Sybil Harrington Director and CEO

Sybil Harrington Director and CEO

Phoenix Art Museum

Phoenix, AZ   |   November 15, 2019

About Phoenix Art Museum

Phoenix Art Museum (website)

The mission of Phoenix Art Museum is to serve as a community gathering space, a vibrant destination,

and a brave space for all people who wish to experience the transformative power of the arts. Celebrating its 60th anniversary beginning in November 2019, the Museum is the largest art museum in the Southwest and aspires to greater national prominence. Volunteers propelled the creation of Phoenix Art Museum and its growth was largely financed in its first 45 years through bond elections; as such, the Museum is truly of its people and of its city. The Museum has long enjoyed the consistent, generous support from the community not only through the passage of those key municipal bonds, but through private philanthropy that funded significant renovation and expansion over the last six decades. The Museum is housed in a city-owned facility and operated by an independent non-profit board and professional staff. A separate and independent board of directors governs the Museum’s endowment, measuring in excess of $26 million.

Located in Central Phoenix in an architecturally significant building first designed by Alden B. Dow, a student of Frank Lloyd Wright, with additional expansions designed by internationally renowned architects Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, the Museum encompasses nearly 270,000 square feet, including a one-acre sculpture garden and newly upgraded and renovated vault storage.

Today, with an annual operating budget of $12 million and a team of approximately 170, of which half are full-time, professional staff, the Museum continues to serve its community in a number of ways:

  • A dynamic exhibitions program, with special emphasis on American and Western American, Asian, European, Latin American, modern and contemporary art, as well as fashion design and photography.
  • Significant gallery space dedicated to the display of a comprehensive permanent collection of more than 20,000 objects, spanning more than 1,000 years of art history.
  • A diverse array of public programs for visitors of all ages that include music, dance, and dramatic performances, storytelling, hands-on artmaking, lectures, social events, and public art.
  • Comprehensive art-education programs with unique offerings for K-12, teen, family, adult, and senior populations.
  • On-site education for school and public tours, made possible through the volunteer efforts of a corps of more than 300 Docents.
  • Professional development programs for K-12 and college educators.
  • Paid teen-council roles, college internships, and graduate fellowship programs designed to contribute to the diversification of art-museum leadership and to offer entry-level opportunities for persons of color to begin careers in the arts.
  • Space for community exhibitions, often created by vulnerable populations, created in collaboration with teaching artists.
  • Bilingual (Spanish and English) interpretation materials, and by early 2020, a fully bilingual wayfinding signage program.
  • Beginning in January 2020, a fully bilingual (Spanish and English) website, which includes multimedia components to enrich the visitor experience and provide worldwide, round-the-clock access to the Museum’s collections, exhibition materials, educational resources, and more.

Today, the Museum serves nearly 300,000 visitors per year, representing a steady increase in annual attendance since 2016. The Museum’s attendance is enhanced through Museum Membership of approximately 10,000 member households ($80-$1000 annual dues), with an additional 300 Circles of Support member households, the Museum’s higher-level membership program ($1500+ annual dues). The annual membership of two support groups comprise approximately 300 members: Arizona Costume Institute, focusing on fashion design, and Friends of Contemporary Art, which number 200+ and 100+ members respectively.

Generally, the Museum is the recipient of positive local press coverage, and enjoys major coverage of its main-stage exhibitions, with cover stories in the Arts and Culture section of the city’s major newspaper, The Arizona Republic. The Museum’s public programs are frequently featured in “can’t-miss” listings, and the Museum has enjoyed national press coverage for a number of exhibitions, including Agnes Pelton: Desert Transcendentalist, Sheila Pepe: Hot Mess Formalism, Kehinde Wiley: Memling, Iris Van Herpen, The Propeller Group, Horacio Zabala: Mapping the Monochrome, and a significant number of fashion-design exhibitions.

Galleries and Exhibitions

Throughout each season, Phoenix Art Museum presents an array of exhibitions that blend traveling exhibitions, original exhibitions organized by the Museum or co-organized with peer museums, and smaller, rotating collection-based installations.

Each year, the Museum presents “main-stage” exhibitions, located in its Steele Gallery, a large, “blank canvas” space designed to accommodate large-scale exhibitions of 100+ works, or occasionally in the first floor of the Ellen and Howard Katz Wing for Modern and Contemporary Art. Other regularly rotating exhibitions include three annual fashion-design exhibitions in the Museum’s dedicated and expanded Ellman Gallery. Through the Museum’s partnership with the Center for Creative Photography, the Museum presents three photography exhibitions annually in the dedicated Norton Family Photography Gallery. Since 2017, the Museum has presented rotating installations of Sikh art in its dedicated Khanuja Family Sikh Heritage Gallery.

Galleries located in the lower garden level also offer space for temporary exhibitions. Smaller-scale American and Latin American art exhibitions have generally been presented in the Orme Lewis Gallery, an all-category rotating space. Smaller-scale Asian art exhibitions are generally featured within the Art of Asia gallery. In 2019, the Art of Asia gallery was transformed to feature the large-scale traveling exhibition Wondrous Worlds: Art and Islam Through Time and Place.

