Nicole Herden new Museum of Nebraska Art executive director
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Nicole Herden new Museum of Nebraska Art executive director
Herden was hired after a national search and replaces Audrey Kauders, who retired in June 2019 after 17 years at MONA.

by Todd Gottula

KEARNEY, NE.- The Museum of Nebraska Art has hired Nicole Herden of Boise, Idaho, as its new executive director.

Herden has managed curatorial and museum facilities projects for more than 10 years, including the past four as curator of art at Boise Art Museum, where she developed over a dozen exhibitions annually while expanding the permanent collection by nearly 500 works of art. She also served two years as registrar at BAM, which houses more than 4,000 objects.

“The mission of MONA and its phenomenal collection is an ideal fit with my background,” Herden said. “The historical and contemporary focus is of interest to me. A lot of things at MONA align with my scholarly interests as well as the professional museum work I’ve dedicated my career to. “I’m excited about the museum’s relationship with UNK and all of the perspectives university faculty, students and staff can bring to MONA.”

Herden was hired after a national search and replaces Audrey Kauders, who retired in June 2019 after 17 years at MONA. Marilyn Hadley, who served as interim director since July 1, will continue in that position until Herden’s March 30 start date. “We are thrilled to hire someone with Nicole’s expertise, background and enthusiasm,” said Hadley, who was on the search committee and is current MONA board president. “Her background includes working in a museum with strong university relationships. She is someone who will take us to the next level with new ideas and different approaches, which the board welcomes.”

MONA opened in 1986 in Kearney and houses the official art collection of the state of Nebraska, which includes more than 5,000 pieces. The museum is governed by a statewide board of directors in collaboration with the University of Nebraska at Kearney. It collects, preserves, researches, exhibits and interprets the work of artists who were born, lived, trained or worked in Nebraska, or those who created artworks that reflect the culture of Nebraska.

“MONA is poised to develop deeper relationships across the state, have more community participation and share its American story,” Herden said. “I would like to expand artist advocacy and access of the permanent collection across the country. An immediate goal is to market the collection and showcase the treasure that it is.”

Herden’s career path includes work as curatorial assistant of American and Western American Art at Phoenix Art Museum and curatorial assistant of Contemporary Art at Arizona State University Art Museum. She also worked as an adjunct art professor and graduate teaching assistant at Boise State University, as well as a high school teacher in Arizona at Apache Junction School District.

Her professional affiliations include the American Alliance of Museums, Association of Art Museum Curators and College Art Association, among others.

Herden has master’s degrees in art history and visual arts from Arizona State University and Boise State University, respectively, and a bachelor’s degree in art education from the University of Arizona.

“Nicole has great experience and expertise with art museums, and her ability to connect and build relationships within the art community really stood out,” said Bob Culver, co-chair of the search committee. “She has a grasp of what MONA’s collection is all about and our specific mission of supporting Nebraska art and artists.”

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