Executive Director and CEO

Executive Director and CEO

Frist Art Museum

Nashville, TN   |   September 22, 2021

The Current Situation and Opportunity

In spring 2021, Frist Art Museum’s current leader, Dr. Susan Edwards, announced her plans to retire within the year. Having joined the Frist in 2004, Dr. Edwards is the Museum’s second director. During her tenure, she shepherded the young institution through a crucial period of growth by establishing a strong national and international reputation, building a dedicated and highly capable team, and cementing its position as one of the main pillars of Nashville’s cultural community.

During Dr. Edwards’ tenure, the Frist was awarded accreditation by the American Alliance of Museums and has presented more than 225 critically acclaimed and popular exhibitions – an ambitious program for a non-collecting institution. Past exhibitions range from The Birth of Impressionism: Masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay to The Quest for Immortality: Treasures of Ancient Egypt.

The Museum has regularly hosted international exhibitions that feature art which otherwise would not have been accessible to visitors in the region. The most recent example was Picasso. Figures from the Musée National Picasso-Paris which the Frist hosted from February 5 through May 2, 2021, before moving on to the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec. The exhibition “offered an in-depth look at Pablo Picasso’s career-long fascination with the human figure as a means of expressing a range of subjects and emotions.” The Museum recently announced its slate of exhibitions for 2022 and has initiated planning for future exhibitions into 2023-2024.

Frist curators work closely with collecting institutions in presenting traveling exhibitions. They also originate exhibitions. The list of past exhibitions includes the acclaimed Carrie Mae Weems: Three Decades of Photography and Video, which toured nationally; Sanctity Pictured: The Art of the Franciscan and Dominican Order in Renaissance Italy and Fairy Tales, Monsters, and the Genetic Imagination, which toured internationally. All were accompanied by scholarly catalogues. The Frist collaborates with local institutions of higher learning, such as the Fisk University Art Galleries and Vanderbilt University, when highlighting local history such as the civil rights movement in Nashville. The Museum values the role it serves as a community partner and convener, bringing people from many different corners of the region together and promoting Nashville artists. Please see the 2020 Community Report for details about the Frist’s visitors, supporters, partners, and recent programs and their impact.

The Frist’s next leader will join a vital and vibrant institution with a sound financial footing as well as aspirations to continue to grow and expand its audience so that it will remain relevant to and reflective of an ever-changing, diverse community. With the effects of COVID-19 still impacting the cultural landscape across the country and globally, as it enters its third decade, the Frist remains committed to making new connections within an evolving landscape, modeling and embodying what it means to be a truly innovative 21st century institution.

This opportunity will be most appealing to individuals interested in leading a sound and healthy organization, duly proud of its past accomplishments while at the same time looking ahead and pushing forward to achieve what is possible in its next chapter. In this vein, the Frist’s next director will facilitate development of a new strategic plan and spearhead its implementation.

About Frist Art Museum

The Frist Art Museum (FAM) is a non-collecting institution committed to presenting exhibitions of the world’s art from all cultures, periods, and mediums. The Museum offers art-related programs onsite and in the community the institution was created to serve. FAM opened in April 2001 in Nashville’s historic downtown post office building. It was the result of unprecedented community involvement and cooperation from the public and private sectors to develop an institution that just twenty years later serves as a hub of Nashville’s flourishing arts community. For more about the Museum’s history (including a lively 22-minute video), please follow this link.

The FAM believes in the power of art for feeding the soul, addressing social ills, giving voice to the disenfranchised, and breaking down the barriers of ignorance, misunderstanding, and all forms of discrimination. The organization’s Board and staff are deeply committed to diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion at all levels of governance, management, and operations.

Members of the Board of Trustees are broadly varied, comprising corporate leaders of national renown, educators, artists, community activists, and collectors. The FAM currently has a team of 66 full-time and 4 part-time employees, with an annual operating budget of $12 to $13 million and an endowment of $58 million.

Between late 2017 and early 2020, the FAM conducted visitor and audience surveys which revealed that

  • Nearly 45% of visitors are between the ages of 19 and 50.
  • 27% are 51 and over, and nearly 24% are 18 years old and under.
  • just over 60% are first-time visitors and almost 40% are return visitors.

For more information on the Frist Art Museum, please visit their website.

About Nashville

Nashville is a city on the ascendancy by virtually any measure. The latest population figures for Nashville MSA (including Davidson County) now tops 1.96 million and Metropolitan Nashville (combined city-county governmental structure) more than 715,000.

The growth of cities is most often attributable to job growth, and that is certainly true of Nashville. Health care, tech, automotive, entertainment, and education are top employers. The city is located within a day’s drive of 75% of the U.S. population, making it an attractive and convenient destination for travel, conventions, and interstate commerce. Nashville has seen a steady increase in the number of visitors from out of town, with over 16 million tourists in 2019. Many of these visitors spent several nights in the city in order to experience local sights – thus having significant economic impact in terms of restaurants, hotels, bars, and cafes.

While economic statistics and accolades are impressive measures of the city’s rise, it is the distinctive collaborative cultural connective tissue that underpins much of what differentiates Nashville from other American cities. Independent clothing designers and craft brewers send patrons to museums and historical sites; hotel concierges and frontline staff are celebrated as ambassadors; museums collaborate with one another, as well as with sister cultural institutions, public and private schools, and hundreds of nonprofit organizations.

Nashville has not only long been home to renowned performers, artists, entrepreneurs, and tastemakers, it is increasingly attracting them away from more established cultural hubs. Though the city is undeniably experiencing some growing pains that come along with the rapid growth and popularity—famously being anointed ”Nowville” by GQ and “It City” by The New York Times in 2013—the quality of life, cultural offerings, business opportunities, natural beauty, and general vibe that many sought out remains intact.

