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MASS MoCA Hires New Director

MASS MoCA's new director Kristy Edmunds. (Courtesy Kristy Edmunds)
MASS MoCA's new director Kristy Edmunds. (Courtesy Kristy Edmunds)

After a 10-month search, the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA) has hired Kristy Edmunds as its new director.

“Kristy brings an exceptional record of artistic vision, community engagement, and leadership to MASS MoCA,” said Timur Galen, chair of the MASS MoCA Foundation Board of Trustees.

Since 2011, Edmunds has been executive and artistic director at UCLA's Center for the Art of Performance (CAP UCLA). She's also held a long line of leadership positions at institutions including the Melbourne International Arts Festival, the Victorian College of the Arts at the University of Melbourne and was consulting artistic director for New York's Park Avenue Armory.

"What it feels like to experience art in this place is unlike anywhere else. There’s an aliveness charging through the campus itself that manages to honor the past while being in the vivid present ..."

Kristy Edmunds

“I have been fascinated with MASS MoCA from the second I learned about it decades ago,” said Edmunds said in a statement from the museum. “What it took to make it possible is extraordinary. What it feels like to experience art in this place is unlike anywhere else. There’s an aliveness charging through the campus itself that manages to honor the past while being in the vivid present, and I have never been there without feeling that I discovered something astonishing.”

At CAP UCLA, Edmunds oversaw 45 full-time staff and an $8 to $10 million budget. The center also produced live programming — experience that will come in handy given MASS MoCA's multidisciplinary offerings like music, theater and contemporary dance.

Among Edmunds' recent accomplishments is orchestrating CAP UCLA's acquisition of The Crest Theatre, a dormant and neglected historic venue. Edmunds spearheaded a fundraising campaign to restore the structure so it could function an incubator for smaller-scale art projects. What will be called the UCLA Nimoy Theater — which is supported in part by filmmaker and philanthropist Susan Bay Nimoy — is slated to open in late 2022.

Edmunds was born in Chelan, Washington, and earned a Master of Arts in theater from Western Washington University and a Bachelor of Science in film and TV from Montana State University.

MASS MoCA, in the city of North Adams. (Beth J. Harpaz/AP)
MASS MoCA, in the city of North Adams. (Beth J. Harpaz/AP)

The museum's board performed an international search, narrowing the candidate list down from 40, to 11, to three, before deciding unanimously on Edmunds.

“Among a deep and diverse pool of very strong candidates, Kristy, from the outset of the selection process, stood out as someone with interests, experience and aspirations that are deeply aligned with ours," Galen said in a statement. "From her role as a founding director, to the broad range of multidisciplinary projects she has undertaken and presented in different venues and environments around the world, to her evident care and commitment to artists, her staff, and colleagues, we are truly delighted that Kristy will be joining us to lead MASS MoCA into the future.”

Edmunds will follow in the footsteps of the founding director Joseph Thompson who retired in late 2020 after 32-years at the helm.

She will step in at a unique moment for the museum, and the cultural landscape. MASS MoCA, like many museums, has been devastated by the pandemic. In March 2020, it laid off the majority of staff. Earlier this year, employees voted to unionize as an interim director led the museum.

Edmunds starts her new job in North Adams in October.

Related:

Andrea Shea Twitter Senior Arts Reporter
Andrea Shea is WBUR's arts reporter.

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