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Anne-Marie Russell named executive director of SMOA

Currently the executive director of Museum of Contemporary Art, Tucson, Russell starts May 1

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  • | 12:00 a.m. March 10, 2015
Anne-Marie Russell will use a bevy of contemporary art leadership toward opening SMOA
Anne-Marie Russell will use a bevy of contemporary art leadership toward opening SMOA
  • Arts + Culture
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The growing vessel of the Sarasota Museum of Art (or SMOA) finally has a captain. 

The Ringling College of Art & Design announced today that Anne-Marie Russell has accepted the head position of Sarasota's newest art museum. With major construction still ongoing on the Historic Sarasota High School, Russell's appointment will add some much needed leadership to have SMOA ready for eager art enthusiasts for the institution's scheduled early 2016 opening.

Russell's experience and decades of art programming will no doubt assist SMOA's mission to become Sarasota's premiere purveyor of contemporary and modern art. She is currently the executive director of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Tucson (MOCA) and will leave that post for a May 1 start date here later this spring.

"Anne-Marie Russell has ample experience in contemporary art and museums," says Larry R. Thompson, president of Ringling College of Art and Design, "but more importantly she has the entrepreneurial spirit and experience with starting up museums and re-adpating buildings for contemporary art."

Thompson and Sarasota Museum of Art/SMOA president Wendy G. Surkis led a months-long national search for SMOA's inaugural executive director. From a large pool and numerous Skype interviews with Thompson and Surkis, four finalists were selected for the position. The finalists visited Sarasota in late January for a day and took a tour of the under construction Historical Sarasota High School as well as meeting with the overall search committee, the executive committee of the Ringling College, and the executive committee of SMOA. To Thompson and Surkis, Russell was the perfect match for SMOA.

President of Ringling College Larry R. Thompson and SMOA  president Wendy G. Surkis are excited for Russell's arrival
President of Ringling College Larry R. Thompson and SMOA president Wendy G. Surkis are excited for Russell's arrival

"She's intelligent and bursting with energy, and she has a keen understanding of international and contmeporary art and has established global relaltionships," says Surkis. "She understands the importance of broad community engagement, and what was solid was that she has successfully taken and built an art museum from the group up." 

And Russell is excited and ready to raise and build up another new museum in Sarasota. "I'm so impressed by the community and its cultural appreciation and individual curiosity," says Russell. "The first order is to get to know the community, and as we prepare to open in 2016 build the museum according to the structure of building adn to build art programming."

Russell has a bachelor's degree in anthropology from the University of Colorado and a master's degree in art history from the University of Arizona. An avid artist herself, Russell has created and crafted feature-length documentaries on Vik Muniz and Salvatore Scarpitta. Before leading the artistic programming at MOCA, Russell was an adjunct art professor at the University of Arizona, co-founder of Mixed Greens, a organization based in New York devoted to advocating and promoting new works by artists and filmmakers, and was resident faculty at the prestigious Christie's Auction House in New York City. 

But what really stood out on Russell's background was her accomplishments at MOCA. Since joining the Arizona museum in 2003, Russell created several streams of revenue and corporate partnerships to ensure the museum financial foundation and stability. In addition, Russell readapted three facilities for museum use, stimulated economic development in the Tucson community, and participated in the grant-making Warhol Initiative and increased overall grant opportunities for artists. And most importantly for SMOA (a division of Ringling College), Russell initiated over 75 educational programming events annually as well as numerous large, site-specific art installations by national and internatinal artists. 

“The main thing we want to do for this new museum is to present globally rich art and programming that's rooted in teh community," says Russell. "And museums are educational institutions but partenering on so many different levels with the Ringling College of Art and Design will just foster a cycle of inspiration between the institution, the featured artists and the students."


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