Deputy Director of Curatorial Affairs

Deputy Director of Curatorial Affairs

Milwaukee Art Museum

Milwaukee, WI   |   January 10, 2020

About Milwaukee Art Museum

Milwaukee Art Museum (website)

A comprehensive art institution and cultural cornerstone for the Greater Milwaukee region, the Milwaukee Art Museum (MAM) has become an icon for the city and a resource for the entire state. Prominently situated on the shore of Lake Michigan, the MAM campus welcomes more than 300,000 visitors annually. The Museum was founded over 125 years ago and is the largest and most significant art museum in Wisconsin. The Museum’s complex comprises three interconnected building: the original Eero Saarinen War Memorial Center (1957), the Kahler Building (1975) by David Kahler, and the celebrated Santiago Calatrava–designed Quadracci Pavilion, completed in 2001, which showcases both Museum-produced and traveling feature exhibitions. In 2016, after a yearlong renovation, the Museum reopened its Collection Galleries, debuting nearly 2,500 world-class works of art within dramatically transformed galleries and a new lakefront addition. This reimagined space also allows for the presentation of additional changing exhibitions.

MAM originated from two institutions, the Layton Art Gallery, which was established in 1888, and the Milwaukee Art Institute, founded in the early 1900s. After merging in 1957 to form the nonprofit Milwaukee Art Center, the organization moved to its current lakefront location. It was renamed the Milwaukee Art Museum in 1980.

The Collection (website)

Four floors of over 40 galleries of art are rotated regularly with works from antiquity to the present in the Museum’s far-reaching collection of more than 30,000 works, which spans 15th-to-20th-century European and 17th-to-20th-century American paintings, sculpture, prints, drawings, decorative arts, photographs, and folk and self-taught art. Among the best in the nation are the Museum’s holding of American decorative arts, German expressionism, folk and Haitian art, and American art after 1960. The Museum is the world’s leading repository for work by untrained creators and also features one of the largest collections of works by Wisconsin native Georgia O’Keeffe. Other prominent artists represented include Nardo di Cione, Francisco de Zurbarán, Jean-Honoré Fragonard, Winslow Homer, Auguste Rodin, Edgar Degas, Claude Monet, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Pablo Picasso, Jóan Miro, Mark Rothko, Robert Gober, and Andy Warhol. A 1975 gift, the Bradley Collection, includes 400 works by 20th-century masters: Picasso, Braque, Kandinsky, and Giacometti. Additionally, since 1999, the Museum’s partnership with the Chipstone Foundation has fostered innovative exhibitions highlighting this prominent collection of American decorative arts and promoting new research in the field.

Central to the Museum’s mission is its role as a premier educational resource, with programs that are among the largest in the nation, involving classes, lectures, tours, and a full calendar of events for all ages.

About Milwaukee

Urban living and a Midwest ambiance combine to provide an ideal work-life balance for modern living. Short commute times, big city amenities, diverse and affordable neighborhoods, below-average cost of living, an abundance of natural resources and a nationally recognized education system all come together during an unprecedented time of opportunity and growth.

The region is sizzling with energy—from the construction of the Milwaukee Bucks new professional basketball arena and entertainment district in the heart of downtown Milwaukee to Wisconsin’s already well-established reputation for technological innovation and advanced manufacturing (Milwaukee was named as an up-and-coming tech city by Forbes magazine).

Milwaukee has become a preferred destination for millennials. One reason is the beauty and abundance of natural resources in southeastern Wisconsin. Another reason is that Milwaukee has been a leader in creating walkable and sustainable communities. Twenty years ago, the city began work on the RiverWalk, which transformed the downtown and made it a hotbed of entertainment and downtown living opportunities.

No single neighborhood in Milwaukee is the same, and you’ll soon find Milwaukee celebrates many diverse backgrounds and ethnicities through the food scene, music scene, and festivals, including Milwaukee Pridefest.

