Current Opportunities


The Smithsonian National Museum of African Art (NMAfA) is the nation’s leading center of scholarly and artistic excellence on the arts of Africa.  Its mission is to inspire conversations about the beauty, power, and diversity of African arts and cultures worldwide. The Museum’s unparalleled collections, exhibitions, programs, publications, and educational initiatives are widely accessible and are strengthened through collaborations with African, diasporic, and global arts communities.

The Museum is an important resource for artists and scholars, and a gateway to African creativity for more than 250,000 individuals of diverse backgrounds, ages, and interests who visit the Museum annually, and millions more who are exposed to the arts of Africa through the Museum’s publications, websites, social media, educational activities and public programs. The Museum is dedicated to the scholarly understanding and public appreciation of Africa’s arts and to the exceptional artists and cultures that have created and nurtured them.

The Museum houses a collection of approximately 11,000 objects from around the continent, and includes the renowned Walt-Disney Tishman African Art Collection.  The collection comprises traditional masks and figural sculpture, musical instruments, textiles and headwear, metalwork, and personal and household objects, as well as important modern and contemporary artworks in all media.

The Museum hosts permanent and changing exhibitions, a full suite of family programs, films, after-hours and special events, and often serves as a venue for visiting African dignitaries and leading figures in arts and culture.  Museum functions include research and study, the acquisition and conservation of collection items, and public engagement through exhibitions, educational programs, and public outreach and engagement that highlight the contributions of African artists.

The Museum has 30 staff, not including guards, gallery attendants, and facilities staff that are provided centrally by the Smithsonian. The staff is supplemented by a loyal group of docents and volunteers, interns, fellows and visiting scholars. The annual operating budget varies from about $7-8M, with federal appropriations providing over $4.5M annually and most of the remainder coming from philanthropic gifts and foundation grants. A small endowment and small revenue stream provide additional funds. The Smithsonian provides an additional $5M or so for facility maintenance, utilities and other costs.


1. Provides the intellectual vision and overall leadership for NMAfA, its staff, supporters and volunteers, and serves as the key communicator for the Museum to the public, the media and other constituencies. Formulates both high level and operation plans for NMAfA to achieve its overall mission, defines program goals, objectives, and priorities, and issues policy guidelines, as appropriate, for program operations and consistent with museum and Smithsonian strategic plans. 

2. Provides executive leadership and direction to all NMAfA departments in the planning, development, and management of museum programs and activities.  Develops and monitors short- and long- range program plans covering all aspects of museum operations, including new acquisitions, collections management, conservation, digitization, and dissemination, fundraising, external affairs, research, publications, exhibits, public service, and facilities management, where applicable.  Makes major policy decisions concerning NMAfA programs, including matters relating to budget, staffing, organization, and facilities. Coordinates closely as needed with the adjacent Sackler Gallery and the Ripley Center on building operations, visitor services and support functions.

3. Develops and maintains standards and criteria for program development and execution.  Reviews and evaluates proposals for new projects and initiatives or major shifts or expansions in existing programs.  Approves or disapproves such proposals, and provides leadership and guidance on improving the proposed programs.  Continually evaluates program operations and initiatives, and directs management studies to achieve improvements.

4. Plans, directs, and is deeply engaged in effective fundraising initiatives to support NMAfA programs and operations.  These efforts involve working closely with the Advisory Board and identifying needs, assigning priorities, and locating potential donors from private, corporate, and foundation sources.  Plans and participates in the Smithsonian’s fundraising campaign activities, coordinates efforts with appropriate Smithsonian leadership and offices, and provides strategies to meet NMAfA fundraising goals.

5. Develops and implements criteria for acquisition of artworks to the collection, and acts to obtain artworks through gift and purchase for the permanent collection.  Seeks advice of the Advisory Board regarding proposed acquisitions that meet threshold criteria for review by the collections committee.  Serves as a principal advisor to the Secretary through the Provost on the acquisition of major new collections.

6. Oversees the development, justification, presentation, allocation, execution, and control of the annual operating budget for the Museum.  Works with subordinate staff to develop budget projections that reflect long-range planning for new and ongoing programs.  Reviews budget justifications for and presentation of proposed budgets to the Smithsonian’s Office of Planning, Management and Budget, the Office of Management and Budget, and the Congress.  Continually evaluates NMAfA operations and services, and initiatives or directs management studies to achieve improvements.

7. Directs and coordinates the activities of the staff.  Develops and implements operating policy, standards, and procedures to assure the continued high quality of staff performance.  Develops and administers policies to achieve management objectives in such areas as staff development, labor management, employee relations, affirmative action, and equal employment opportunity.  Assures that subordinate supervisors effectively carry out their supervisory responsibilities.  Reviews recommendations for personnel actions affecting key subordinates, and acts on major personnel problems referred.  Initiates and directs major studies to improve organization, staffing, and operations.

8. Works closely with the NMAfA Advisory Board, its Chair, Co-Chair, and standing and ad-hoc committees to develop a strategic plan, broad operating objectives and policies, and overall fundraising goals and priorities.  Provides leadership and collaboration in the Advisory Board’s efforts in raising the profile and public awareness of the Museum and in developing national and international constituencies supportive of the Museum and the Smithsonian.  Works closely with the Advisory Board Chair on revisions to the Advisory Board’s by-laws and on the development of appropriate agendas for all board meetings, including meetings of committees.

