The Columbus Museum of Art’s leader for the past two decades, Nannette V. Maciejunes, announced Monday that she’ll retire at the end of the year.
The executive director and chief executive officer, whose career at the institution has spanned roughly 35 years, said that, at the age of 68, not only is it a good time for her personally to step aside, but it’s also the right time for a younger leadership to usher in a new era at the museum.
“COVID made a lot of us realize life will be different in the post-COVID world,” said Maciejunes, who lives in Granville. “We’re grappling with systemic racism and all those things we’re talking about nationwide and it’s a chance for the museum to step up and be engaging to the community — what does a 21st century museum look like?”
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Nannette Maciejunes: A rich history of accomplishments at the Columbus Museum of Art
Many in the community say this will simply be a continuation of all the tremendous work Maciejunes has done at the museum the past 20 years.
Notable accomplishments include the largest endowment and capital campaign in the museum’s history, which raised $95 million to renovate existing facilities and build the Margaret M. Walter Wing, a 50,000-square-foot space, doubling the size of the museum.
She helped open the JPMorgan Chase Center for Creativity in 2011, and in 2013, the arts institution was awarded the National Medal, the nation’s highest honor for museums, from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
“During her tenure, she’s increased the capacity and the impact of the Columbus Museum of Art on our community,” said Tom Katzenmeyer, president and chief executive officer of the Greater Columbus Arts Council.
He pointed to the completion of the Walter Wing, which garnered numerous awards, as one of those physical enhancements.
Also, he added, she’s brought blockbuster programming and exhibitions to the museum during that time, citing the venue’s last three major shows (“Art After Stonewall,” “Raggin’ On: The Art of Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson’s House and Journals” and ” Through Vincent’s Eyes: Van Gogh and His Sources”) as examples.
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“She has always been innovative in the exhibitions she’s brought in,” Katzenmeyer said. “That’s been a hallmark of hers. As a museum director, she could’ve just sat back and let things come to her, but she’s always brought innovative things.
“She’s been a part of the larger community and taking down walls in the community.”
Maciejunes has garnered many awards
As a native of the Columbus area who joined the staff of the museum in 1984 as curatorial research assistant, Maciejunes said she couldn’t have thought of a better place to spend most of her career or a way to affect her community.
As she reflects on her career, which also includes an Ohio Governor’s Award for the Arts, she said some of the areas she is most proud are not only the renovations the museum has completed or the personal collections the museum has acquired, but maybe even more so for opportunities such as the Wonder School program to help improve early childhood education or being awarded the National Medal. That is rarely given to art museums as being a good steward of central Ohio.
“Art museums are really good at collecting stuff and taking care of stuff,” said Maciejunes, who is also a member of numerous boards in Columbus. “But that all lays alongside our mission to reach out and serve in the community.”
She said she’s tried to answer this question during her tenure: “As an important part of our civic infrastructure, how does the museum as one of these vital places, engage in the community?”
She hopes her success will further explore that thought.
A nationwide search is underway for Maciejunes’ replacement and the museum’s board of trustees has retained a search firm to help identify the next director. The search committee will be led by museum trustee Pete Scantland and will seek input from a broad range of community leaders and members to aid in the decision.
Maciejunes will remain at the museum until the next director is in place — and she’s certainly not going to vanish entirely from working in the central Ohio arts community.
However, she did say she’d miss the most excitement of running a place such as the Columbus Museum of Art, whether it was a new exhibit opening, a collection being unveiled or a program taking off.
“I think I’ll miss that excitement that helped shape that journey for me,” she said. “Every day was a new challenge, a new opportunity. I’ve never been bored at the museum.”