President and Chief Operating Officer
The Brooklyn Museum (BkM) seeks a strategic executive with a record of successfully managing organizational growth to become its next President and Chief Operating Officer (COO). The Museum is committed to a vision of art as a powerful engine for social impact, connecting in-person and virtual visitors with compelling content that opens hearts and minds and advances opportunity and equity. This new leader will serve as a key driver of that vision and oversee ambitious plans for growth throughout the Museum. Reporting to the Director, the President will share in the leadership of the Museum as a whole and will have direct responsibility for strategic planning and execution, finance, facilities and operations, business development, legal affairs, and government relations.
The President will serve as a trusted counselor to the Director. The two will work closely together to set strategic goals for sustainability and growth as the Museum serves ever larger and more diverse audiences and fulfills its mission as an agent of social change.
Isaacson, Miller, the national executive search firm, has been retained to support the Museum in this consequential search. Confidential inquiries, nominations, and applications may be directed to the firm as indicated at the end of this document.
ABOUT THE BROOKLYN MUSEUM
The Brooklyn Museum is one of the nation’s largest, oldest, and most innovative art museums. With roots extending back to 1825, the Brooklyn Museum is a major attraction in New York City. In 2019, the Museum welcomed 725,000 in-person visitors—nearly double the audience of just a few years earlier. Their encyclopedic collection represents more than 5,500 years of artistic creativity, housed in a grand 560,000-square-foot Beaux-Arts building designed by McKim, Mead & White and owned by the City of New York. The Museum has collections that are generally acknowledged to be among the highest quality in any museum anywhere, including the ancient Egyptian and African collections; the Arts of the Americas collection containing pre-contact material culture, Spanish colonial painting, and Native American art and objects; nineteenth- and early twentieth-century American painting, sculpture, and decorative arts; and the Arts of Asia and the Islamic World collections. The Museum is also home to the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, the only such museum center of its kind.
The Brooklyn Museum is a private 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization governed by a 52-member Board of Trustees. The Museum has a total operating budget of roughly $41.5 million, employs over 300 total staff, and is supported by an endowment of approximately $160 million.
Always an innovator, the Brooklyn Museum has been egalitarian since its beginning as the Brooklyn Apprentices Library Association. Before the advent of free public education in New York City, the Association provided men who were unemployed, or otherwise in need, with a broad range of academic and vocational workforce skills. Evolving into a museum of fine arts, the Museum has launched many firsts, from artist shows, to being the first art museum in the United States to institute a formal education program, an in-house conservation department, and a photography school; build a large-scale collection of Korean art; and mount a major survey of African art.
The Museum’s mission is to create inspiring encounters with art that expand the ways we see ourselves, the world, and its possibilities. The vision is to serve as an institution where great art and courageous conversations are catalysts for a more connected and a more socially just world. Celebrating differences and learning about diverse communities through the lens of art collections, exhibitions, and programming is at the core of the Brooklyn Museum’s purpose. To learn more about the Museum’s mission visit https://www.brooklynmuseum.org/about.
Social Action Strategy
With the creation of its Social Action Strategy, the Brooklyn Museum is deepening its commitment to social justice as a core element of its vision. This plan is inspired by the recognition that Brooklyn, New York City, and the world deserve a great cultural institution that is bold and ambitious enough to embrace the challenge of going beyond social consciousness to become a potent agent of change. Internally, the Museum advances equity through its dedication to transparency and empowerment of its diverse leadership team and staff. The Brooklyn Museum has committed to a sustained, multiyear effort to engage its audiences with issues that reflect urgent global themes, with serious implications for the Museum’s neighborhoods and city, and communities everywhere.
This commitment goes beyond one-off exhibitions, programs, and projects to a fully integrated and in-depth approach to making and measuring change. In executing the Social Action Strategy, the Museum will identify relevant indicators of success and investigate methodologies for continually assessing the impact of the Museum’s work, ensuring clear-eyed appraisal and ongoing adjustments to achieve the Museum’s ambitious goals.
Since 2015, Anne Pasternak has served as the Shelby White and Leon Levy Director of the Brooklyn Museum. Anne has devoted her 30-year career to engaging broad audiences with the limitless power of art to move and motivate. As a staunch advocate for the civic and democratic roles our cultural and educational institutions can play, she has conceived and championed projects that demonstrate the crucial links between art and social justice.
During her time at the Brooklyn Museum, Anne has focused on strengthening the Museum as a center for the visual arts that is courageous and inspirational, and fortifying the Museum’s financial foundation. With her generative imagination and insightful enthusiasm, she envisions and encourages new ways to link the Brooklyn Museum’s historical collections with contemporary ideas and pressing issues, including reactivated galleries that connect the conversations of today to collections of the past. Since Anne became Director, the Museum’s educational and public program offerings have expanded, and she has fostered remarkable special exhibitions, including The Legacy of Lynching: Confronting Racial Terror in America; We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965–85; Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power; and popular exhibitions such as David Bowie is and Studio 54: Night Magic.