Phoenix: About the City

Phoenix is the fifth-largest metropolitan area in the nation and is the state capital of Arizona. Known for
its year-round sunshine, mild winters, and summer heat, the desert city anchors a sprawling, highly
diverse, multi-city metropolitan area colloquially known as the Valley of the Sun. Phoenix is also the seat
of Maricopa County, the fastest-growing county in the nation, which boasts an estimated population of
4.5 million.

Phoenix offers a high quality of life and many attractive features, including a growing and thriving arts
and cultural community with major offerings in art museums, a symphony, a professional ballet
company, a professional opera company, professional theatre companies, a science center, and
botanical gardens, along with outdoor adventures and sports that draw more than 16 million tourists a
year. Roosevelt Row in Downtown Phoenix is home to independent commercial galleries, and nearby, the Grant Street Studios house the work and studios of emerging local artists.

The city is also home to a burgeoning food culture, with a number of nationally recognized celebrity
chefs, such as Chef Chris Bianco and Chef Silvana Salcida Esparza, and unique, locally owned restaurants
that fuse the city’s Southwest heritage with flavors and fare from around the world. The city’s growing business community primarily focuses on high tech, tourism, manufacturing, warehousing, and real-estate development. There is a growing community of start-ups, incubator spaces, and emerging technology development. Phoenix is home to a range of professional sports teams, including the NFL team, the Arizona Cardinals; the National League MLB team, the Arizona Diamondbacks; the NBA team, the Phoenix Suns; the WNBA team, the Phoenix Mercury; the NHL team, the Arizona Coyotes; and the USL team, the Phoenix Rising FC.

Over the past three decades, the city’s access to high quality education has grown significantly.
Anchored in the greater metropolitan area, Arizona State University, centered in Tempe, has expanded
its satellite campuses across the Valley, including the expansion of its downtown presence, less than a
mile from Phoenix Art Museum. Along with Arizona State University, the University of Arizona opened a satellite location in Downtown Phoenix, including expanding its medical school to a Phoenix campus. The Maricopa County Community College District is one of the largest community college districts in the nation, with 10 individual colleges, serving more than 225,000 students annually. More than half of the district’s colleges are designated Hispanic-Serving Institutions, indicating a student population that is 41% Hispanic or higher. In the West Valley, Grand Canyon University, the largest Christian university in the world, recently moved from for-profit to non-profit status, and currently serves more than 70,000 students annually through both traditional and online undergraduate and graduate degree programs.

With comprehensive amenities and a high quality of life, Phoenix is still one of the least expensive major
cities in the nation, according to the Council for Community and Economic Research. Of the 264 ranked
cities in the report, Phoenix is ranked number 91. It receives an index score of 97, which indicates that
its cost of living is 3% lower than the national average. By comparison, Los Angeles received an index
score of 142.3 while Seattle received an index score of 145.1.

Main Focus, Priorities, and Key Responsibilities

The Sybil Harrington Director and CEO is responsible for fulfilling the Museum’s mission and its financial objectives by providing leadership and creative vision for its growth, and skillful management of Museum operations. The Director and CEO serves as the Museum’s primary representative to the community, engaging and inspiring broad support for the Museum, and expanding its profile as a cultural beacon for the region. This individual will work closely with the Museum’s Board of Trustees to develop and implement strategic goals and objectives, collections, 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.

Specifically, the next Director and CEO will be responsible for the following:


  • Provide charismatic leadership to the Museum, with respect for its history and a creative vision for its future. Serve as the experienced and influential representative of the Museum locally and in the regional and national arts/cultural and museum community.
  • Collaborate with the Board of Trustees to refine the Museum’s long-term goals, creating and executing an overall strategic plan. Engage the Board as active participants in fundraising efforts, and in cultivating and identifying potential Trustees and donors.
  • Provide inspirational leadership and well-conceived and executed management of the Museum staff. Foster a culture of openness and collaboration between staff, volunteers, and the Board of Trustees so that each may be informed and enhance the other’s work.
  • Provide skilled and diligent oversight of the Museum’s financial resources and operations. Work with the Board of Trustees to communicate with transparency and provide high-quality information to support sound policy decisions and facilitate their fiduciary responsibility.

Fundraising & External Relations

  • 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.
  • Lead the Development and External Affairs teams in the creation and implementation of plans to include membership; annual fund; donor cultivation, appreciation, and retention; major gifts and planned giving; government agencies; corporate and foundation relations; marketing; communications; and capital efforts.
  • Responsibly manage an annual operating budget of $12 million.
  • 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.
  • Continue to explore new ways to reach new audiences, create innovative exhibitions and initiatives, and partner with outside individuals and organizations to develop meaningful, engaging programming.
  • Embrace the power of new and interactive technology and its applications to advance the visitor experience.

