I am pleased to write to you today as the new Sybil Harrington Director and Chief Executive Officer of Phoenix Art Museum. As some of you may know, I first lived in Arizona as a teenager. I grew to love Arizona. My time as an art history student at Arizona State University introduced me to the career path that came to define my life, and I would ultimately return to the Valley of the Sun, first as the director of the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, and now, in 2020, to Phoenix Art Museum. I thank you for the opportunity to lead our Phoenix Art Museum into this new decade.
I am exceptionally grateful that, beginning October 1, the Museum’s doors will re-open, and we will be able to welcome back each of you, our valued Members, into the galleries. You will soon be able to experience not one, but two exciting headlining exhibitions. Created in partnership with Pérez Art Museum Miami, Teresita Fernández: Elemental took Art Basel Miami by storm last December and features works by the internationally acclaimed artist and MacArthur Fellow. Additionally, you’ll be the first to see Stories of Abstraction: Contemporary Latin American Art in the Global Context, which draws from the Museum’s collection and features a significant gift of contemporary Latin American art from Nicholas Pardon, co-founder of the former SPACE Collection. These new works are displayed alongside those from the Museum’s modern art collection and sculptures, paintings, and more by locally based artists, including Geny Dignac and Liz Cohen, to contextualize the history and development of Latin American abstraction.
I am also pleased to share with you a selection of works that I personally chose from the Museum’s collection. These “Director’s Choice” artworks are exhibited in various gathering spaces, from Greenbaum Lobby to Rineberg Gallery, Chase Lobby to Cummings Great Hall, and range from the classic to the experimental. They are installed in this way with the goal of integrating more of our collection throughout the Museum.
In short, you will find the Museum teeming with art. I hope you enjoy the changes we’ve made already, and I look forward to continuing to work with our staff, volunteers, and Board of Trustees to implement additional updates in response to the needs of our donors, Members, and community. We are listening.
During our closure over the past few months, Museum staff, supported by volunteer educators among our Docent Corps, have sought ways to continue to open our doors virtually to our community. From our weekly Virtual Visits, to online Senior Coffee Socials led by our Docents, to the now-virtual storytelling series The Whole Story, we pivoted to bring the art to you, wherever you may be, believing that while art may not be able to solve financial crises or the spread of disease, it does have the power to bring us solace, to heal our spirits as we contend with so much difficulty globally and locally. We’ve also sought to support the creatives in our community who have been severely impacted by quarantine and closures. We developed our bi-weekly PhxArtist Spotlight series with the goal of leveraging our large regional and national platform to bring attention to working artists and creatives in Arizona, from photographers and painters, to tattoo artists and game designers. We encourage you to see these features, now every other Tuesday, on our social media platforms. You can also read past features on our blog. Whether you’re a seasoned collector or an art lover looking to purchase a work of art and bring some color and life to your home, we encourage you to think locally and support Arizona’s artist community.
The threat of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic on our world is significant and has affected every aspect of our lives. Along with the personal impact on each of us and our families, many beloved institutions that we count on have been threatened by the grave financial implications of extended closures and the necessary changes to our normal operations. Phoenix Art Museum is no exception. With the loss of nearly $1 million in admissions revenue during the closure, as well as the downturn in major gifts and new Memberships, we, too, face the extraordinary pressure of navigating great uncertainty. Yet we have not given up, and neither have you. The support of our community and, most of all, our Members has helped to sustain us these past few months. I thank you not only for your generosity, but for believing in the Museum even when our doors were closed, for having the imagination to envision a future world post-COVID 19 that is still full of art. We can never adequately express what you mean to us and what a profound difference your support has made to this institution and our community.