Director has the ability to set clear priorities, delegate, and guide investment in people and systems. The ideal candidate will provide a productive work environment that matches the skill set and abilities of staff members as well as professional growth opportunities that result in team cohesion and camaraderie. The Deputy Director will foster a culture of collaboration, mutual respect, and teamwork within the Curatorial Affairs department and across other departments. The Deputy Director will encourage and celebrate the talents of the team while also holding each accountable to mutually agreed-upon goals. Additionally, the Deputy Director will approach the Curatorial Affairs department’s operations and finances with focus and balance and will make decisions based on a clear understanding of the strategic objectives of the Museum.

Curatorial Leadership

The Deputy Director will have a sophisticated understanding and passion for art and art history, the materials, techniques, and condition of art objects, along with a robust record of exhibitions and scholarly publications. The Deputy Director will have demonstrable success conceptualizing, designing, and implementing compelling curatorial strategies and will be adept at working with the staff to bring them to life. The Deputy Director will be comfortable in the broader arts and cultural community to advance the mission of the Nelson-Atkins locally, nationally, and internationally. This leader will have excellent presentation, verbal, and written communication skills.

Building Relationships and Using Influence

The successful candidate must establish rapport and cultivate relationships across all levels of the Museum, including serving as a consultative thought-leader and partner to the Director/CEO. The Deputy Director will have a demonstrated ability to connect with and build bridges with members, visitors, community leaders, and donors. As a leader that exudes an ‘executive presence’, the Deputy Director must be highly articulate and a strong communicator. This individual will foster trust and collaboration among team members and will possess the ability to manage through change with flexibility and poise. The Deputy Director will be a strong leader, communicator, and collaborator who is skilled at listening to and learning from leadership, staff, and volunteers. This leader will embrace the culture of the Museum, while always having an eye on opportunities to foster best-in-class practices in a productive manner with colleagues. The Deputy Director will naturally inspire fellow leaders, staff, and volunteers to develop deeper relationships, leading the charge by example.

Passion for the Mission

Fully embracing the mission of the Nelson-Atkins, the relationship with the community, and the commitment to its various stakeholders, the Deputy Director will be passionate about working in partnership with the staff, donors, and other partners to advance the mission and curatorial agenda. The Deputy Director is someone who has an anchor in history and understands how historic collections intersect with our contemporary world. The ideal candidate will possess and promote a deep appreciation for the collections, buildings, history, research, and scholarship and will demonstrate a commitment to public engagement and the visitor experience. Embracing the Nelson-Atkins’ culture while continually innovating alongside the leadership team, Trustees, staff, and volunteers, the Deputy Director will help expand the Museum’s brand and reach. The Deputy Director will have a strong work ethic, emotional intelligence, a sense of humor, and evidence of a commitment to lifelong learning and professional growth. Additionally, this leader will be an individual of unquestioned integrity, ethics, and values; someone who can be trusted without reservation.

A broad general knowledge of Art History pertaining to the collections of the Museum and graduate degree in Art History is required, a PhD and fluency in more than one language is preferred.


Marissa Martin and Stephen Milbauer of Koya Leadership Partners have been exclusively retained for this search. To express your interest in this role please submit your materials here or email Marissa and Stephen directly at All inquiries and discussions will be considered strictly confidential.

The Nelson-Atkins is an equal opportunity employer and strongly encourages applications from people of color, persons with disabilities, women, and LGBT applicants.

At Koya, we don’t just accept difference –we celebrate it, support it, and thrive on it for the benefit of our team, our clients, and the communities we serve. Koya is an equal opportunity employer fully committed to creating an environment and team that represents a variety of backgrounds, perspectives, styles, and experiences.

We encourage all to apply because we believe a diversity of voices leads to better discussions, decisions, and outcomes for everyone.

Koya does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, age, sexual orientation, military status, veteran status, genetic information, gender identity, or any other characteristic protected by applicable federal, state, or local law.

About Koya Leadership Partners

Koya Leadership Partners is a national retained executive search and human capital consulting firm that works exclusively with nonprofits and social enterprises. We deliver measurable results, finding exceptionally talented people who truly fit the unique culture of our client organizations and ensuring that organizations have the resources and strategies to support them. For more information about Koya Leadership Partners, visit