Orange County Museum of Art

Santa Ana, CA   |   September 15, 2020

The Current Situation and Opportunity

OCMA has an established reputation as an innovative art museum and major cultural institution dedicated to modern and contemporary art, with a rich history and strong focus of actively discovering and engaging with living artists connected to California who are at pivotal points in their careers. OCMA has built an international reputation for its collection of post-World War II contemporary art from California and has an impressive exhibition history of presenting the world’s most significant art from the 20th and 21st centuries. This, coupled with its track record of delivering high-quality educational programs that connect audiences to the art on view, has established OCMA as an institution that is both internationally significant and locally relevant.

In May 2018, OCMA unveiled the design for the museum’s new home at Segerstrom Center for the Arts by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Thom Mayne of Morphosis. With the groundbreaking in 2019 and projected opening in late 2021, the new 53,000-sq.ft. museum will include nearly 25,000 square feet of exhibition galleries, allowing OCMA to organize major special exhibitions alongside spacious installations from its world-traveled collection. It will also feature an additional 10,000 sq. ft. for education programs, performances, and public gatherings.

The values of accessibility and inclusion have long been fundamental to OCMA’s mission. Relocating from the edge of Orange County in an affluent coastal neighborhood to the center of the region in the diverse community of Santa Ana has spurred an even greater focus on growing and broadening the museum’s audience. The next Director and Chief Executive Officer (“Director and CEO”) will have the singular opportunity to partner with the Board of Trustees and staff to refine and realize its future.

With guidance and support from a motivated and committed Board of Trustees, the Director and CEO will be the prime mover in enhancing the Museum’s profile to increase visibility and recognition in the community and among peer institutions. The Director and CEO will guide the Museum and its professional staff in pursuing its mission and assuring a sustainable future, garner support for the institution’s priorities including serving as chief fundraiser leading the Museum’s development team, provide skillful oversight of its operations, and serve as a thought leader in working with the team to plan a broad array of compelling exhibitions, scholarly publications, and programs that engages the local community and an expanding audience.

Key priorities for OCMA’s next Director and CEO will be to collaborate with the Board of Trustees to complete the new home; organize and lead the remainder of a capital campaign and grow the endowment, allowing enhanced stability across all programmatic, operational, and physical aspects of the Museum; and develop and implement the Museum’s next strategic plan for OCMA’s coming chapter.

As the face and voice of OCMA, the Director and CEO will have the gravitas, enthusiasm, and ambition to develop and leverage a range of relationships locally, regionally, nationally, internationally, and within the industry. The Director and CEO is also seen as the primary advocate for arts and culture in the community and passionately speaks for the Museum’s collection, exhibitions, connecting the public to arts and culture. Through inspired, active, and diligent leadership and management, and drawing on a well of experience and knowledge, the Director and CEO will shepherd the Museum into the next phase of its evolution.

Sarah Jesse, currently Deputy Director of OCMA, has stepped in as Interim Director and CEO. OCMA Trustee Annette Wiley, FAIA, Principal/Owner of Wiley Architects, and Chair of the OCMA Building Committee, will continue oversight of construction of the new museum. Adapting during the construction project, OCMA currently has an annual operating budget of $2.5 to $3.0 million and a team of approximately 11 full-time staff. The Board of Trustees comprises 28 members. In its prior location, the Museum served nearly 50,000 visitors annually and has 2,500 member households. The projected annual budget once the new building is open, operational, and stabilized is $5.0 to $6.0 million. The endowment currently stands at $14 million. In the current capital campaign to fund construction of the new building, $53 million of $73 million has been raised.

About Orange County Museum of Art (“OCMA”)

Mission: Enrich the lives of a diverse and changing community through modern and contemporary art.

Vision: Build a destination museum that is locally relevant and internationally significant.

Museum History

The Museum opened in 1962 as the Balboa Pavilion Gallery by thirteen visionary women. With a focus on modern and contemporary art, their efforts were well received, and the museum enjoyed recognition from coast to coast. In 1968 the institution became known as the Newport Harbor Art Museum and in 1972, moved to a nearby, larger location in Newport Beach. Interest and support continued to grow, as did its collections and exhibitions and in 1977, the museum opened its doors on San Clemente Drive. In 1997 the museum was remodeled and renamed the Orange County Museum of Art. In June 2018, the museum closed its doors in Newport Beach, and in October 2018 opened its temporary location in Santa Ana in South Coast Plaza Village where the museum has been operating as it builds a permanent home at Segerstrom Center for the Arts LIVE CAM.

