Two years after publicly confronting allegations of sexual harassment, the Philadelphia Museum of Art has elected a new leader: Sasha Suda, the current director and CEO of the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, Ontario.
Praising her educational and work experience, Leslie Ann Miller, president of the museum, said in an interview Tuesday that the Court was “the right person for the institution at this point in its history.”
“We hope that her gender will be seen through our lens, which is emblematic of the institution’s ongoing commitment to promoting DEI in everything we do,” Miller said, referring to the museum’s focus on diversity, equality and inclusion. “Sasha understands the critical importance of upgrading our efforts so far to reach the community, to engage through exhibitions.”
The 41-year-old Court, which began in September as the 14th director and chief executive, will take over a 145-year-old institution that is still recovering from controversy. In 2020, a New York Times report revealed that a young male manager was accused of harassing several female staff members. Government officials criticized the museum; employees are united in unions, citing gender and equality issues; and former museum director Timothy Rubb apologized to his staff. Rub finally announced his resignation last summer after serving 13 years.
At the National Gallery, where she was appointed in February 2019, the Court focused on justice and fairness with a commitment to reconciliation with indigenous peoples.
“I’m passionate about human-centered leadership and I’m really interested in building that strength so people can see the value of the work they do and the value of their own life experiences – where managers and leaders have room for discomfort. and much-needed talks, “Suda said in a telephone interview.
“This is really the moment for me as a leader,” she continued, “entering into these conversations with the desire to make room and be by their side and have my eyes wide open.”
She added that the Philadelphia Museum – famous for its collection of some 240,000 works of art, including those of Brancusi, Duchamp, Rodin and Jasper Jones (as well as its distinctive front steps included in the film “Rocky”) – has long been one from them. of her favorites. “I was lost in the galleries,” Suda said. “It’s just one of the few places where you can just turn off and enjoy art in a museum in the best way.”
At a time when cultural institutions are trying to diversify their headquarters, boards, collections and programs, some will no doubt question the museum’s decision not to appoint a colored man. In February, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art replaced longtime director Neil Benezra with Christopher Bedford, director of the white-haired Baltimore Museum of Art.
But Miller said Suda was the most qualified person, adding that the museum had launched “the widest possible network to attract the most diverse set of candidates.”
Miller also cited the Court’s communication skills as paramount to the institution. The Philadelphia Museum of Art has been widely accused by current and former employees of failing to openly address issues related to former education manager Joshua Helmer, who reappeared as director of the Erie Museum of Art before being forced to to leave his job there after the New York Times report.
Helmer declined to discuss stories about his treatment of women or his relationships with them, although he said he had always followed the museum’s policies.
Born in Toronto to Czech parents, Suda received a bachelor’s degree from Princeton University, a master’s degree in art history from Williams College and a doctorate. at New York University. She began her career in the medieval department of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where she worked in various roles between 2003 and 2011.
She later returned to Canada as an assistant curator at the Ontario Art Gallery, eventually becoming its curator of European art and then chair of prints and drawings.
The court will be the third female director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Anne d’Arnoncourt was director and CEO from 1982 until his death in 2008; Jean Sutherland Boggs, who previously ran the National Gallery of Canada, was director of the Philadelphia Museum from 1978 to 1982.
Like cultural institutions around the world, the Philadelphia Museum is struggling to recover from the pandemic, which requires cuts in staff and budget. The museum currently has an operating budget of $ 62 million and is nearing completion of fundraising, bringing its fund to $ 560 million.
Last year, the museum completed the first part of a renovation and expansion designed by Frank Gehry.
But her main priority seems to be to improve her social condition as well as her inner health; Following the 2020 Cultural Assessment, the museum has allocated additional resources to key areas in need of repair. “The institution has not run away from its problems; we faced them directly, “Miller said. “We are working on efforts to improve communication and transparency.
“Have we solved the problems?” Absolutely not, “she added. “Are we committed to working on them?” Absolutely.
“This is a new chapter in a new world,” she continued. “We have to start thinking outside the box. We cannot go back to what it was then. That’s now. “