The city of Nashville is steadfast in its commitment to the arts, as evidenced by the explosion of new galleries, important art exhibitions at the city’s existing institutions, and the formation of new visual and performing arts organizations. This growth is raising awareness of the arts to new and exciting levels in the city.

Through floods, tornadoes, pandemic, and bombing, an irrepressible spirit and resilience has kept the city moving forward. Nashville is a place to live, work, and play. For more about Nashville, please see the city’s Chamber of Commerce website.

Main Focus and Key Responsibilities

The Executive Director and CEO plans and directs all of the Frist’s activities and operations. They are responsible for the artistic direction, educational programming, and operational policies of the institution, and oversee hiring and supervision of the Frist staff.


  • Provides the vision and personal leadership for the institution’s growth and development and to achieve the goal of national prominence and international recognition; develops strategies and initiatives to fulfill the Frist’s mission, increase its audiences’ participation, and ensure its financial stability and growth.
  • Directs the maintenance, display, and general welfare of artwork in the Frist’s possession in accordance with the highest professional and ethical standards.
  • Advances diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion, working in close partnership with Board members as well as staff on seeing through these efforts.
  • Through supervision of Department Heads, strategically plans, organizes, and directs the activities of professional and non-professional staff in all divisions of the Frist; prioritizes and organizes human and financial resources; develops, coordinates, approves and executes policies, methods and procedures affecting all areas of the Frist.
  • Serves as spokesperson and advocate of the Frist; effectively represents the institution to all community, professional, governmental, civic, and private agencies; enhances the organization’s public image to expand interest and support.
  • Actively solicits outside private support; cultivates gifts and sponsorships and bequests.
  • Working with the Chair and President, and Board of Trustees, provides the overall leadership, direction and the information required to make decisions and take actions.
  • Works with stakeholders to develop a new strategic plan and refine it as necessary.
  • Responsible for coordinating the annual implementation plan including all budgetary implications.
  • Work with volunteers in a positive and constructive manner.
Candidate Profile

Top candidates will possess ten years of progressively responsible experience in a museum or related educational/research organization; at least five years at a senior managerial level.

EDUCATION: Advanced degree or equivalent knowledge in Art History, Fine Arts, Education, Museum Studies, Nonprofit Management, Arts or Business Administration, or other related and allied fields. Our client is also interested in candidates who have equivalent professional experience and a track record of accomplishment in the cultural sector.


  • Ability to provide strong leadership, vision, and strategic direction
  • Ability to inspire and motivate staff, volunteers, and donors
  • Ability to speak and write in-depth and effectively about a wide range of art-related topics with lenders and the leadership of lending institutions
  • Must establish and maintain effective working relationships with a variety of representatives of public and private organizations, members of boards, foundations, commissions and support groups, organizational managers, Frist staff, and the general public.
  • Ability to analyze financial statements and statistical data
  • Must be able to work evening and weekend hours, and travel extensively as needed.

The next Executive Director /CEO of the Frist will also demonstrate the following professional and personal qualities and characteristics:

Passion for the Mission

  • Deep personal interest in art with a nuanced appreciation for the evolving role of museums, and an active voice as part of this conversation.
  • Knowledge of and commitment to art history and museums. Expertise in the principal functions of art museums and best practices in the field.
  • A high level of energy and enthusiasm for art and its role, purpose, and opportunities in today’s world, and a desire to engage the community with and through art.

Strategic and Visionary Leadership

  • A collaborative leader who has been successful working with a range of constituents to define and refine long-term institutional goals, creating and executing new strategic plans.
  • Genuine and broad intellectual interests and openness to new ideas, thinking, perspectives, and experiences, with the ability to serve as an effective thought leader in weaving these concepts directly into the work of an institution.

Commitment to Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, and Inclusion

  • Genuine belief in and abiding commitment to the values of diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion.
  • Experience and success in advancing diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion work in an organization or community context. Ideally the next Director will have material prior experience in DEAI work.

Authentic Spokesperson and Adept Relationship Builder

  • An enthusiastic, credible, and persuasive spokesperson to a range of external audiences locally, nationally, and internationally, underscoring the role of art and culture to these communities and across the field of art museums generally.
  • A person energized and engaged by the opportunity for dialogue, conversation, and communication with others. Dedicated to reaching out to people and serving as an ambassador in the community and for the community itself.

An Effective Fundraiser

  • Understanding of fundraising principles and strategy with experience building philanthropic relationships. Able to provide high-touch engagement with a range of constituents.
  • Adept at cultivating major gifts from individual donors and stewarding the institution’s most significant past and current donors, while also engaging with potential supporters.

Culture Champion and Staff Leadership

  • Foster a positive working environment for the entire organization, enriching staff morale, and advancing an atmosphere of teamwork and mutual support among all staff.
  • A person who encourages the engagement, growth, and achievement of others as an aspect of their leadership. Results-oriented with a collegial and collaborative working style.

Operational Excellence and Financial Management

  • Knowledge of and experience in the funding models and strategies of multifaceted cultural institutions, including private as well as public funding.
  • A strong record of successful oversight and management of finance and operations, with the perspective to consider the impact of decisions and make sound recommendations.
Compensation & Benefits

Salary is competitive and commensurate with experience. The Frist offers a competitive benefits package.


Koya Partners, the executive search firm that specializes in mission-driven search, has been exclusively retained for this engagement. Naree Viner and Stephen Milbauer of Koya Partners have been exclusively retained for this search. To express your interest in this role please submit your materials here or email Naree or Stephen directly at [email protected]. All inquiries and discussions will be considered strictly confidential.


The Frist Art Museum is an equal opportunity employer and strongly encourages applications from people of color, persons with disabilities, women, and LGBTQ+ applicants.

About Koya Partners

Koya Partners, a part of 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.