As OCMA’s collection, exhibitions, and programs have grown over the past 58 years, so has its reputation of investing in promising artists at the beginning of their careers, and thereby helping shape art history.

Collection History

The Orange County Museum of Art’s collection forms the cornerstone of the museum and is a significant cultural resource for the community. Comprising over 4,500 works of art, the collection’s focus is on modern and contemporary art and includes painting, sculpture, photography, drawing, printmaking, video, digital, and installation art produced during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

The museum’s major holdings are California-based, highlighting such movements as early and mid-century modernism, Bay Area Figuration, assemblage, California Light and Space, Pop Art, Minimalism, and installation art. Prominently featured are works by John Baldessari, Elmer Bischoff, Jessica Bronson, Chris Burden, Vija Celmins, Bruce Conner, Richard Diebenkorn, Robert Irwin, Helen Lundeberg, Stanton Macdonald-Wright, John McCracken, John McLaughlin, Catherine Opie, Alan Rath, Charles Ray, Ed Ruscha, and Bill Viola.

The museum’s international holdings are a growing area of the collection, featuring works of art that provide a meaningful context with which to experience the art of our times. Key examples include work by Eija-Liisa Ahtila, Lee Bul, Katy Grannan, Joseph Grigely, Glenn Ligon, Christian Marclay, Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle, Marjetica Potrc, David Reed, Daniela Rossell, and Lorna Simpson. Guided by its mission, the Orange County Museum of Art’s collection strives to link the historical and the contemporary; bridge local and global art and culture; and enlighten, inspire, and engage visitors.

Exhibitions History

The museum is especially noted for organizing important exhibitions of contemporary art that are locally relevant and internationally significant, including the first surveys of Vija Celmins (1980), Chris Burden (1988), and Tony Cragg (1990), as well as early exhibitions of seminal work by Lari Pittman (1983), Gunther Forg (1989), Charles Ray (1990), Guillermo Kuitca (1992), Bill Viola (1997), Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle (2003), and Catherine Opie (2006). Thematic exhibitions of contemporary art have ranged from Objectives: The New Sculpture (1990) which presented the work of Grenville Davey, Katharina Fritsch, Robert Gober, Jeff Koons, Annette Lemieux, Juan Muñoz, Julian Opie, and Haim Steinbach; Girls’ Night Out (2003), which presented work by Eija-Liisa Ahtila, Elina Brotherus, Dorit Cypis, Rineke Dijkstra, Katy Grannan, Sarah Jones, Kelly Nipper, Daniela Rossell, Shirana Shahbazi, and Salla Tykka; and State of Mind: New California Art circa 1970, presenting an in-depth study of California artists in the 1960s and 1970s who redefined contemporary art.

In addition to its significant contributions to the field of contemporary art, the museum has also organized and hosted important exhibitions of modern art and design such as Edvard Munch: Expressionist Paintings, 1900-1940 (1983); The Interpretive Link: Abstract Surrealism into Abstract Expressionism: Works on Paper, 1938-1948 (1986); The Figurative Fifties: New York Figurative Expressionism (1988); American Modern, 1925-1940: Design for a New Age (2001); Picasso to Pollock: Modern Masterpieces from the Wadsworth Athenaeum Museum of Art (2004); Villa America: American Moderns 1900–1950 (2005); Birth of the Cool: Art, Design, and Culture at Midcentury (2007); Illumination: The Paintings of Georgia O’Keeffe, Agnes Pelton, Agnes Martin, and Florence Miller Pierce (2009); and Richard Diebenkorn: The Ocean Park Series (2012).

In 1984, the museum launched the California Biennial, one of the most important regional surveys in the world devoted to new art. In 2013, that program evolved into the California-Pacific Triennial, the first on-going exhibition in the Western Hemisphere devoted to contemporary art from around the Pacific Rim.

