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Norton Museum announces Director Hope Alswang's retirement in March 2019
Hope Alswang. Photo: Jacek Gancarz.

WEST PALM BEACH, FLA.- Hope Alswang, who brought The Norton Museum of Art into the forefront of the nation’s institutions dedicated to a more inclusive approach to art, both contemporary and historic, announced today that she will retire as Executive Director and CEO as of March 1, 2019. She will cap her transformative nearly nine-year tenure at the West Palm Beach museum with the opening on February 9, 2019 of a major expansion and enhancement designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Lord Norman Foster.

Under Alswang’s leadership, the Norton is in the final phase of a $100 million capital campaign for The New Norton. Throughout her tenure, the Museum has significantly expanded its collection, receiving donations of more than 875 artworks and acquiring more than 700, which notably increased its collections in contemporary art and photography. With these additions, the Norton grew its representation of works by women artists and artists of color by more than 150. In addition, Alswang inaugurated the Recognition of Art by Women (RAW) exhibition series, which highlights living women artists; organized critically acclaimed exhibitions; and embedded the Museum more deeply in its community by increasing opportunities for free admission and programs for the public.

“Hope has had an electrifying effect on the Norton Museum of Art during her tenure,” said Harry Howell, Chairman of the Board of Trustees. “In supporting our curators to develop groundbreaking exhibitions and significantly expand the permanent collection, she has brought the Museum global attention. Now, thanks to her efforts and those of a committed board of trustees and dynamic staff, the Norton is on the cusp of successfully realizing a stunning new wing and beautifully enhanced campus that will transform this institution.”

Mr. Howell added that the Trustees have formed a Search Committee to find a new director and that the search is underway.

“Hope is a force of nature, and someone I’ve enjoyed working with immensely,” said Beth Rudin DeWoody, a long-time supporter of the Norton. “She truly believes in museums as dynamic institutions that can both embrace the work of today and also thoughtfully revisit the work of the past to help visitors understand it in a new light. I’ve especially admired the way in which she supports the curators.”

Hope Alswang said, “The founder of this institution, Ralph Norton, gave the Museum a simple, but powerful mission: to share and celebrate great works of art with the public. During my time here, in collaboration with a remarkably dedicated board of trustees and brilliantly talented staff, I’ve tried to interpret the meaning of that mission. Which works do we designate as great art? What are the ways in which we can share and celebrate them? Who do we mean, when we speak of the public? The answers we formulated together have now taken tangible form in our new wing. I am deeply grateful to everyone who has contributed to creating a Norton that is larger in every way: its campus, its approach to art, its embrace of the community, and its new place on the world stage.”

During her tenure as director, Alswang undertook two parallel goals: to make the Norton a more meaningful and significant institution in the wider museum field; and to create a more welcoming environment and relevant cultural center for the Palm Beach County community and beyond.

The capstone to Alswang’s leadership at the Norton has been leading The New Norton project, the largest capital campaign and building transformation in the institution’s history. The Foster + Partners-designed project is dramatically re-orienting the Museum entrance, adding 35 percent more gallery space, a new state-of-the-art auditorium, a new dining pavilion, double education space, and creating “a museum in a garden.” To turn this vision of a more relevant, audience-and-art-friendly building into reality, Alswang spearheaded a $100 million capital campaign. The Museum will re-open to the public on February 9, 2018.

Alswang empowered the Museum’s curators to organize and originate special exhibitions that contribute to creating a wider and deeper canon of studied and appreciated works and advance scholarship. Highlights of those exhibitions include: Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney: Sculpture (2017); Earth Works: Mapping the Anthropocene (2017); O'Keeffe, Stettheimer, Torr, Zorach: Women Modernists in New York (2016); High Tea: Glorious Manifestations East and West (2015); To Jane, Love Andy: Warhol's First Superstar (2014); Keep Calm and Carry On: World War II and the British Home Front, 1938-1951 (2012); Tacita Dean (2012); and Cocktail Culture (2011), among others.

Under Alswang’s leadership, the Museum also launched two exhibition series in pursuit of this goal. The first, Recognition of Art by Women (RAW) highlights and promotes living women artists working in painting and sculpture. RAW launched in 2011 with the first U.S. museum survey of British artist Jenny Saville’s paintings and drawings. Subsequent exhibitions featured the first solo museum exhibition in the U.S. of Sweden-based Klara Kristalova’s ceramic sculptures and drawings (2014), and the first U.S. museum survey of Los Angeles-based, Nigerian born painter Njideka Akunyili Crosby (2016), among others. The Museum also launched the biennial Rudin Prize, which is awarded to an emerging photographer on the leading edge of the field, but who has not yet had a solo museum exhibition.

Alswang has also undertaken a significant expansion of the permanent collection. In total more than 1,700 works were promised or added through donation and acquisition. Particularly significant gifts came from: Howard and Judie Ganek, a promised gift as important to the institution as Ralph Norton’s initial one, which includes contemporary works by Damien Hirst, Anselm Kiefer, Kara Walker, Theaster Gates, Anish Kapoor, Mario Merz, Juan Muñoz, Kiki Smith, Nan Goldin, Cindy Sherman, Lorna Simpson, Pipilotti Rist, and Bill Viola, among others; Claes Oldenburg’s Typewriter Eraser, Scale X (1998-1999), a gift from Trustee Ronnie Heyman, which will anchor the new entrance; collector Jane Holzer provided works by Sylvie Fleury, Dahn Vo, and Franz West, among others.

Alswang has also significantly expanded the scope of the Norton’s education department. During her tenure, she increased the staff size from five to nine allowing a significant increase in community outreach and programming. The Museum improved service to diverse audiences, including: development of bi-lingual family programs and smartphone tours, as well as Athe creation of a curatorial fellowship for gender and racial parity. She also oversaw the expansion of the Art After Dark community programs from 12 weeks per year to 50. She also secured funding for Free Saturdays for Palm Beach county residents and ensured free admission for teachers and educational administrators. Under her tenure, the Museum also provided free buses for fieldtrips for Title IX schools. The combination of greater accessibility and increased programming created a more a more welcoming, community-centered atmosphere, and expanded the visitor demographic to welcome many more visitors who are non-white and under 35.

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