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Lori Starr appointed Executive Director of San Francisco's Contemporary Jewish Museum
Innovative Jewish cultural leader and top North American museum executive takes the helm of San Francisco’s museum of Jewish culture, history, art and ideas. Photo: Dexter Quinto, Studio Kaizen

SAN FRANCISCO, CA.- The Contemporary Jewish Museum announces the appointment of Lori Starr as Executive Director. Starr will begin in her new role June 10, 2013.

“The Board of Directors and staff of the CJM are absolutely thrilled to have Lori Starr join the organization,” says CJM Board Chair David Levine. “She is a highly respected leader in the field, known for innovation, excellence, and fresh approaches to audience engagement. With over thirty years of experience in museums and Jewish cultural institutions, her track record of achievement is outstanding. I don’t think we could have found a better fit to build on the Museum’s strong trajectory and lead our talented team.”

Starr comes to the CJM from the Koffler Centre of the Arts, Canada’s only multidisciplinary, contemporary Jewish cultural institution offering cutting edge contemporary art exhibitions, music, dance, film, literary, theater, and other programs. During her tenure as Executive Director, the Koffler grew its audience from 4000 to over 100,000 with an additional 100,000 via online media, and achieved critical and public acclaim for its series of Koffler Offsite exhibitions, public programs, artist/scholar residencies, art classes, and cultural happenings throughout Toronto. Starr also served as Vice President for Culture for the UJA Federation of Greater Toronto.

“Lori Starr made an enormous contribution to Toronto while she led the Koffler,” says Matthew Teitelbaum, director of the Art Gallery of Ontario. “She moved inventive and galvanizing program into the community, while positioning important issues of our time into the public realm for active discussion. She did so with style, intelligence, and true commitment. She made our community stronger. I know she will have an important and sustaining impact on San Francisco. The cliché is true. Our loss is San Francisco’s gain.”

“I am delighted to be returning to California and San Francisco to work with the exceptional Board, staff, and volunteers of the Contemporary Jewish Museum,” says Starr. “The Museum, now in its fifth year in its beautiful and expressive jewel of a building, has distinguished itself as a welcoming place where visitors of all ages and walks of life can connect with one another through dialogue and shared experiences with the arts. It is absolutely poised to make an even greater impact through an increasingly vibrant and innovative repertoire of new, ever changing exhibitions and multidisciplinary arts programs of the highest quality.”

Prior to her time at the Koffler, Starr served as Senior Vice President and Museum Director of the Skirball Cultural Center from 2001-2006, overseeing its Winnick Hall expansion and growing its scope of changing exhibitions and programs, including the addition of significant interactive, film, and new media components. She headed up the development of many notable touring exhibitions including Max Liebermann: From Realism to Impressionism (2005), Einstein (2004-2005) with the American Museum of Natural History and The Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Driven into Paradise: Jewish Émigrés to Southern California in the 1930s and 1940s (2005), and Time/Space/Gravity/Light (2005) with the Getty Research Institute, as well as managing the development of Noah’s Ark, a children’s destination that opened in 2007. From 1986-2001, she was Director of Communications and Public Affairs for the J. Paul Getty Trust and J. Paul Getty Museum. She has also held key management and education positions in the School of Fine Arts, University of Southern California and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and was a Rockefeller Fellow in Museum Education and Community Arts at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Starr speaks frequently on the subject of Jewish cultural institutions and their audiences. She has served on the Council of American Jewish Museums Steering Committee and currently serves on the advisory committees for the International Jewish Presenters Network and the Harold Green Jewish Theatre.

“Lori Starr is a star,” says Elise Bernhardt, President and CEO of the National Foundation for Jewish Culture. “The CJM is so lucky to have her as their next CEO. Sensitive to and practiced in the worlds of the arts and Jewish life, she is the ideal person to lead this extraordinary institution into its next glorious phase. B’hatzlacha! (To your success!)”

Throughout her career, Starr has had an interest in film, radio, television, children’s books, performance art, and new media, and has actively engaged these interests in her efforts to deepen the public’s understanding of the arts and Jewish culture and to develop fresh interpretive approaches. Her work at the Getty included advising on several films, most notably A Concert of Wills: The Making of the Getty Center, writing and producing audio guide scripts, and a collaboration with NPR station KCRW FM to create a series of “behind the scenes” sound documentaries on the occasion of the opening of the Getty Center. She commissioned Going to the Getty, a best-selling children's book by J. Otto Siebold and Vivian Walsh. At the Skirball, Starr was involved in the production of several new films for the permanent collections galleries and launched the first podcasts of Skirball public programs in partnership with PBS station KCET. At the Koffler, Starr encouraged her curatorial team to incorporate new media into many projects including Melissa Shiff's Cine-Seder Roundtable: A Passover Happening (2010), a kinetic sound installation by Gary James Joynes/Clinker for the group exhibition Spin Off: Contemporary Art Circling the Mandala (2011), and mobile touch screen interactivity with Corwyn Lund’s Word Count, a text-based site specific installation opening soon in downtown Toronto.

Starr has independently hosted television and radio programs of contemporary art, music, and public affairs. She has interviewed artists and cultural innovators for Artsync TV in Toronto, and while at the Getty, launched the Los Angeles version of Selected Shorts, live readings by actors of short stories broadcast on NPR. She has moderated discussions between writers, visual artists, and opinion leaders, most recently as part of the Harbourfront Centre's International Festival of Authors in Toronto. As a Museum Educator at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art early in her career, she introduced live theatre into the galleries.

“Lori Starr’s broad experience and vision for the future of museums is tailor made for the CJM,” says CJM Board Trustee Mark Schlesinger, who headed up the search and will be taking over as CJM Board Chair in the new fiscal year. “She will continue to position the Museum as a pacesetter within the cultural fabric of San Francisco and beyond.”

“I believe the CJM can be a model of its kind and leader in its field,” says Starr. “I look forward to forging strong collaborations with Jewish organizations, other museums locally, nationally, and internationally, as well as artists, writers, musicians, technology innovators, scholars, schools, and civic and cultural leaders in the Bay Area. The San Francisco region is about imagining what is possible—a pioneering place that has been on the forefront of new ideas and every social justice movement of the last century. I look forward to being a part of this vibrant community and making the diversity of Jewish life relevant for a twenty-first century audience."

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February 20, 2013

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