Artistic & Programmatic Leadership

  • Provide experience, scholarship, and industry stature in order to elevate the Museum’s profile in the artistic and museum community regionally, nationally, and internationally.
  • Serve as the primary spokesperson and advocate for the Museum’s art collections, and the importance of art and culture to the community.
  • 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.
  • Maintain and extend the Museum’s reputation for high-quality exhibitions which draw new audiences.
  • Continue to assess the current collection, while continuing to move the Museum forward with its acquisitions and deaccessioning; actively safeguard the physical health of the collection, diligently informing the Board of any long-term considerations.
  • Provide 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. Actively cultivate relationships with artists and collectors interested in deepening the Museum’s collections.
  • Inspire and direct scholarly activities that elevate the Museum’s profile, including authorship of publications and articles, seeking industry or academic recognition for specific portions of the collection or for noteworthy exhibitions and artists.
  • Pursue opportunities that contribute to 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 whom the Museum aims to serve.


  • 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 to fulfill strategic goals.
  • Create a positive working environment for the entire organization, strong staff morale, and a culture of teamwork and mutual support among all staff. Implement policies and procedures that ensure ongoing professional development, and motivate and guide a highly functioning team.
  • 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 state, local rules and regulations and contractual requirements and in keeping with the best practices and standards of collecting museums.
  • Work in partnership with senior staff to develop and enhance exhibitions, increase education and outreach, engage new constituents, and manage the collections.

Key metrics for success in this role includes:

  • Positive results in the areas of responsibility above.
  • Leadership with the staff, Board, volunteers, and key figures in the local, regional and national nonprofit, government, business, and civic communities.
  • Responsible budget development and oversight so that all operations are sustainable and in line with earned and contributed funds.
  • Maximizing fiscal sustainability through multiple streams: membership, donations, including the annual fund and capital campaign, grants, admissions, publications, retail, events, etc.
  • Presenting the organization as one that is open, inclusive, and representative of the multiple cultures that shape the region.
Candidate Profile

The ideal candidate should possess the following professional expertise, leadership competencies, and personal qualities:

Strategic and Visionary Leader: The Director and CEO will be a dynamic leader with an entrepreneurial and enthusiastic spirit, and the background and skills to deliver on the mission of the Museum, partnering with the Board to create a vision for its future. This individual will be a proven strategic thinker with the foresight, capacity, and experience to understand and balance complex and discrete needs. Agile in ambiguous situations and capable of providing stability and confidence when faced with important and quickly-changing circumstances, the Director and CEO will be a consultative thought-leader to the Board and other stakeholders, demonstrating strong emotional intelligence and an ability to recognize and manage risk.

Mission Fit and Expertise: This leader will be an energetic advocate and champion for the Museum with the intellect, knowledge, experience, and training to represent and elevate the Museum in the region and in the broader cultural world. Genuine and deep commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility, continuing the work the Museum has started. They will have the expertise and network to work effectively with the curatorial team to develop and seek out world-class, compelling exhibitions to expand audience engagement and build the Museum’s credibility.

Expertise in Development and Fundraising: The Director and CEO will be a bold, fearless, and experienced fundraiser with a measurable track record of success in development, and the expertise and mindset to build strong relationships within the community with past, current, and potential donors, as well as the Board. This leader will have substantial experience with various fundraising and communications channels, including major gifts and capital campaigns, and the ability to provide high-touch engagement with all of the Museum’s constituents. The Director and CEO will be a flexible, confident, and self-motivated leader who will partner closely with the Board of Trustees to devise a successful fundraising strategy for the Museum which leverages the unique landscape of the region’s philanthropic community.

Business Acumen and Operational Expertise: The Director and CEO will have a strong record of successful oversight and management of finance and operations. Highly skilled in budget, financial, and personnel 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.

Scholarship and Recognition: Credibility within the arts and integrity are top of the list as givens. The Director and CEO will have significant academic and scholarly achievements in a relevant field, including published or edited works or articles; recognition and/or awards from relevant institutions or organizations; accreditation or certifications from relevant organizations, academic and creative affiliations, including membership with arts organizations; and speaking engagements at seminars, panels, conferences and other industry gatherings. The successful candidate will have achieved significant standing with peer institutions and will have the stature to represent the Museum to appropriate stakeholders.

Skilled and Inspirational Manager: A good listener, collaborator; able to manage through conflict. Business/management experience, including supervision of staff and volunteers. The Director and CEO will be a decisive, results-oriented leader with a collegial, team-oriented working style, open and nimble in adjusting to emerging needs or shifting priorities. They will have a proven record of visible and effective management and the demonstrated ability to professionally develop, nurture, and retain a strong team that is focused on impact, excellence, accountability, and efficiency. This individual will be 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 collaboration.

External Relations and Relationship-Building: Dedicated to reaching out to people and serving as an ambassador for the Museum in the community; genuine interest in making connections and becoming embedded in the Phoenix community; experienced in government relations and partnerships. The Director and CEO will have a compelling public presence and be exceptionally skilled at developing and sustaining relationships. They will have a 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. This executive will have a high degree of public relations insight, serving as the outward-facing representative of the Museum, able to speak 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.


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

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

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