John Tolley, January 8, 2019
When University of Michigan alum Kaywin Feldman takes the reins of the National Gallery of Art in March she will be the first ever woman to serve as director of the institution in its 77-year history.
That is, of course, not her only qualification - the veteran museum director has led three distinguished galleries prior, her most recent post being director of the Minneapolis Institute of Art (Mia). But it is an important indicator of Feldman's progressive and engaging leadership style, one that celebrates diversity and encourages inclusion at all levels.
At Minneapolis, Feldman was noted for growing the institute's digital presence and reach as part of a larger effort to position Mia as less of a rarified space for aesthetes and more an active part of community life. Under her leadership, exhibits by unconventional and avant-garde artists helped broaden conversations and attract new visitors. Mia also received a $750,000 Mellon Foundation grant to establish the Center for Empathy and the Visual Arts. The center's mission is to foster a happier and more creative world through the expansion of person-to-person understanding via the shared language of the arts.
"I have long believed in and advocated for the inspiring power of art, the ability of art to inspire wonder," Feldman said, speaking with the Washington Post. "[The National Gallery] has an incredible potential to do that on a large scale."
An archaeologist by training, Feldman obtained her undergraduate degree from Michigan and holds master's degrees in both archaeology and art history from the University of London. Before Minneapolis, she was the director of the Fresno Metropolitan Museum of Art and Science and the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art. She has also served as the president of the Association of Art Museum Directors and chair of the American Alliance of Museums.