Director, RISD Museum

Director, RISD Museum

Rhode Island School of Design

Providence, RI   |   January 26, 2021

About Rhode Island School of Design

Founded in 1877, RISD (pronounced “RIZ-dee”) and the RISD Museum are located in Providence, Rhode Island, helping to make this capital one of the most creative and culturally active cities in the Northeast.

RISD’s mission is to educate students and the public in the creation and appreciation of works of art and design, to discover and transmit knowledge, and to make lasting impact through critical thinking, scholarship, and innovation. The college’s strategic plan, NEXT: RISD 2020-2027, sets an ambitious vision for educating students to bring creative practices to bear on the creation of just societies, a sustainable planet, and new ways of making and knowing. RISD’s immersive model of art and design education, which emphasizes making through studio-based learning and robust study in the liberal arts, prepares students to intervene in the crucial challenges of our time. Working with exceptional faculty and in extraordinary specialized facilities, 2,500 students from 69 countries engage in 42 full-time bachelor’s and master’s degree programs. RISD’s 30,000 alumni worldwide testify to the impact of this model of education, exemplifying the vital role artists and designers play in today’s global society.

Building upon its 2017 Social Equity and Inclusion Plan, RISD is committed to becoming an institution where students, faculty, and staff of all races, orientations, identities, abilities, faiths, ethnicities, and cultures are supported, nourished, and honored without the impediments of systemic racism and its adjoining systems of discrimination.

For more information about RISD, please visit the website.

The Museum

The RISD Museum believes that art, artists, and the institutions that support them play pivotal roles in promoting broad civic engagement and creating more open societies.

Established with the college in 1877 as part of a vibrant creative community, the RISD Museum stewards works of art representing diverse cultures from ancient times to the present. It interprets its collection with the focus on the maker and deeply engages with art and artists, presenting ideas and perspectives that inspire and challenge. The museum aspires to create an accessible and inclusive environment that fosters meaningful relationships across all communities and is committed to confronting racism and injustice in their many forms.

The RISD Museum’s collection currently contains more than 100,000 works of art and design from all over the world and dating from antiquity to the present day. These objects are housed in seven curatorial departments: Ancient Art; Asian Art; Costumes & Textiles; Decorative Arts & Design; Prints, Drawings and Photographs; Painting and Sculpture; and Contemporary Art.

The Department of Ancient Art represents distinct cultures spanning a vast geographical area and includes objects – ceramics, metalwork, sculpture, funerary art – created between 3500 BCE and the sixth century CE by Egyptian, Near Eastern, Greek, Etruscan, and Roman artists and artisans.

Asian Art holdings include a stellar collection of Japanese bird-and-flower and surimono prints, East Asian ceramics, Chinese Buddhist sculptures, a Korean Koryo dynasty Gwaneum painting, and the perennial favorite of school children and adult visitors alike, a nine-foot tall Dainichi Buddha from twelfth-century Japan.

Costume & Textiles has one the finest collections of historical textiles and items of dress in this country, from Elizabethan needlework, Italian Renaissance textiles, and French printed toiles de Jouy, to Navajo chiefs’ blankets, fashions from the most celebrated European and American designers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and a world-renowned group of Japanese Noh theater robes and Buddhist priest mantles.

In Decorative Arts and Design, medieval to modern woodwork, fifteenth-century to present-day ceramics, European and American furniture, and the most significant collection of metalwork and design drawings by the Gorham Manufacturing Company, once the world’s largest silver manufacturers, provide historical context for outstanding examples of 20th- and 21st-century design, including, as in other departments, the work of many RISD alumni and faculty.

Works in the Prints, Drawings, and Photographs (PDP) collection date from the fifteenth century to the present. The RISD Museum is especially well known for a group of 500 16th- to 18th-century European drawings with a large complementary collection of engravings and etchings, 19th-century French pastels, and one of the largest collections of late 18th- and early 19th-century British watercolors in the United States. Modern Latin American art and contemporary British art have great depth in works on paper. The photography collection provides an impressive representation of the history of the medium, but its greatest strength is in mid- to late-20th-century American works.

Paintings and Sculpture encompasses works from the 12th through early 20th centuries. It includes significant medieval, Renaissance, and Mannerist sculpture and paintings, many favorites of early American painting, French Impressionism, 20th-century modernist movements, and great examples of mid-20th-century Latin American, Modern, and Abstract Expressionist painting.

In Contemporary Art, there are major examples of work in both abstract and figural traditions and particularly strong collections of Modern Latin American and Contemporary British art.

Of the museum’s 100,000+ objects, 81,573 are available online. The RISD Museum provides free access to digital images of public domain materials in the collection for any purpose. The goal is for the collection, scholarship, and interpretive content to be accessed, distributed, and reused by everyone.

In a typical year, the museum welcomes more than 120,000 visitors, with steady increases in attendance in recent years. More than 9,500 K-12 students visit the Museum from more than 60 schools a year. For many local children, coming to the RISD Museum is their first museum visit. Additionally, more than 33,000 members of the public enjoy free programming annually, including roughly 10,000 visitors participating in teen, family, and university-facilitated programs.