THE CURRENT MOMENT
After closing to the public in March 2020 due to COVID-19, the Museum promptly pivoted to provide virtual content, began new community service initiatives, and planned for public art projects that expanded its mission outside the gallery walls. The Museum piloted new rapid-response online resources for students and teachers, created digital collections tours and videos, and gave away 3,500 backpacks containing an assortment of art-making supplies and creative activities for children. Relief efforts were also a priority, from sending supplies to New York’s hospitals, to partnering with the Campaign Against Hunger to operate a weekly food bank. The Museum worked with the New York City Census team to make sure community members were being counted on-site, supported voter registration efforts, and served as a polling site for local elections, as it has done for many years. A new Community Task Force was established to maintain an ongoing dialogue and fortify critical partnerships with the Museum’s immediate neighbors.
Virtual programming stimulated by the pandemic has begun to extend the Museum’s digital reach, which is now nearly two million people and growing. The Brooklyn Museum reopened its physical space in September 2020 with a socially distanced outdoor party to bring the community together as well as a robust slate of exciting exhibitions. In 2021, the Museum welcomed four new senior staff positions to the leadership team: Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Access (DEIA); Chief of Staff and Chief Legal Officer; Deputy Director for Art; and Deputy Director for Learning and Social Impact. The new executive staffing structure deepens the leadership bench and strengthens the connections among all departments at the Museum. The Museum has created an additional cabinet-level position of Deputy Director for Engagement as another crucial step to reinforce a collaborative internal environment and fulfill the Museum’s commitment to be a sector leader in inventing a compelling audience engagement strategy.
Coming out of the pandemic with greater strengths and expanded dreams, the Museum has begun the work of creating its next five-year strategic plan. The current strategic plan, initiated in 2017, focused on building a stable foundation from which to set ambitious goals for growth and impact. The Brooklyn Museum will observe its 200th anniversary in 2025, and this monumental anniversary will serve as both a celebration and a call to action for the Museum’s bold vision for art as an engine for social change.
Reporting to the Director, the President and COO will serve as the executive responsible for the Museum’s overall achievement of its strategic and business goals. The President and COO will work closely with the Director to set goals for sustainability and growth, and will oversee the implementation of successful Museum-wide actions to ensure the goals are achieved. Establishing and maintaining a close partnership with the Director is vital. The two roles work in tandem to raise organizational aspirations and steepen the trajectory of the Museum’s growth. A measure of success for this relationship will be maintaining the time and space for the Director to concentrate her energy on creative vision and donor cultivation, without being mired in operations. The President and COO must be a big-picture thinker with the seasoned expertise necessary to complement an ambitious vision with measurement, accountability, and skilled management. It will be essential for the President and COO to participate in imagining the future of the Museum, but also to have a firm grip on the transactional steps that are required to realize that future.
The President and COO serves as the conductor of numerous moving parts across a complex matrixed organization. It is imperative to be a grounded listener, a transparent leader, and a promoter of collaboration and cooperation. As a thoughtful problem solver, the President is responsible for leading the management of all operations and business matters with the support of the senior leadership team.
The person in this role will be forward-thinking, a proven champion of culture change, and someone who recognizes that sound business practices and social justice are not at odds with each other. Having a balanced perspective and the ability to successfully execute large-scale projects while managing the overall operations of an organization, are assets for success in this role. The President will foster a healthy, equitable, and nimble culture and lead a high-performing and diverse workforce.
While some members of the Museum’s executive team report directly to the Director, the President and COO has overall oversight for the budget, operations, and workforce of the Museum as a whole. The following positions report directly to the President: Chief of Staff and Chief Legal Officer; Director of Finance; and Director of Facilities and Operations. The Deputy Director for Art, the Deputy Director for Engagement, and the Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Access will report jointly to the President and the Director.
OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES
The overarching goal for the next President and COO, in concert with the Director and colleagues throughout the Museum, will be to build and execute a strategy that will maximize growth of the Museum’s audiences, strengthen the Museum’s infrastructure (from systems to technology and the physical campus), bolster financial foundations, support the social justice mission, and ensure the Museum’s long-term sustainability. The new President will bring a deep understanding of the intersection of mission and market. They will be a key advisor, confidant, and partner to the Director in leading the Museum to new heights of engagement and social impact. Specific challenges and opportunities for the President and COO include the following:
Define and lead achievement of strategic goals throughout the Museum
In close consultation with the Director, the Board, and the leadership team, the President will create and execute a comprehensive approach to achieve the goals outlined in the next strategic plan. The strategic plan will aim to strengthen the Museum’s financial performance, establish the Museum’s reputation as the most welcoming, inclusive, and invigorating museum in the world, and achieve worldwide recognition of BkM’s leadership in making art a vehicle for social change. The goals in the plan will be ambitious, measurable, and achievable. The President will take the lead in developing and overseeing the actions necessary to achieve the Museum’s strategic goals. The President will leverage the new cabinet structure of the leadership team to increase collaboration across the Museum and efficiency in decision-making. It will be a priority to track progress and set a brisk but manageable pace to keep the Museum moving forward.
