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Dr. Kent Lydecker Appointed New Director of the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg
Dr. Lydecker led the education department at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York for 18 years.

ST. PETERSBURG, FL.- Seymour Gordon, President of the MFA’s Board of Trustees, has announced that Dr. Kent Lydecker will be the new director. He will begin his duties October 12 and replaces Dr. John Schloder, who retired in July after more than nine years at the helm. Dr. Lydecker, who led the education department at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York for 18 years, will be only the fifth director in the Museum’s 45-year history.

According to Mr. Gordon, “the search for a new director was narrowed to five excellent candidates with national and international prominence. The search committee was especially impressed with Dr. Lydecker’s extensive experience at the Metropolitan, and before that, at The Art Institute of Chicago and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. These are three of the world’s great museums. His educational background and scholarship are equally accomplished. The search committee also believed that he would work well with the community and our staff, volunteers, and supporters. We feel fortunate that Dr. Lydecker has accepted the position.”

A national search for the new director was conducted with the assistance of Opportunity Resources, Inc. in New York. The search committee was chaired by Mr. Gordon. The other members of the committee included these trustees and civic leaders: Dr. Edward Amley, Robert Churuti, Ron Petrini, Cary Putrino, Mary Shuh, Barbara Godfrey Smith, Robert Stewart, William (Bill) Stover, Carol Upham, and William Knight Zewadski. Three staff members advised the committee: Assistant Director Roger Zeh, Chief Curator Dr. Jennifer Hardin, and Dr. Schloder.

“It is an honor to be able to work with the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg,” Dr. Lydecker said. “The Museum is a gem, with an extraordinary collection, a history of great exhibitions, a beautiful building and marvelous addition, an enthusiastic board, and an exceptional staff. It stands at the center of St. Petersburg’s cultural life, with a national and international reputation for excellence. I hope to build upon and expand that record of achievement in the years ahead.”

Dr. Lydecker was recruited to join the Metropolitan by the legendary Philippe de Montebello, who retired in 2008 after 31 years as the director. As a senior staff member, Dr. Lydecker reported directly to Mr. Montebello and also worked closely with the president, the trustees, and other senior staff.

Beginning in 1990 as Deputy Director for Education, Dr. Lydecker became Associate Director for Education in 1993, and in 2004, was named the Frederick P. and Sandra P. Rose Associate Director for Education. He managed 70 full-time and 250 part-time staff and was responsible for a $12-13 million budget. The Metropolitan presented more than 20,000 programs annually during his tenure.

Dr. Lydecker began his career at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. (1974-1985), serving as Curator in Charge of Tours and Curator in Charge of Public Programs. He was Executive Director of Museum Education at The Art Institute of Chicago from 1985-1990 and was an Adjunct Professor-at-Large in The School of The Art Institute. During the last year, he has been an independent scholar and consultant and teaches in the graduate-level Museum Studies Program of The Johns Hopkins University.

Dr. Lydecker’s exceptional background encompasses art historical research, educational programming and outreach, fund-raising and donor relations, a building expansion, administration, and strategic planning. He arrives at a critical time in the history of the Museum of Fine Arts.

The Hazel Hough Wing, more than doubling the size of the original building, opened in 2008, and the Museum has greatly expanded its exhibitions and programs, including a new effort to reach autistic children through art. The comprehensive collection has grown dramatically to approximately 15,000 works. The recent donation of a Georgia O’Keeffe landscape, Grey Hills Painted Red, New Mexico (1930), received international media attention. The photography collection is one of the finest in the Southeast. The board is also in the midst of a $5 million endowment campaign to secure the MFA’s future.

Dr. Lydecker’s experience and interests ideally complement the Museum’s mission. MFA Founder Margaret Acheson Stuart (1896-1980) established the first art museum in St. Petersburg so people in the area could have direct contact with world masterpieces. She also emphasized education in the arts and humanities, especially for young people. Dr. Lydecker has devoted his career to art education for people of all ages and levels of understanding.

At the Metropolitan, Dr. Lydecker pioneered uses of new technology, including The Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, and was heavily involved in the planning, architectural design, construction, and programming of the Ruth and Harold D. Uris Center for Education. This 25,000 square-foot addition provided new classrooms, studios, and an expanded library, all equipped with state-of-the art technology, with an additional 15,000 square feet of office space. The Uris Center, a $75-million project, opened in the Fall of 2007 to high acclaim.

In addition, Dr. Lydecker oversaw the Metropolitan’s stellar Concerts and Lectures series and was a frequent lecturer himself. His topics ranged from Rembrandt’s Aristotle with a Bust of Homer to Picasso’s Portrait of Gertrude Stein, from Albrecht Dürer’s Adam and Eve to Edouard Manet’s Boating. He has also lectured at other museums, as well as colleges and universities, including the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the Musée du Louvre in Paris, The Victoria and Albert Museum in London, and Columbia University in New York.

Reaching children at a young age is another of Dr. Lydecker’s commitments. He collaborated with schools throughout the New York area and assisted K-12 educators with integrating the museum experience into the classroom and the curriculum. He also sustained community and workplace outreach projects, as well as initiatives for people with disabilities.

Dr. Lydecker holds his B.A. in history magna cum laude from Rice University, his M.A. in art history from Cornell University, and his Ph.D., also in art history, from The Johns Hopkins University. His specialty is the Italian Renaissance, though he truly has expansive interests.

Toni Lydecker, his wife, has her own fascinating career. She is an expert on Italian food and has formed her own company, Toni Lydecker Culinary Productions. Her articles have appeared in many publications, including the Washington Post, Cucina Italiana, and the Wine Enthusiast. She is the author of two cookbooks, Seafood alla Siciliana: Recipes and Stories from a Living Tradition and Serves One: Meals to Savor When You’re on Your Own. She has a new cookbook with an Italian theme due out in 2011. She fell in love with Italian food early in her marriage, while her husband was conducting research in Italy.

Museum of Fine Arts | St. Petersburg | Dr. Kent Lydecker | Seymour Gordon |

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