The RISD Museum successfully pivoted to virtual programs after its closure due to COVID-19 in March 2020, and based on positive feedback and attendance, it is likely to continue its virtual offerings after reopening. Early participation data demonstrates a tremendous opportunity to expand audiences to national and international participants; just 40% of online participants have been local to Rhode Island, and for the first time, a nonnative-English-speaking country has been positioned at #2 in program participation.

For more information about the RISD Museum, please visit the website.

The Opportunity

The RISD Museum seeks applicants who demonstrate an understanding of and sensitivity to the complexity of the position and the diversity of the community. Joining the RISD Museum means being a part of an equity-focused and forward-thinking organization that approaches education in the arts as a matter of social justice and calls for candid and responsive collaboration across and among staff, faculty, students, community partners, and leadership. In deciding whether to apply for this position at the RISD Museum, we strongly encourage candidates to consider whether their values align with the museum’s vision and commitment to racial justice.

The Director will foster the institutional vision and artistic direction for the RISD Museum, taking the lead in communicating the museum’s role as an outstanding visual arts institution, and enhancing its reputation and affiliations as a public art museum regionally and nationally while maintaining its complementary role as an active teaching resource for RISD and other area institutions. The Director will oversee all museum operations, exhibitions, programs, events, and collections in accordance with RISD’s mission and the goals set by the museum’s staff and Board of Governors, as well as RISD’s President and Board of Trustees. A key and collaborative member of the institutional leadership team, the Director is both the principal advocate for the museum and a participant in the broader administration and governance of the institution. Additionally, as the museum’s public spokesperson in art and professional matters, the Director assumes a leadership role in the city and with state and regional communities.

The Director is appointed by the Chair of the museum’s Board of Governors with the approval of the President, works closely with both, and will be responsible for inspiring and mentoring a dedicated staff, along with overseeing the museum’s operations. They will lead and support an active exhibition and public programming schedule of the highest quality that seeks to offer an expanded view of artists, making, and history – particularly by elevating voices that have been marginalized, distorted, or silenced – and to offer space for free expression, exchange, and research. They will be instrumental in working collaboratively across the RISD campus and alongside local and regional communities, while also amplifying the museum’s voice nationally among peer institutions.

The Director is responsible for a staff of 78 full-time museum employees, 18 part-time employees, as well as student workers, interns, and fellows. In FY 2020 (ending June 30, 2020), the museum had an annual operating budget of approximately $8.5M (just over $7M from unrestricted sources and $1.4M from restricted sources). This figure does not include additional services and support that the museum receives from RISD in terms of central services, including human resources/benefits, financial management, building maintenance, utilities, security, etc.

ESSENTIAL FUNCTIONS/DUTIES:

  • Work collaboratively with museum staff to develop and promote innovative, creative, and timely exhibitions and programs that challenge assumptions, open minds, and engage an array of audiences. Build opportunities to produce scholarly materials in conjunction with exhibitions to raise the profile and professionalism of the museum in the field. Provide strategic oversight for the museum’s public education programs and work with education and curatorial staff to ensure they match the mission in their engagement with the public.
  • Execute a collections care strategy in concert with registration, conservation, and curatorial staff, as well as RISD’s Fleet Library, that addresses the near- and long-term needs of the museum’s vast collection, including conservation, provenance research, cataloging, object photography, rehousing, on- and off-site storage needs, and more.
  • Work with staff to develop a systematic plan to strengthen the collection through careful acquisitions, with an eye to the museum’s commitment of 75% of its annual acquisition budget to underrepresented makers. Cultivate productive relationships with collectors and galleries – particularly those which are BIPOC-owned and/or operated – whose interests overlap with the museum’s acquisition interests and priorities.
  • Support and develop the museum’s critical role as a teaching resource. Serve as the museum’s primary liaison with Academic Affairs and the RISD faculty to develop programs, policies, and procedures. Support curators, members of the museum staff, and faculty in the development of opportunities to enhance teaching and learning in art and design.
  • Collaborate with staff across museum departments, as well as external partners, to expand upon the museum’s success with developing community-informed programming. Build an institution-wide strategy of responsive, collaborative, and reflective practices that center community voices, particularly those that have been historically underrepresented or silenced within the museum and/or dominant narratives of art and art history. It is important for the resulting programs, exhibitions, publications, and other activities to yield larger and more diverse audiences and membership. The museum must serve as a vital cultural resource and genuine partner to the greater Providence and RI community.
  • Articulate a compelling vision to energize institutional funding. Actively and continually cultivate and diversify the base of potential donors and collectors within the multiple constituencies of the museum, collaborating with Museum Development and RISD’s Office of Institutional Engagement as appropriate to increase and sustain programmatic and operational support.
  • Manage the museum’s long-term financial planning and the short-term operating and project budgets, working closely with the museum Board of Governors, museum Development and Finance, and RISD Finance offices to keep budgets balanced.
  • Serve as the museum’s liaison with RISD’s administrative departments and/or oversee museum staff in this capacity. Keep the Board of Governors, RISD President, and college and museum administrative staff informed of all relevant issues, attending community and college meetings as institutional needs demand.
  • Promote and ensure greater staff and board visibility in the life of the city and region, reflecting an interest in civic responsibility and dialogue with the community. Work closely with staff to optimize availability of museum facilities for activities that support this regional imperative.
  • Stay connected with and attentive to local, national, and international art world developments; cultivate mutually beneficial partnerships with peer institutions. Remain up to date on the latest developments in museum management and actively support the same for staff; participate in appropriate professional art organizations.
Candidate Profile

