Opportunity Resources Taps New Leader for Columbia Museum of Art

Opportunity Resources placed Della Watkins executive director Columbia Museum of Art

September 13, 2017 – Executive search firm Opportunity Resources has placed Della Watkins as the new executive director of the Columbia Museum of Art (CMA).

Karen Brosius informed board members and staff late last year that she was leaving to become president of Careers Through Culinary Arts Program.

Ms. Watkins currently is executive director of the Taubman Museum of Art in Roanoke, VA. She takes the helm of the Columbia Museum at the beginning of next month.

“We heard it consistently from her current board and Mr. Taubman himself: one of Della’s greatest strengths is her engagement in the community,” said Earl Ellis, search committee chairman. “That was a very important factor in our consideration set. The Columbia Museum of Art is a community asset, and we were seeking a proven leader who had demonstrated strengths in community engagement.”

CMA board president R. Scott McClelland said that after a thorough search, Ms. Watkins was a clear choice. “Her experience and passion allowed the search committee to check every box for leadership attributes essential to achieving the next step in the museum’s vision,” he said.

Veteran Leader

After 14 years as an art educator, Ms. Watkins began her career in museum education at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, where she held successively more senior roles during her 16-year tenure. She joined the Taubman Museum of Art in 2013. Under her leadership, the museum completed build-out of the last remaining gallery space that now hosts major national traveling exhibitions, reclaimed financial stability through steady fundraising, and forged new collegial partnerships in Roanoke and beyond on behalf of the region’s arts and culture community.


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“With the completion of the renovation next year, the Columbia Museum of Art is poised to take an even greater leadership role as a vibrant local and statewide arts and education powerhouse,” said Ms. Watkins. “I look forward to working tirelessly to get to know the community, grow membership, friends, donors, business supporters, colleagues, and partners. Together, we’ll ensure that the CMA is a proud and lively cultural arts destination for everyone in South Carolina and beyond.”

Opportunity Resources is a national boutique search and management consulting firm focused on finding leadership for not-for-profit cultural institutions. Clients include museums of all disciplines, visual and performing arts centers, university galleries and museums and related organizations. The firm has placed top leaders at Corning Museum of Glass, Currier Museum of Art, Conner Prairie Interactive History Park, International Print Center New York, Biggs Museum of American Art, and the Anniston Museum Complex.

Sounding Board

Freda Mindlin, the firm’s president and CEO, has 31 years of executive search experience in the not-for-profit cultural sector. This includes several years when she was affiliated with Johnson Smith & Knisely and Ward Howell. She managed not-for-profit recruiting practice divisions for each of the two international recruiters. As such, she has executed or supervised several hundred senior-level executive search assignments for museums in every genre, including history, science and visual art and performing arts organizations throughout the country.

Ms. Mindlin established Opportunity Resources in 1986 as a stand-alone search firm at a time when there were few specialists with a focus on finding cultural leaders.

Today, an array of search firms are available to arts and culture groups to find top talent. But unlike many of these recruiting outfits, Ms. Mindlin also assists with interim staff selection, advising on interviewing techniques, providing guidance on industry salaries and benefits packages, and managing executive transitions. She also serves as a sounding board on all leadership matters upon completion of an assignment.

Museums Looking for New Leaders

Museums are increasingly turning to specialist recruiters to help fill critical, senior level leadership roles. Here’s a look at a few from the Hunt Scanlon Media archives:

Noetic Search recruited Crystal Bowyer as the president and CEO of The National Children’s Museum. Rhyan Zweifler, president of the Chicago recruitment firm, led the assignment. Founded as the Capital Children’s Museum in 1974, the museum served children and families for thirty years in Northeast Washington, D.C.

Phillips Oppenheim placed Louise Bernard as the director of the Barack Obama Presidential Museum in Chicago. Principal Sarah James and partner Becky Klein led the search. Ms. Bernard is looking to play a crucial role in helping former President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama firm up and design the programming “narrative” of the museum.

Korn Ferry recruited Olivier Meslay as the new director of the Clark Art Institute. Naree Viner led the assignment. The Clark Art Institute, located in Williamstown, MA, is one of a small number of institutions globally that is both an art museum and a center for research and higher education in the visual arts.

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor; and Will Schatz, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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