9. Encourages, explores, and develops joint programs in cooperation with other Smithsonian museums, research and educational organizations such as the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, the Department of Anthropology in the National Museum of Natural History, the Freer|Sackler Galleries, and others as appropriate, especially with regard to those areas identified in the Smithsonian Strategic Plan, as well as with universities, federal organizations, non-Smithsonian museums, and other cultural agencies and organizations in Africa or dealing with Africa’s arts and cultures. Assures NMAfA representation at national and international conferences and meetings, and on national and international art committees.  Renders expert advice and consultation to federal agencies and to professional and other organizations.

10. Works closely with Smithsonian management, fellow directors and various leadership bodies to achieve the Smithsonian’s mission, improve its effectiveness, efficiency and relevance. Attends high level Smithsonian policy meetings and conferences, making significant contributions to the development of Smithsonian policy and priorities. Testifies at Congressional hearings on budget requests and other matters as required.

The Director of the National Museum of African Art will be knowledgeable about Africa and Africa’s arts.  A significant record of senior level professional leadership in a museum, cultural or educational institution and experience with African art collections, curated art exhibitions and/or scholarly publications, and/or public programs is highly desirable. A PhD or equivalent in art history or related field is preferred, but not a requirement.

The successful candidate will have had experience leading a multi-disciplinary, complex organization or a significant department/division within a larger entity, as shown by at least 10 years of experience.  Ideally, the successful candidate will have built a solid, respected reputation in museum, education and/or African art or African studies fields. In addition, he/she will ideally have the following experience, qualifications, and skills:

• LEADERSHIP.  An accomplished professional with executive leadership experience, either within a museum or a comparable setting with a similarly complex organizational structure, culture, constituencies, and constraints.  Must be able to clearly and compellingly articulate a viable, resonating vision that can attract widespread support, and also be comfortable in a large, complex organization that requires creative leadership and collaborative skills to function as both a leader and a collaborator in order to harness the diverse talent within NMAfA as well as among the Smithsonian’s diverse museums, research centers, and education units and other collegial institutions and organizations. Ability to facilitate the creation and execution of workable agendas and serve as an interface within NMAfA as well as between NMAfA, various Smithsonian museums and centers, and central administration. Exhibits strong listening, negotiation, and communication skills to resolve impasses and remove roadblocks as they arise so as to create the conditions that will allow project managers to be successful and operate efficiently. Fosters unity, creativity, and innovation, combined with a willingness to take calculated risks, experiment, evaluate results, and adjust as needed. Prior exposure to and success working effectively within a public/private or quasi-governmental entity is a plus;

• EXPERTISE.  Knowledge of Africa and African art history both traditional and contemporary and the contexts of artistic creativity in Africa and the diaspora is important to function effectively and convincingly in the position. Orientation must allow for inclusion of diverse artists who make African art and the various communities throughout the continent that have nurtured its expressive culture.  Demonstrated ability to connect African art to particular themes and historical contexts in continental and global movements, events, and interactions, especially American, is helpful.  Ability to understand the Institution’s assets and distinctive capabilities in African art, and develop an intellectually coherent and articulate perspective that will attract funding, talent, and institutional partners;

• FUNDRAISING. Ability to set fundraising priorities and strategies. Demonstrated fundraising success and acumen with initiating, developing, and stewarding relationships with board members, individual donors, corporate sponsors, foundations, and government funders;

• PROGRAMMATIC PROWESS. Experience and demonstrated results in well-presenting African art, its aesthetics, contributions, themes and issues through exhibitions, scholarly research, public programming, publications and digital means including websites, applications and social media. Ability to identify and analytically assess elements of NMAfA’s program, work collaboratively with staff, partners and supporters to prioritize, iteratively evaluate, and efficiently enact program plans with a view to serving constituencies, achieving optimal impact, enhancing NMAfA’s reputation and standing, and garnering support and critical acclaim;

• MANAGEMENT. A disciplined, strategic thinker who acts purposefully, collaboratively, and pragmatically to identify and take advantage of resources and opportunities to realize an organization’s fullest potential. Demonstrated experience implementing a strategic plan, evaluating its impact and refining it over time. Experience in managing a professional staff, and a complex, multi-source budget. Able to work effectively with a board and partner with other organizations internally and externally to achieve concrete goals and objectives; 

• PARTNERSHIP. Possesses both the entrepreneurial instincts and the pragmatic skills to define, coordinate and lead collaborative outreach efforts internally and with other museums, organizations and collaborators. Accomplished in engaging business and community leaders, and establishing alliances with other institutions in Africa, the U.S. and other world regions.

• COMMUNICATION. Demonstrated success in developing communication strategies and personally articulate and effective in communicating institutional goals, priorities, and accomplishments, as well as substantive African art content in both private and public settings. Ability to serve as the external face of the Smithsonian and NMAfA, inspiring confidence in its capabilities and building its profile as a distinctive national and international asset and source of public understanding and programming.


Please click on the following link to apply:

Suleyka Lozins

About This Job

  • National Museum of African Art
  • Washington, DC
  • Category: Professional
  • Posted: February 1, 2017