Milwaukee was named one of America’s friendliest cities in 2017 by Travel & Leisure magazine. Though most Milwaukeeans are American by birth, they are proud of their cultural heritage. Thirty-eight percent of Milwaukee residents report having some German ancestry. Other ethnic groups include: African (15 percent), Polish (13 percent), Hispanic (11 percent), Irish (10 percent), English (5 percent), French (4 percent), Italian (4 percent), Asian and Pacific Islander (4 percent), and American Indian (1 percent).

Milwaukee is home to a large and active LGBTQ community that offers support resources and sponsors film festivals and social activities, including PrideFest Milwaukee, an annual three-day celebration held on Milwaukee’s lakefront.

Milwaukee is a cultural center offering a wealth of opportunities to attend plays, operas, symphonies and chamber music, thanks to an arts community that is well supported by metro-area residents. Among comparable metro areas, only Nashville, Orlando, Minneapolis-St. Paul and Chicago have more performing arts groups per 100,000 people. And no city, except Los Angeles, raises more private money for the arts than Milwaukee. The city is home to the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, the Milwaukee Ballet, the Florentine Opera, the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre and the Skylight Theatre. Additionally, Milwaukee Film supports the local film industry and hosts an annual film festival that takes place in the historic Oriental Theatre and additional locations around the city.

Finally, a strong and growing business community is the foundation of Milwaukee. The region boasts global manufacturers, leading technology firms, innovative service firms, and strong financial institutions. Select Fortune 500 companies include: Northwestern Mutual, Kohl’s, ManpowerGroup, WEC Energy Group, Rockwell Automation, Fiserv, and Harley-Davidson.

Main Focus, Priorities, And Key Responsibilities

For the Milwaukee Art Museum’s next Deputy Director of 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. As the Deputy Director will lead a significant effort under the Museum’s new strategic direction, this individual must be philosophically, conceptually, and tactically aligned with the vision for the Museum as a place for all individuals to better understand themselves, each other, and our world through new and somewhat unconventional approaches to the presentation of art.

The Deputy Director is a member of the Executive Management Team, providing leadership, strategic direction, stewardship, administrative and managerial oversight for the Museum’s curatorial departments. Serving as a cultural change agent and conduit for translating the Museum’s overall vision into action, this executive will have primary day-to-day responsibility for integrating the work of 13 direct reports (Assistant, Administrator, Curators, Chief Preparator, Chief Conservator, Chief Designer, Librarian/Archivist, and Senior Registrar) and overall total of 33 staff managing the Museum’s works of art, the study thereof, and their presentation with 21st-century strategies to engage visitors and expand the Museum’s reach and impact.

The Deputy Director will lead, advise and guide team members in, collections management and presentation, library and archive services, conservation, registration, publication activities and exhibition planning. In addition to developing, implementing and upholding accountability to the department’s goals and strategies, a comprehensive programmatic schedule will be developed to drive alignment with strategic priorities.

In collaboration with the Museum Director, the next Deputy Director sets the tone and substance of curatorial initiatives by working with curators and curatorial staff to creatively utilize the collection and exhibitions to engage, educate, and expand participation, with the overall objective of enlivening the institution and enhancing its reputation locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally.

Specific responsibilities include:

