The Museum of Craft and Design appoints Nora Atkinson as the new Executive Director

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The Museum of Craft and Design appoints Nora Atkinson as the new Executive Director
Atkinson currently leads the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM) in Washington D.C. Courtesy Smithsonian American Art Museum, photo by Libby Weiler.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA.- The Board of Directors of the Museum of Craft and Design announced the appointment of Nora Atkinson as its new Executive Director. Co-founder and Executive Director, JoAnn Edwards, will retire after over 20 years of visionary and distinguished leadership. Atkinson currently leads the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM) in Washington D.C. She brings to MCD 20 years of experience in some of the leading American art museums focusing in craft and design where she has served in leadership, fundraising, curatorial, and community programming roles.

Board Chair Neil O’Donnell shared the news earlier today, saying “We are thrilled that Nora Atkinson has chosen to bring her enthusiasm and ideas to MCD. She has a distinguished record of innovation and accomplishment that bodes well for the future of MCD with her at its helm.”

In Atkinson’s nearly 10 years at the Renwick, she has curated heralded exhibitions such as This Present Moment: Crafting a Better World, No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man, and Murder Is Her Hobby: Frances Glessner Lee and the Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death. Since 2019 she has served as the Fleur and Charles Bresler Curator-in-Charge, overseeing the full range of activities at the Renwick including exhibitions, acquisitions, staff, patron relations, research, and publications. Prior to that, Atkinson served as the Lloyd Herman Curator of Craft. Her appointment to MCD marks her return to the West Coast as she began her career as a curator at the Bellevue Arts Museum in Bellevue, Washington.

Atkinson notes, “I am thrilled and honored to be selected as the next Executive Director of the Museum of Craft and Design. San Francisco has a vibrant history as a leader in the arts, and no city could be a more exciting or fitting home for exploring what craft and design have to offer and tell us about ourselves in the burgeoning age of Artificial Intelligence. Founding Director JoAnn Edwards has built a true gem in the Dogpatch neighborhood, one of the premier museums of craft and design in the nation, and I look forward to building on her legacy of thought-provoking and resonant exhibitions and programs, and sharing the Museum of Craft and Design’s vision even more broadly, in San Francisco and around the world.”

The Search Committee was led by Lisa Bayne Astor, recently retired CEO of Artful Home, and included MCD Board members O’Donnell, Peggy Dalal, and Michon Pinnix, as well as independent curator, author, and historian Glenn Adamson, and former Senior Director of the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Sandra Edwards. The Committee conducted a rigorous nationwide search that produced a large number of highly qualified candidates. But as Board Chair O’Donnell put it, “During the search process Atkinson dazzled us with her combination of energy, vision, and thoughtfulness. Her focus and interests in contemporary art and craft, the role of the handmade in the digital age, and the desire to share new directions in the field of craft and design align perfectly with MCD’s mission and we are confident she will carry on the groundbreaking work Edwards has accomplished.”

Edwards comments, “As a founder, it is hard to imagine a more elegant succession than to pass the torch to Nora Atkinson as the next leader of the Museum of Craft and Design. I am unambiguously certain that she will inspire the art, craft, and design scene in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond, keeping MCD’s bold and innovative reputation at the forefront.”

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