This January, the Center for Curatorial Leadership (CCL) welcomed its eleventh class of Fellows for a two-week leadership intensive in New York City. A group of twelve curators from institutions across the United States convened for the first component of the CCL Fellowship—the foremost program teaching managerial skills and values of effective leadership to outstanding museum curators. Through a combination of coursework with Columbia Business School faculty, workshops, and discussions with cultural leaders, the January program commenced the curators’ five-month Fellowship and gave rise to the issues, challenges, and successes of today’s cultural institutions and leaders.
Highlights from the January program of the Fellowship include:
The 2018 program introduced Fellows to numerous museum directors and CEOs for conversations on the realities of institutional management and their visions for the field and their museums. A roundtable hosted by Richard Armstrong, Director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Foundation, with fellow directors Brett Littman (The Drawing Center), Jessica Morgan (Dia Art Foundation), and Matthew Teitelbaum (Museum of Fines Arts, Boston) allowed the Fellows to consider the challenges and opportunities of leadership across differently scaled and focused institutions. In a conversation with Glenn D. Lowry (The Museum of Modern Art) and Thelma Golden (The Studio Museum in Harlem), both directors highlighted the importance of optimism when leading institutions. Through these meetings and others, Fellows gained insight into the strategic and operational questions that directors tackle day-to-day and in long-term planning.
The intensive also introduced points of view from leaders in the broader cultural sphere, including Deborah Borda, President and CEO of the New York Philharmonic, and Tom Finkelpearl, Commissioner, NYC Department of Cultural Affairs. In response to increasing demand on museums to consider how they situate themselves within their cities and culture at large, these discussions sparked sustained dialogue around the role of curators and museum leadership in shaping inclusive programs and expanding audiences.
Curators benefit from engagement with the governance and fundraising behind their institutions and a more comprehensive understanding of how their museums function and develop. To that end, CCL convened meetings with foundation heads, board chairs, and trustees to provide context for how museums govern themselves and support exhibitions, acquisitions, and strategic growth. In particular, conversations with trustees of many different national museums surfaced candid thoughts on issues ranging from board stewardship and financial oversight to hiring practices, succession planning, and the primacy of art, artists, and exhibitions.
Since its inception, CCL has tailored a curriculum in partnership with Columbia Business School that teaches curators the essential skills to develop their approaches to leadership and find their voices within both their departments and institutions. Coursework from the January program includes units on change management, managerial accounting, negotiations, and organizational alignment, among many others. Observing the growing fiscal complexities facing museums, this year CCL increased the number of modules addressing budgeting, endowments, nonprofit financial statements, and fundraising.
Across the two weeks of the January program, Fellows engaged with the external challenges that art museums encounter, the tools and frameworks they can use to forward the goals of their organizations, and the importance of self-knowledge in achieving their personal and institutional visions. Presenters championed the growing importance of courageous and optimistic leadership, while Fellows reflected on approaches and strategies for putting these lessons into practice.
Before the 2018 Fellows reconvene for the final intensive of the Fellowship in May, each curator will develop a project that introduces a wider group of individuals to the leadership track in museums, work in small teams on an organizational impact plan, and complete weeklong residencies with leading directors around the world. CCL looks forward to sharing updates as the 2018 Fellows continue in the program and effect visionary change across their different museums.