October 2, 2004

Smart Museum seeks new director

Representatives of the David and Alfred Smart Museum of Art said the nationwide search for a new director may take up to a year. Kimberly Rorschach, who served as director for ten years, left June 30 to become the first director of a new art museum at Duke University.

To find potential candidates for the position, the University has formed a search committee composed of Smart Museum board members, faculty, and employees in the office of the provost. The committee has hired a consultant with the Russell Reynolds search firm to assist in the recruitment and selection of prospective hires.

Due to the meticulous nature of the search, a new director will probably not be hired until the spring or summer of 2005, said Jacqueline Terrassa, who has been serving as interim director since Rorschach's departure. Terrassa said the committee will ultimately have to make its selection from a list of around 100 aspirants with varied backgrounds and experiences.

"They're looking for candidates not only from the arts, but also for those with open minds," she said. "They're looking at curators, deputy directors, or anyone who combines both intellectual passion and knowledge in art with the administrative ability to lead an institution."

Smart Museum assistant curator Stephanie Smith said the committee must find a director who offers the foresight to adapt the museum along with a respect for its established traditions and goals. "You want someone who is strong and visionary," she said, "but you want them to be aligned with the broad strokes of the institution."

Ideally, the candidate would also be able to integrate himself into the university's academic environment, Smith said.

Regardless of the new director's prior accomplishments, he will initially have to serve in the shadow of Rorschach's success. During her tenure, she boosted the museum's endowment from $3 million to $15 million and increased the museum's private annual support by 300 percent. She also won significant grants and added 500 artworks to the museum's permanent collection. In addition to her duties as director, she was an associate professor in the department of art history and lecturer on art law in the law school.

Terrassa said Rorschach managed to improve the museum's reputation while rethinking its purpose. "She really transformed the Smart Museum and was able to gain a level of visibility for it that it hadn't had before," Terrassa said. "She helped define what the role of a university museum is by striking a balance between the external audience in the community and the University itself."

Terrassa said she is trying to provide the stability and leadership that Rorschach brought to the museum. "My job is to make sure the museum continues on its dynamic path," she said.

Museum curator Richard Born stated in an email that Terrassa is succeeding in her goal. "Jackie Terrassa is vigorously pursuing the administration of the Smart Museum in accordance with the Smart Museum's strategic plan."

Despite her popularity among museum staff, Terrassa decided not to apply for the job of permanent director. Once the position is filled, she will resume her duties as education director, a post she has held for the last six years.

Based on her experience as interim director, she said the selection committee should choose a leader capable of bringing the museum into the community. "The ideal candidate would really combine the intellectual, perhaps scholarly passion associated with the University of Chicago with a civic mind about how the Smart can contribute to the broader community."