April 26, 2019 – Museums are increasingly turning to specialist recruiters to help fill critical senior-level leadership roles. As these positions grow more sophisticated and complex, the hunt for top-flight talent to fill these roles becomes all the more important. With that, search fees across the space are rising substantially, according to recruiters.
Executive search firm Opportunity Resources recently placed Rehema Barber as the new chief curator for the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts (KIA). The assignment was led by Freda Mindlin, the recruitment firm’s president, and vice president Nancy Kaufman.
The Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, one of the largest museums in Michigan, was seeking a collaborative curatorial leader to assume this critical role in shaping and implementing the institute’s curatorial program. KIA is a collecting institution and has a collection of about 5,000 works of art.
Ms. Barber proved to match KIA’s those needs. She arrives from the Tarble Arts Center at Eastern Illinois University, where she was director and chief curator. Her experience includes the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign’s School of Art + Design, University of Memphis, Memphis College of Art, Power House Memphis, and the Amistad Center at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art.
“Rehema’s passion for accessible and innovative arts programming and scholarship and her wide and deep reservoir of connections among significant and emerging artists distinguished her candidacy and prepared her for an active role in KIA’s present and future growth,” said Opportunity Resources.
Chief Curator Role
In her new position, Ms. Barber is expected to play a pivotal role in bringing innovative thinking and curatorial leadership in support of KIA’s institutional goals. She will serve as the institution’s primary scholar and will research and study the permanent collections for publication in appropriate journals, exhibition catalogues and other publications, for enrichment of the database and docent training, and in preparation for a future catalogue of the collection.
In addition, Ms. Barber is charged with implementing and evolving a long-term vision for the KIA curatorial program based on demographics and an understanding of audience participation concepts, which will embrace diversity and draw non-traditional art audiences to the Institute.
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In 1924, members of the Kalamazoo Chapter of the American Federation of the Arts established the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts “to further the development of interest and education in and of regard and appreciation for the various arts.” KIA’s exhibition and collecting emphasis is on American art and the art of Japan, China and Korea. The collection includes artists as aesthetically and stylistically varied as Eastman Johnson, Andy Warhol, Henry O. Tanner, Alexander Calder and Robert Maplethorpe.
New York City-based Opportunity Resources, founded in 1986, 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. Among the firm’s clients are: Asian Art Museum of San Francisco; Berkshire Museum; Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center; Civitella Ranieri Foundation; Coastal Discovery Museum, Hilton Head; Conner Prairie Interactive History Park; Corning Museum of Glass; Hillwood Estate, Museum and Gardens; International Print Center New York; National Trust for Historic Preservation – Lincoln Cottage; Orlando Museum of Art; Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill; Tudor Place Historic House and Garden; and Wisconsin Historical Society.
Ms. Mindlin, the firm’s president and CEO, has more than 30 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, two international search firms for which she managed their not-for-profit recruiting practice divisions. She has personally 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. Kaufman became involved in executive search 15 years ago, after many years as an arts advisor and consultant to institutional, corporate and private clients. Previously, she served as director of the visual arts referral services of the Creative Artists Public Service Program, an affiliate of the New York State Council on the Arts. She has served on the boards of directors of ArtTable Inc., the Center for Arts Information and the Association of Professional Art Advisors. Since joining Opportunity Resources, Ms. Kaufman has completed senior-level search assignments across a broad range of disciplines.
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor; and Andrew W. Mitchell, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media