The 200th anniversary in 2025 creates a unique opportunity to build momentum around the Museum’s growth strategy. The President will serve as the lead in overall project management for capital improvements timed with the anniversary to increase the Museum’s capacity and the quality of the visitor experience. Anticipated projects include a renovation of the education department, creation of a permanent space for the African arts collection, and critical functional improvements to the building envelope. Experience in complex project management will be a key factor in supporting the facilities and operations staff during this time of increased activity. The successful completion of the capital improvements will provide critical support for the achievement of the goals of the next strategic plan.
Fortify the Museum’s finances
In recent years, the Museum has gone to great lengths to improve the budget process, tighten expense management, and increase income to reduce a long-time structural deficit. The President and COO must instill a habit of financial rigor and best practices in financial management. Though significant improvements have been made, Museum resources are not as abundant as those of the very richest museums, and never will be. The President and COO will have strong financial acumen and a record of deploying limited resources for maximum results. Success on the financial front will require growth in audience, increased earned revenue, and continued prudent management of expenses. A business-savvy approach that is grounded in the values and vision of the Museum will be essential for the new President.
Champion social impact and DEIA for the Museum and the greater community
In both direct leadership and through their support of the Director of DEIA and the Deputy Director for Learning and Social Impact, the President and COO will ensure social impact is a core element in all of the Museum’s operations and a measure of success in evaluation of fulfilling the mission. By embracing the Social Action Strategy, the President and COO will lead with these values in their work, both internally and externally. It will be critical to model and prioritize how diversity, equity, inclusion, and access are infused in decision-making across the Museum. The President and COO will be attentive to aligning the Museum’s resources with its values and priorities.
Develop entrepreneurial partnerships with like-minded organizations
To both expand the Museum’s impact and increase resources, current organizational relationships must be deepened, and there are opportunities for new potential partnerships, locally, nationally, and internationally. The President and COO will have an enterprising approach and attention to detail to negotiate partnerships that are beneficial to the Museum and further its mission. The President and COO is a prominent external face of the Museum and key in independently establishing relationships and supporting the Director in her partnership work. An ability to think strategically and creatively, and an ability to balance innovation and appropriate risk will be critical. The President will be encouraged to engage with a wide variety of entities across fields of business including fashion, media, sports, education, and the arts. In addition, current and future relationships with government agencies will be shepherded by the President and COO. Leaning into the growth mindset of the Museum’s next strategic phase will mean the leveraging of collaborations to increase the Museum’s visibility and influence across multiple fields and audiences.
Lead and develop a high-performing team and ensure ongoing excellence
The President and COO will direct a team of highly skilled and steadfastly committed senior staff. The President and COO will demonstrate a full understanding of and respect for the team’s work in connection to strategic priorities and will promote cohesion and an actively shared excitement for future possibilities. The successful candidate will provide guidance and support as needed to their direct reports, ensuring that high standards of excellence are maintained throughout the organization. The ability to manage and delegate large projects with clear lines of communication will be essential to increase collaboration and efficiency. The President and COO will also continually seek opportunities for all staff to stretch and grow as they expand the reach and influence of the Museum’s mission.
The Brooklyn Museum’s President and COO will have a distinguished track record of success leading a comparably large and complex organization. The search committee is interested in candidates whose experience and management expertise has been honed in any number of fields, including not only civic sector organizations but also a wide range of business enterprises. The successful candidate will exhibit both entrepreneurial drive and personal humility. The President will be a consummate colleague with an inconspicuous ego but the confidence and dynamic energy to execute a bold strategy.
While no one person will possess all of them, the successful candidate will bring many of the following attributes:
- A deep understanding of and excitement for the Museum’s mission and belief in the power of art as an engine for positive social change
- A track record of advancing diversity, equity, inclusion, and access throughout an organization
- A habit of thinking big and the ability to determine plans for implementation of bold new ideas
- Experience in large-scale project management including capital improvements
- Success in establishing mutually beneficial partnerships with external organizations, including businesses and government agencies; an expert negotiator; legal experience is a plus
- Strong financial management record, on both the income and expense sides of the ledger; demonstrated ability to strategically deploy limited resources for the greatest impact
- Demonstrated success in leading and inspiring a team, fostering cross-departmental collaboration, communication, and collective accountability
- A flexible and nimble management style, and the agility to rethink and restructure as circumstances shift
- A commitment to transparency and consultation, coupled with decisiveness when consensus is elusive
- Highly attuned interpersonally, including the ability to build and sustain relationships of mutual reliance and genuine camaraderie; a trusted advisor
- Experience with a unionized workforce, and familiarity with the New York City political and civic ecosystem are desirable, but not essential
- A calming demeanor, personal resilience, and a sense of humor are required
INQUIRIES, NOMINATIONS, AND APPLICATIONS
Confidential inquiries, nominations, referrals, and applications (including résumés and brief letters of interest) should be sent electronically to the following:
Lisa Savereid, Partner
Karen Avery, Partner
Ryan Leichenauer, Senior Associate
The Brooklyn Museum is an equal opportunity employer and does not discriminate in employment opportunities or practices on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, citizenship, age, disability, military or veteran status, sexual orientation, genetic information, gender identity or expression, or any other characteristic protected by law.