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Connie Wolf Appointed Next Director of Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University
Contemporary Jewish Museum Director and CEO Connie Wolf. Photo: Kira Sugarman. Courtesy of the Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco.

STANFORD, CA.- Stanford University announced today that Connie Wolf will be the next director of its Cantor Center for the Visual Arts. Wolf is a Stanford alumna, and previously served as director and CEO of San Francisco’s Contemporary Jewish Museum (CJM), where she oversaw a major expansion and spearheaded an initiative to raise the institution’s national profile. Wolf will assume the role of director on January 1, 2012, replacing Thomas Seligman, who became the center’s first full time director in 1991. Seligman will continue research and teaching at Stanford.

During Wolf’s 12-year tenure at CJM, the museum grew from a small community-based organization in a 2,500-square-foot building to a major institution with a landmark 63,000-square-foot museum in downtown San Francisco. She oversaw the $85 million new building project with architect Daniel Libeskind, as well as a $25 million endowment campaign for the institution. Under her guidance, CJM’s staff grew from six to more than 60, with a 41-member board of trustees and a docent and volunteer program of 75.

"In the interviews, Connie indicated that she would bring a high level of creativity and energy to the position of director," said Richard Saller, dean of the School of Humanities and Sciences. He added that her interest in "using technology to extend the modes of education" was a good match for Stanford.

"We have an opportunity to take Cantor's strong collections and its legacy and think about it in a new era," said Wolf. She also emphasized her love of education and the necessity of meeting today's students on their own turf, "making sure that the museum has a kind of relevance to how a younger generation connects to ideas. At the same time, nothing can replace the experience of looking at a piece of art."

Wolf's appointment follows two major developments in the visual arts at Stanford. In June, Stanford announced the acquisition of the Anderson Collection, one of the most outstanding private collections of post-World War II American art in the world. In April, the university announced the selection of Diller Scofidio + Renfro to design the McMurtry arts building, a new 90,000-square-foot home for the Department of Art & Art History, which will serve as an interdisciplinary hub for the arts at Stanford.

The McMurtry building and the forthcoming Anderson Collection gallery will join the Cantor Arts Center and the state-of-the-art Bing Concert Hall, which will be completed next year, as part of a new arts district at the center of campus. These new building projects are a major component of the Stanford arts initiative, a university-wide effort to increase support for the arts and creativity on campus. The initiative includes significant investments in new arts facilities, as well as faculty positions and graduate fellowships, and new arts programs designed to encourage interdisciplinary collaboration and engagement with the arts throughout campus.

"Hiring someone whose background is not squarely in the history of art is a move that is unexpected and daring for Stanford,” said Nancy Troy, chair of the art department. “­This is the moment for this, to think differently and be open to new directions, building upon the firm foundation that Tom Seligman and his staff have built over the last 20 years."

During her time at CJM, Wolf commissioned work from such artists and musicians as Matthew Ritchie, Laurie Anderson, Trenton Doyle Hancock, Alan Berliner, Irit Batsry, Lou Reed, Erik Friedlander, Mierle Ukeles and others. Wolf also spearheaded a series of hundreds of innovative exhibitions, education initiatives, and public programs at the museum, with grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the Terra Foundation for American Art, the Wallace Foundation, and others. Local foundations included Irvine Foundation, Wattis Foundation, Creative Work Fund and the Koret Foundation.

Before she joined CSM, Wolf was associate director for public programs and curator of education at New York City ’s Whitney Museum for American Art. At the Rockefeller Foundation from 1989 to 1991, she was a research associate in school reform and a Warren Weaver Fellow in the foundation’s arts and humanities division.

Wolf received a B.A. in East Asian studies from Stanford in 1981, and has since co-curated CJM’s current exhibition, "Meeting Gertrude Stein: Five Stories" with Stanford’s Wanda Corn, emeritus professor of art. In October, she will host a Stanford graduate student symposium at CJM.

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