The Director will ideally have at least six to ten years of museum leadership and management experience, preferably gained in large and complex organizations. They will have a fundraising track record and possess financial acumen. They will enjoy a reputation as a respected scholar and/or leader in their chosen field. A PhD, MPhil, or equivalent degree in visual arts, art education, art history, curatorial studies, or a related field is an asset but not required; candidates with successful records as leaders with professional experience in a relevant field will be given serious consideration as well. The position requires excellent prepared and extemporaneous communication skills and demonstrated success in reaching out and making connections on behalf of the museum. A proven executive, the Director will be equally effective operating independently as well as on teams, and they will have been successful in building a cohesive and collaborative work environment.

The ideal candidate will be an innovator and strategic thinker who embraces regular engagement with diverse constituencies. A problem solver with strong management ability, they must understand the subtleties of motivating and directing, as well as delegating, handling, and prioritizing multiple activities and responsibilities. They need to be a practiced leader and advocate who can negotiate graciously and diplomatically, while remaining decisive, proactive, and fair. An unpretentious individual of high integrity, the Director will champion excellence and best practices, possess good judgment, and exude both credibility and a delight in the work at hand. They will have a demonstrated track record of leadership in implementing programs and institutional practices that serve the outcomes of social equity, inclusion, and justice, both internally and externally.

Leadership

  • Strategic thinker with focus on long-term goals for the museum
  • Respectful, approachable listener with a desire to learn about the museum, its staff, and its constituencies
  • Appreciation of the shared history of – and collaboration between – RISD and the museum, and a compelling vision for the museum’s future
  • Strong history of program development and stewardship of an encyclopedic collection

Collaboration

  • Charismatic connector, collaborator, and bridge-builder with ability to engage with and gain buy-in from diverse stakeholders around their vision for the RISD Museum
  • Ability to integrate with the academic mission of RISD and other academic institutions; promote the use of the collection for research, scholarship, and creative inspiration

Management/Administration

  • Confident, seasoned, and resilient administrator with financial acumen
  • Understanding of the museum as having “a single mission with multiple constituencies” across the RISD campus as well as in Providence, the state, and beyond
  • Understanding of best practices in museums, especially in managing collections and addressing issues related to repatriation and deaccessioning

Communication/Relationship-Building

  • Compelling communicator and “public face” who will elevate the museum’s profile regionally, nationally and globally
  • Adept fundraiser and friend-raiser, in partnership with museum and college colleagues

In addition, strong candidates will offer:

  • High level of emotional intelligence; a humble, flexible leader with a sense of humor
  • Intellectual and artistic curiosity
  • Ability to break down silos and work collegially, building connections across teams, divisions, campus constituents, and community
  • Experience working with both collections and working artists; demonstrated focus on objects as well as on the creative processes of making
Compensation & Benefits

Salary is competitive and commensurate with experience.

Contact

RISD Museum has engaged the Koya Partners team of Naree W.S. Viner, Stephen Milbauer, and Tenley Bank to help in this hire. To make recommendations or to express your interest in this role please visit this link here or email [email protected]. All nominations, inquiries, and discussions will be considered strictly confidential.

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RISD upholds the federal Equal Employment Opportunity act and employs individuals based on personal capabilities and qualifications without unlawful discrimination because of race, color, religion, sex, age, national origin, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, genetics, or any other protected characteristic as established by law.

RISD values cultural, ethnic, intellectual, and other diversity among applicants and employees as enriching to the environment on campus. RISD works to make employment opportunities widely known and give full consideration to all qualified candidates.

RISD is committed to the following principles and procedures:

  • upholding EEO provisions in making employment-related decisions in areas such as recruitment, hiring, training, promotions, compensation, benefits, termination, and all other terms and conditions of employment;
  • ensuring that employment policies are administered fairly and lawfully;
  • ensuring that unlawful harassment is not tolerated.
About Koya Partners

Koya Partners, a part of the Diversified Search Group, is a leading executive search and strategic advising firm dedicated to connecting exceptionally talented people with mission-driven clients. Our founding philosophy—The Right Person in the Right Place Can Change the World—guides our work as we partner with nonprofits & NGOs, institutions of higher education, responsible businesses, and social enterprises in local communities and around the world.

For more information about Koya Partners, visit www.koyapartners.com.