The California-Pacific Triennial was offered again in 2017, with notable artists from California and fifteen other nations. Since 2004, the museum’s exhibitions have traveled to more than 30 museums throughout the United States and in Europe. These projects include Kutlug Ataman: Paradise (2007); Mary Heilmann: To Be Someone (2007); Peter Saul (2008); Jack Goldstein x 10,000 (2012); and Richard Jackson: Ain’t Painting a Pain (2013).

The foresight, risk-taking, and support for artists that characterizes OCMA’s past continues today. From 2018 through 2020, at OCMAExpand, its temporary museum, the museum is building on its legacy of identifying emerging talent by giving artists their first museum shows and supporting the production of new work. Organized by seasons of exhibitions featuring six to seven artist projects, each series focuses on a pressing global socio-political concern, such as climate change and our relationship to the natural world. These artists represent over a dozen countries and have been evenly balanced between male and female artists, and over 80% of the artists shown are BIPOC.

Education and Public Programming

Since its founding, OCMA has been committed to offering robust educational programs that foster meaningful connections between audiences and the art on view. Acknowledging that modern and contemporary art can feel esoteric and inaccessible, the museum provides multiple entry points for visitors of all ages to engage with art and the ideas behind it. From film screenings that unpack topics explored in the galleries to artist talks that put the maker in direct contact with the visitor, OCMA’s goal is to help its entire audience discover the power of art through a variety of formats catering to diverse learning preferences, always free of charge.

Prior to quarantine, OCMA focused on in-person programs offered at no charge: school tours, family days, and adult programs. With a streamlined staff and resources during its transition period at OCMAExpand, the museum chose to concentrate on programs that would have greatest impact. OCMA’s school tours demystify art and are often a child’s first exposure to the museum. Led by docents trained in facilitating conversations about art, students are led through the galleries on a one-hour interactive tour in which they look closely, analyze, and discuss works. OCMA has a long relationship with Costa Mesa-Newport Beach School District and over the last two years has strengthened its connection to Santa Ana Unified. By covering the costs of bus transportation and substitute teachers, OCMA removes barriers to participation. Historically serving between 5,000 to 7,000 students annually, OCMA anticipates serving 15,000 students in its new home each year.

With COVID-19 prohibiting in-person gatherings, OCMA has found tremendous success with virtual programs. Pivoting to digital platforms has exponentially increased program participation, with over 8,000 people attending OCMA programs since March 2020. Beyond these impressive numbers, poignant feedback indicates that our communities rely on the museum to combat social isolation, anxiety, and boredom during this extraordinary period. OCMA is making a difference in people’s lives at the time when it is most needed.

OCMA’s transition to its temporary space in Santa Ana has provided a tremendous opportunity to engage new audiences that traditionally do not visit museums. Census data indicates that the racial/ethnic make-up of OCMA’s new neighborhood (zip code: 92704) is 72% Latino, 17% Asian, and 9% White. Over 75% of families speak Spanish at home. Eighteen percent of people live below the poverty level and less than 14% received a bachelor’s degree. The museum’s next closest neighborhood (zip code: 92626) is 53% White, 25% Latino, and 14% Asian. Just over nine percent of people live below the poverty line and 44.5% of people received a bachelor’s degree. Forty percent of families speak a language other than English in the home. For comparison, the population of the museum’s prior location is 82% White, 8% Asian, and 7% Latino. Under 7% live below the poverty line and over 67% have a bachelor’s degree. Zip code data collected at the front desk indicates that people from all over the County visit the museum. The highest concentration of visitors come from the museum’s hyperlocal neighborhoods.

For more information on OCMA, please visit the museum’s website:

Orange County, CA: About the Region

Located in the Los Angeles metropolitan area, Orange County’s 3 million residents enjoy a nearly perfect climate in which parks and beaches provide abundant opportunities for outdoor activities. Orange County is the home of exciting professional sports, a wide range of tourist attractions, and quality venues for visual and performing arts. Orange County boasts a thriving business economy and a well-educated work force. The County of Orange is a regional service provider and planning agency whose core businesses include public safety, public health, environmental protection, regional planning, public assistance, social services and aviation, with important universities nearby including University of California Irvine, California State University Fullerton, and Chapman University. Not far from the Orange County Museum of Art is the UCI Institute and Museum for California Art (UCI IMCA) at the University of California, Irvine. UCI IMCA, established in 2017, will serve as the home of nearly 4,500 pieces donated by the Irvine Museum and collector Gerald Buck’s holdings of more than 3,200 paintings, sculptures, and works on paper.

