Kaywin Feldman – the first woman to lead the Minneapolis Institute of Arts in its 100-year history – will offer a candid discussion of the challenges facing museums in the 21st century during a free Masters Series lecture at the Toledo Museum of Art on June 4 at 6 p.m.
Feldman’s qualifications on the subject are many. She first became a director, at just 28 years old, of the Fresno Metropolitan Museum of Art, History and Science in California. At a subsequent post as head of the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art in Tennessee, she oversaw the tripling of museum membership, a 35 percent increase in attendance and a $5 million lead gift for a capital campaign.
Declared a “wunderkind” of the museum world by Brian Palmer, former Minneapolis Institute of Arts board chairman, she was brought on to lead that institution in 2008 as director and president. There, she oversees a staff of 250 and a collection of 87,000 fine art objects in a 473,000-square-foot facility once called a “miniature Metropolitan” by a New York Times critic. Under her tenure the MIA had 600,000 visitors in 2013, a record-setting number for the institution.
She works on the national level, as well, as board chair of the 21,000-member American Alliance of Museums, past president of the American Association of Museum Directors and as a newly-appointed board member of National Arts Strategies.
Though she is a passionate advocate for “making art and art museums essential to everyone,” Feldman concedes these institutions will have to be agile as they face the challenges of their second century of existence in the United States.
“I think the fat heyday of so many arts groups in America is over, and we’re going to find fewer organizations and have to work differently for the money we have,” Feldman said in an interview with the Logan Arts Leadership Institute in 2008.
A vital change, according to Feldman, will be making more museums more accessible through free admission. (Both the Minneapolis Institute of Art and the Toledo Museum of Art are free and open to the public.)
“I’m now a big believer that if you want to be a truly accessible institution, you have to be free of charge as an art museum,” Feldman has said. “I’m a big proponent of it […] it’s part of the movement of American art museums from being more of private clubs for wealthy, generous citizens to being more about being community centers where people can gather and learn more about art and culture and humanity and themselves.”
“Kaywin is a phenomenal leader in the art world,” said Toledo Museum of Art Director Brian Kennedy. “We are looking forward to having her share her insights with our audience.”
Since 2011, the Masters Series has brought world-renowned artists, scholars, musicians and others to share their knowledge and talents at the Museum’s Peristyle. The series is sponsored in part by the TMA Ambassadors, a group of active Museum supporters and fundraisers, and Yark Automotive Group.