HARTFORD, CT.- The Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, Connecticut, has named Susan Lubowsky Talbott, currently the Director of Smithsonian Arts at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., as its new director. The unanimous decision by the Board of Trustees was made yesterday afternoon.
Susan Talbott has distinguished herself as a museum leader able to galvanize community engagement through programs of global significance. Most recently, she has provided leadership and oversight for the nine arts organizations that reside within the largest complex of museums in the world. These include the Smithsonian American Art Museum and its Renwick Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden , National Museum of African Art, Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Freer Gallery of Art, Archives of American Art, and Smithsonian Photography Initiative, all in Washington , and the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York City .
Before assuming the Smithsonian Arts directorship in 2005, Talbott served as Director and CEO of the Des Moines Art Center (1998 to 2005), where her imaginative efforts to broaden, deepen, and diversify audiences led to national recognition. She came to her successful tenure in Des Moines as a seasoned arts administrator, having served as Executive Director of the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, from 1992 to1998; Director of the Visual Arts Program of the National Endowment for the Arts from 1989 to 1992; and the director of two branch museums of the Whitney Museum of American Art from 1982 to 1989.
“It is a great pleasure and privilege for me to assume the directorship of an institution that has played such a starring role in the history of art in this country. After working in the top administration of a far flung collection of museums, I relish the opportunity to develop engaging and intellectually charged cultural programs and exhibitions for this storied museum and to expand its collections through significant acquisitions,” says Talbott, who expects to assume her position at the Wadsworth Atheneum full-time by May 1.
“In Susan Talbott, we have found a creative leader in the field, a respected scholar of contemporary art, and a proven transformer of institutions who has risen steadily in the field,” says Coleman H. Casey, President of the Board of Trustees, and, since August 2007, the museum’s Acting Director.
“We on the search committee were thrilled to find in Susan someone who values a deep art experience, yet who is grounded in strategic planning and the daily management of a museum,” adds Susan A. Rottner, President of Bank of America-Connecticut and Search Committee Co-Chair.
Noting that Talbott was selected from a national pool of talented and experienced applicants, David Dangremond, Atheneum Vice-President and Search Committee Co-Chair, adds, “Susan is the perfect leader to build upon the international reputation of our collections, as well as our deep roots in the community.”
At the Smithsonian, Talbott has worked with the Under Secretary of Art Ned Rifkin on matters of policy, budget, personnel, facility, programs, and collections, leading strategic planning for Smithsonian Arts and playing a key role in the final phase of the renovation of the Patent Office Building that is now the Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture.
In Des Moines , Talbott led a museum, sculpture park, and art school renowned for a collection of mid-19th-century and contemporary art and buildings designed by Eliel Saarinen, I.M. Pei, and Richard Meier. Talbott doubled museum attendance in her first two years, formed partnerships with more than a hundred community organizations, expanded the museum with a downtown branch, and renovated portions of the main campus. She acquired more than 700 modern and contemporary works of art for the permanent collection, including major works by Andy Goldsworthy, William Kentridge, Martin Puryear, Thomas Struth, Arthur Dove, and Giorgio Morandi, and organized three exhibitions that broke attendance records and traveled internationally. She secured public and private funding, including more than $2 million in grants from the Wallace Reader’s Digest Funds, and helped lead an $18 million endowment campaign to guarantee the Art Center ’s financial future.
Talbott is a Harvard University Fellow, an alumna of Harvard’s Art Museum Directors’ Program who also has studied at the Harvard Business School in a program for executives in nonprofit management. She is a recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts Distinguished Service Award and an Alumni Achievement Award from Pratt Institute.