Cummer Museum Taps Koya Leadership Partners for Executive Director

October 17, 2017 – Executive recruitment firm Koya Leadership Partners is seeking a new executive director for the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens, the largest fine arts museum in Northeast Florida.

Managing director Michelle R.S. Bonoan is heading the national search, with support from principal Sheila Hennessey, as well as Koya’s research and support team.

The search for the head of the Jacksonville museum is expected to be completed by the end of the year. “Our targets have been sitting directors and curatorial leaders at regional and community-based arts museums, a select group of larger arts museums, institutions that combine art collections and gardens, and university museums,” said Ms. Bonoan.

Koya is looking for a range of qualities in the prospects. “We are evaluating candidates based on their passion for the opportunity and their ability to make an impact on the greater Jacksonville region’s arts and cultural scene,” said Ms. Bonoan. “For this opportunity, Koya has worked with the Cummer Museum’s board to identify highly experienced, credible arts and academic leaders who are oriented towards collaborative, thoughtful, strategic leadership. These candidates possess the ability to engage the community, raise the profile regionally and fundraise at a strategic and high level.”

A Major Donation

The executive director opening came about in the summer of 2016, when longtime executive director Hope McMath announced her resignation. Holly Keris, the museum’s chief operating officer and chief curator, has been serving as interim director.

This spring, the museum received a $4 million donation from the Liverpool, NY-based Disoway Foundation to endow the executive director position. The charity is run by Dudley D. Johnson, a Jacksonville native, banker, manufacturer and Cummer Museum trustee. “A gift of this nature underscores the value individuals place on the museum and establishes a heightened level of prominence for our executive director’s position both locally and throughout the art world,” said Ryan Schwartz, chairman of the museum’s board of trustees, at the time.

Koya won the assignment through a competitive process in which Cummer Museum leaders met with a number of search firms, including boutiques and large, global firms. “We had not worked with the Cummer Museum in the past,” said Ms. Bonoan. “However, our reputation with mission-driven clients nationally as well as in the arts and culture field specifically brought Koya to their attention. Our ability to partner collaboratively, be flexible and tailor a process to the museum’s needs and the culture of the greater Jacksonville community singled us out as their top choice for a search partner.”

The search has been a strong collaborative effort, said Ms. Bonoan. “We’ve been fortunate to partner with a highly engaged, thoughtful and consultative search committee,” she said. “The committee has been open with us about the institution’s needs, the goals for the museum and the challenges in the Jacksonville region, particularly following this season’s catastrophic weather.”


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A Beacon of the Arts

All this has helped draw outstanding prospects. “The candidates have been impressed with the board and their commitment to the success of the Cummer Museum,” said Ms. Bonoan. “They have been highly attracted to this role, the opportunity it presents to make an impact on the community of Jacksonville, and the board’s aspirations for the museum to be seen as a major player on the national stage.”

The Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens, established in 1958, is a beacon of arts and culture in the Jacksonville region, said the search firm. Its membership base is more than 2,300, and last year the museum had upwards of 165,000 visitors.

Located on the St. John’s River, the Cummer Museum was established with the bequeathal of the art collection and riverfront home of Ninah M.H.  Cummer, who was well known as an art collector, garden enthusiast and civic leader. The museum’s art collection is considered among the best in the Southeast, and its historic gardens are a cultural and artistic focal point.

Leveraging Relationships

The museum employs 40 professionals and has an annual operating budget of $4 million, said Koya Leadership Partners. The budget is funded through contributions, grants, events, earned income and the institution’s $30 million endowment.

The executive director, who reports to the board of trustees, leads the Cummer Museum, oversees operations and is the main driver of the strategy to fulfill its mission “to engage and inspire through the arts, gardens, and education,”  said Koya. The individual is responsible for garnering support for the institution’s priorities, including serving as chief fundraiser.

The executive director is expected to lead the development and implementation of a strategic vision and planning process for the museum, in partnership with the board, to evolve the organization from its current multi-year strategic plan and operating model, said Koya. The individual should provide skillful oversight of all programs and operations, and promote innovative and thoughtful programming that engages the local community and an expanding audience.

As the face of the Cummer Museum, the executive director is also charged with developing and leveraging relationships locally, regionally and within the industry. Ensuring the continued relevance of the museum is a key priority.

Experienced Recruiters

Working with the board, the executive director is expected to build on the financial success of the Cummer Museum, while enhancing curatorial ambitions and fundraising capacity in furtherance of the Museum’s vision, the search firm said.

Koya’s Ms. Bonoan has more than 20 years of experience as a search consultant. She has led executive searches across a range of industries and functions. As a specialist serving the education, non-profit and arts and culture sectors, she has conducted searches for executives at the highest levels, including CEO, president & executive director, CFO, fundraising leadership, program management and a wide range of other key positions.

Her clients are from all over the country and include those in education, social services, arts and culture, children and family services, environment and health-related issues, as well as prominent educational institutions such as research and private universities, small liberal arts colleges and independent college preparatory schools.

Ms. Bonoan has led searches for the American Red Cross, City of Hope, Covenant House of California, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Earthjustice, Pomona College, California Institute of Technology, University of California, Crystal Stairs, Marguerite Casey Foundation, AVID, Para Los Niños, the Walt Disney Family Foundation and Armand Hammer United World College of the American West, among others.

Ms. Hennessey joined Koya as an experienced recruiter having placed senior executives and advancement leadership for non-profits and universities across the country, with a focus on the West Coast region. Her expertise spans the full recruitment life cycle, including needs assessment, research strategy, candidate development and client management. She has over seven years of experience specifically serving non-profit and university clients.

Her clients have included the University of Southern California, Johns Hopkins University, the Smithsonian Institution and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, among others.

A Top-Rated Search Firm

Boston-based Koya is a national executive search and human capital consulting firm that works exclusively with non-profits and social enterprises. This year, the firm was recognized again as one of the top 50 search firms in the Americas by Hunt Scanlon Media. Koya was also recently selected to be included in Hunt Scanlon’s first ranking of the recruiting industry’s top 50 non-profit search specialist leaders. The ranking is a compendium of best-in-class search firms deemed the “most prominent trailblazers” in the field.

Koya has developed a national reputation for identifying executive directors and CEOs across the non-profit sector, including those for Hudson Webber Foundation, the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation, Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania, American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois, Glazer Children’s Museum, and Tourette Association of America, among many others.

Koya Leadership Partners is currently leading searches for numerous clients in the arts and culture field, including the CEO role for the New Bedford Whaling Museum in Massachusetts; vice president of development for the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, MO; chief curator for Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, MA; and executive director/senior vice president, Colonial Williamsburg, Williamsburg, VA.

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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