Main Focus, Priorities, and Key Responsibilities

The Director and CEO is responsible for fulfilling the Museum’s mission and its financial objectives by providing compelling leadership and innovative vision for its sustainable growth, with respect for its history and a creative vision for its future. A flexible, confident, and self-motivated leader, the Director and CEO of the Orange County Museum of Art orchestrates the day-to-day management of the Museum and reports directly to the Board of Trustees, specifically through the President/Chairman and the Executive Committee. The Director and CEO serves as the Museum’s primary spokesperson and advocate to the community, engaging and inspiring broad support for the Museum, expanding its profile as a cultural beacon for the region, and underscoring the importance of art and culture to the community.

This individual will work closely with the Museum’s Board of Trustees to develop and implement strategic goals and objectives for its collection and programs. The Director and CEO will plan and manage the business and financial affairs of the Museum, and will inspire, mentor, and provide ongoing professional development for its staff.

The Director and CEO’s position includes, but is not limited to, the following priority responsibilities:

Leadership and Management

  • Work in close association with the Board’s Building Committee and Campaign Committee to implement the plan to move the Museum’s primary exhibition and administrative premises to the donated parcel in the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, Costa Mesa.
  • Collaborate with the Board of Trustees to refine the Museum’s long-term goals, creating and executing an overall strategic plan.
  • Develop, implement, and accomplish the annual operating plan and annual budget of the organization as approved by the Board of Trustees, working with staff to evaluate day-to-day operational effectiveness of the Museum and align resources and assure revenues to fulfill strategic goals.
  • Provide skilled and diligent oversight of the Museum’s financial resources and operations, working with the Board of Trustees to communicate with transparency and provide high-quality information to support sound policy decisions and facilitate their fiduciary responsibility.
  • Responsibly manage an annual operating budget of $2.5. to $3.0 million currently and the projected budget of $5 to $6 million after the new building is opened.
  • Oversee, along with guidance and support from the Board, budgeting, the annual financial audit, tax filings, and maintenance of correct and complete records required; maintain the healthy operation of the Museum under all federal, state, and local rules and regulations and contractual requirements and in keeping with the best practices and standards of collecting museums.
  • Work in close association with the President/Chairman and Trustees to maintain effective and productive committees.
  • In conjunction with the President/Chairman and other appropriate Board members, identify and recommend to the Board candidates for trusteeship who will help build a broader representation of the Museum’s wide constituency.
  • Translate Board policies and strategies into action plans; guide, coach and assist the staff to achieve the Museum’s mission, both aesthetically and financially.
  • Build, develop, and retain an effective management team.

Development and Fundraising

  • Partner closely with the Board of Trustees to devise a successful fundraising strategy for the Museum to complete the building project and which leverages the unique landscape of the region’s philanthropic community. Engage the Board as active participants in fundraising efforts, and in cultivating and identifying potential Trustees and donors.
  • Lead the development team in the creation and implementation of plans to complete the building campaign, increase the endowment, and establish a well-rounded development function to include membership; annual fund; donor cultivation, recognition, and retention; major gifts and planned giving; government agencies; corporate and foundation relations; marketing and communications.
  • Cultivate major gifts from and steward the institution’s most significant past, current, and potential donors. Cultivate collectors and gifts of art to the Museum’s permanent collection.

Collection, Exhibitions, and Programs

  • Develop with staff a vision for the museum’s programs and exhibitions that reflects a commitment to creative excellence that is accessible to a diverse range of audiences.
  • Explore ways to reach new and diverse audiences, develop inventive exhibitions and initiatives, and partner with outside individuals and organizations to develop meaningful, engaging programming.
  • Continue to assess the current collection, while continuing to move the museum forward with its acquisitions and limited deaccessioning; actively safeguard the physical health of the collection, diligently informing the Board of any long-term considerations.
  • Work in close collaboration with staff and volunteers to enhance the visitor experience before, during, and after a visit to ensure positive and enjoyable experiences for all audiences.
  • Embrace the power of interactive technology and its applications to advance the visitor experience.
  • Pursue opportunities that engage and involve the community. Local residents, whose roots may stretch back several generations, are an important focus for museum activities, and are only part of the growing multi-ethnic and multi-generational population who call Orange County home and whom the museum aims to serve.
  • Work with the Board and staff to continuously increase attendance and outreach.
  • Develop and maintain meaningful and mutually beneficial relationships with other community arts and educational organizations and their leaders and directors.
Candidate Profile