  • Develop a strategic approach to achieving the Museum’s goals for sustaining and caring for the collections and archives, conceiving and organizing collections displays and temporary exhibitions, and creating and presenting programs that engage the Museum’s diverse audiences creatively and effectively.
  • Assess department functions, priorities, and processes to ensure efficiencies, excellence, and alignment with museum best practices and AAM accreditation standards.
  • Encourage and celebrate the talents of the team while holding each accountable to institutional goals. Serve as a mentor and coach to staff in order to strengthen leadership skills, team dynamics, and collaboration within curatorial groups and across the Museum’s other departments.
  • Spearhead development of a comprehensive three- to five-year programmatic calendar for the Museum’s collections, galleries, and featured exhibitions that showcase the breadth of the collection, works outside of MAM’s collection, all considered for engaging multiple constituencies.
  • Collaborate with staff for exhibition, collection-management, presentation, interpretation, publication and archive strategies consistent with key initiatives, goals and objectives of the Museum.
  • Contribute to a values-based culture by demonstrating and requiring adherence to the highest ethical standards.
  • Manage high-level aspects of the exhibition schedule, assuring an appropriate balance of exhibitions. Ensure that the exhibition themes and ideas set forth are presented in a timely manner and within budget parameters.
  • Work collaboratively with the Chief Development Officer in the cultivation of donors and general fundraising activities to benefit the acquisitions, conservation, exhibitions & publications, education and audience engagement programs.
  • Work collaboratively with the Senior Director of Education and Programs to inform interpretation and audience engagement initiatives for collections and exhibitions.
  • Collaborate in identifying and shepherding acquisitions and deaccessions; facilitate decisions on exhibition loan requests and long term loan opportunities.
  • Advocate for internal initiatives that modernize, streamline, and integrate collection content, aligned with industry standards and using existing and new processes, to better communicate and connect with defined stakeholders and the general public, onsite and via the web.
  • Keep department staff informed with routine meetings and open communications regarding activities planned and happening in the curatorial teams, and other departments across the Museum campus.
  • Keep trustees and related committees informed on exhibition plans. Participate in Board meetings and standing committees of the Board; be the staff liaison for the Acquisitions & Collections Committee.
  • Represent the Museum in professional, academic, and social forums with local/regional, national, and international colleagues and the broader cultural community through exhibition and research programs.
  • Develop and monitor departmental and exhibition budgets, contracts, agreements, and other administrative documents.
  • Provide private and public presentations; widely represent the curatorial interests of the Museum.
  • Collaborate with curators and conservators in prioritizing conservation initiatives.
  • Recruit, hire, manage performance, and facilitate the training of staff as necessary.
Candidate Profile

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

Strategic Leadership and Management Acumen

With previous senior-level museum experience expected, 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 department and throughout the institution. The successful candidate will be an open-door, inclusive leader and manager of the highest integrity, with the ability to motivate, inspire, and unite staff around a shared vision. 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 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. The Deputy Director will have excellent interpersonal skills, be systematic, detail oriented, patient, a self-starter, and works well under pressure. This individual manages time efficiently, analyzes and solves problems collaboratively, and at times independently in a timely manner. The Deputy Director will exude an ability to embrace change and adapt easily to changing priorities.

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 executing creative and innovative exhibitions on complex subjects designed to appeal to broad audiences, and will be adept at working with the staff to bring them to life. The Deputy Director has an ability to prioritize and manage multiple projects simultaneously. The Deputy Director brings a robust network of colleagues and collaborators in and outside of the art museum field. The Deputy Director will be comfortable in the broader arts and cultural community to advance the mission of MAM 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. 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 MAM, 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 Museum’s 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 coupled with an assertive but non-abrasive manner; a highly energetic, hands-on individual. High emotional intelligence and an earned reputation for effectively cultivating relationships with peers/colleagues within and across institutions is expected, along with 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. The Deputy Director will have an ability to maintain a flexible work and travel schedule, including some evenings and weekends.

Advanced degree in art history, fine arts, museum administration, or commensurate experience required; PhD preferred. Working knowledge and experience with TMS, Raisers Edge, Google’s G Suite or Microsoft Office Suite applications is also preferred. Experience with Piction and an archive database system desired.


Stephen Milbauer and Naree Viner 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 Stephen directly at All inquiries and discussions will be considered strictly confidential.

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.

About Koya Leadership Partners

Koya Leadership Partners is a retained executive search and human capital consulting firm that partners exclusively with mission-driven clients, institutions of higher education and social enterprises. We deliver measurable results, finding exceptionally talented people who truly fit the unique culture of our clients and ensuring they have the strategies to support them. For more information about Koya Leadership Partners, visit