Ideal candidates will have at least 10 years of leadership and management experience in an art museum setting; an advanced degree in art, art history, arts management, another relevant degree, or equivalent accumulated professional experience desired. Additionally, they should possess a balanced combination of the following professional expertise, leadership competencies, and personal qualities.

Strategic and Visionary Leader

  • Capable of providing stability and confidence when faced with rapidly changing and uncertain circumstances, the Director and CEO will be a consultative thought-leader to the Board and other stakeholders, demonstrating strong emotional intelligence (“EQ”) and an ability to recognize and manage risk, as well as to be agile in uncertain situations.
  • Ability to foster a culture of openness and collaboration among staff, volunteers, and the Board of Trustees so that each may be informed and enhance one another’s work.

Development, External Relations, and Relationship-Building

  • Top candidates should have substantial experience with various fundraising and communications channels, and the ability to provide high-touch engagement with all of the Museum’s constituents.
  • The Director and CEO will have a compelling public presence and be exceptionally skilled at developing and sustaining relationships. This leader will be dedicated to reaching out to people and serving as an ambassador for the museum in the community with genuine interest in making connections and becoming embedded in the Orange County community.
  • Demonstrated ability to interact comfortably with a range of constituents, building and rebuilding bridges among the various stakeholders of the Museum and throughout the region, including members, visitors, donors, the Board, and community leaders.
  • The successful candidate will have achieved significant standing with peer institutions and will have the stature to represent the Museum to appropriate stakeholders.
  • A high degree of public relations insight, serving as the outward-facing representative of the Museum, able to speak compellingly and write fluidly about the Museum’s legacy, impact, growth strategy, and future direction to all audiences. This individual will have superb public speaking abilities and will feel equally comfortable and effective in presenting to small groups as well as large audiences and symposia.
  • This executive will be considerate and open, working collaboratively to find opportunities for the benefit of the Museum as a whole, promoting dialogue to identify best practices, synthesizing divergent views, and coalescing all constituencies around a shared view or plan.

Business Acumen and Operational Expertise

  • The Director and CEO will have a strong record of successful oversight and management of museum operations and finances. Highly skilled in budgeting and fiscal management, this individual will have the perspective to consider the impact of decisions, strategic plans or initiatives, and programs on the organization, and make sound recommendations.

Artistic & Programmatic Leadership/Audience Engagement

  • Experience, expertise, and industry stature in order to elevate the museum’s profile in the artistic and museum community regionally, nationally, and internationally.
  • Understanding and knowledge of the art and museum world and its key players, and an ability to translate this into meaningful collaborations and exhibitions for the institution that speak to the community and national audiences. Experience actively cultivating relationships with artists and collectors interested in deepening the museum’s collections.

Skilled and Inspirational Manager

  • A decisive, results-oriented leader with a collegial, team-oriented working style, open and nimble in adjusting to emerging needs or shifting priorities. A proven record of visible and effective management and the demonstrated ability to build, develop, nurture, and retain a strong team that is focused on impact, excellence, accountability, and efficiency.
  • Track record of fostering a positive working environment, strong staff morale, and a culture of teamwork and mutual support among all staff. Committed to ensuring ongoing professional development and guiding a highly functioning team. A good listener and collaborator who is able to manage through conflict.
  • An effective motivator who communicates a shared vision, inspires quality performance, and cultivates strong morale by empowering staff through active and effective communication, feedback, and delegation, and by promoting teamwork and cooperation.

Koya Leadership Partners, an executive search firm that specializes in mission-driven search, has been exclusively retained for this engagement. Naree Viner and Stephen Milbauer are leading this search. To make recommendations or to express your interest in this role please visit this link or email [email protected]. All nominations, inquiries, and discussions will be considered strictly confidential.

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

About Koya Leadership Partners

Koya Leadership Partners, a member 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 Leadership Partners, visit