Reports to: Executive Director / CEO
Summary: The Chief Curator is responsible for directing the curatorial department, overseeing all exhibitions and publications, and developing, managing, and displaying the permanent collection.
Palm Springs Art Museum (PSAM) is an 85-year-old institution with over 12,000 objects in its permanent collection and is two years into a new chapter of its evolution. A new Executive Director / CEO, Adam Lerner, took the helm in July 2021 and the museum has been steadily expanding its staff, operations, collections, and audience. We are looking for someone who wants to work with us to set the direction for exhibitions and collections in this new chapter, helping make a difference in the evolution of our institution and our region. Our vision is to become an institution that is both rigorous and community-oriented, committed to both artistic excellence and widespread participation.
We are looking for a Chief Curator who can incorporate a scholarly commitment to exhibitions and collections within a broader pursuit of the institutional vision, and who can maintain high curatorial standards, while demonstrating a willingness to listen to other team members. The right candidate demonstrates a balance of rigor and openness.
The Chief Curator will build and oversee the curatorial department. They will help establish the rhythm and format of the special exhibition program, curate exhibitions, work with guest curators, and help coordinate the Palm Springs presentation of exhibitions developed by other institutions. They will tend to the permanent collection galleries and work with the Executive Director to update the collections development plan and cultivate collectors and donors on new acquisitions.
We are searching for a Chief Curator with expertise in modern and contemporary art, which represents the largest segment of the museum’s collection and the focus of the exhibition program.
We hope to find someone who expresses their own curatorial voice while allowing others in their department to develop theirs, together embodying the evolving vision and voice of the museum.
We need a Chief Curator who wants to be part of a passionate group determined to do something meaningful for a community, advance an institution in its evolution, and make a difference in both the field and a region.
About Palm Springs Art Museum
The Palm Springs Art Museum has a long and proud tradition as the cultural hub of Southern California’s Coachella Valley. Established in 1938, the same year the city of Palm Springs was incorporated, PSAM has garnered an outsize reputation for the quality of its collections, exhibitions, educational programs, and events. Today, the museum’s permanent collection of more than 12,000 objects is centered around modern and contemporary art, architecture and design, and art of the West in the Americas.
From its earliest days, the city of Palm Springs and its surrounding area have been a magnet for creative people— from the turn of the century, when landscape painters came through to depict the desert, to the midcentury heyday, when Hollywood royalty came to play and modern architecture began to distinguish the area’s character; and to today’s newcomers, who also want to live more freely, openly, and expressively.
Our region—which includes nine cities in the Coachella Valley as well as the High Desert communities around Joshua Tree—has grown significantly over the past decade. The new desert explorers have largely chosen to leave cities and crowded environments to take advantage of the same attributes that have attracted newcomers to the area for generations: the distinctive light, majestic mountains, easy lifestyle, and open spaces that let the mind wander and creativity to ensue.
In the desert, newcomers find a robust LGBTQ+ community and a diverse population that includes several sovereign Indigenous Native American tribes, a large Mexican/Latinx population, and a significant African American community. Even freedom of gender expression took early root in Palm Springs and continues to be part of the mosaic. The museum is committed to greater inclusion and representation of these communities.
The museum is fortunate to be in good health, with robust visitation, strong financials, and a motivated board and staff. The community is showing up at capacity numbers every day, with visitation significantly greater than pre-COVID levels. Many of our most generous and reliable supporters are contributing with a renewed sense of purpose.
PSAM’s physical presence comprises more than 130,000 square feet of space, including our main campus designed by architect E. Stewart Williams in the heart of downtown Palm Springs, as well as the other architectural gems: the Frey House II, the forthcoming Aluminaire building, and the Architecture and Design Center, situated in a historically significant modernist building in downtown Palm Springs. In addition to its 23 gallery spaces, our main building includes a beautiful, 428-seat theater, as well as a bistro and educational spaces. PSAM is also the steward of the Palm Desert Faye Sarkowsky Sculpture Garden.
In addition to its permanent collection, the museum houses over 50,000 items in special collections, comprising archival and other materials, such as architectural drawings, photographs, historical objects, and ephemera directly related to the collection. These special collections serve as primary source material for the museum’s curators and for researchers.
The Museum has approximately 100 paid employees and almost 200 volunteers, with an annual operating budget of approximately $9 million.
The museum launched a Chief Curator search in spring 2022 and paused it in fall 2022 when it hired Sharrissa Iqbal, PhD, as Associate Curator of Modern and Contemporary. Sharrissa is co-curating the museum’s 2024 Getty Pacific Standard Time exhibition.
Areas of Oversight
Working with the Executive Director, coordinating with colleagues, and executing an evolving institutional vision, the Chief Curator will oversee:
• The temporary exhibition program, including strategy, format and schedule.
• The permanent collection galleries.
• Development of the museum collections, including accessioning and deaccessioning, and loans.
• The curatorial department, including management of staff, budgets, and policies.
Temporary Exhibition Program and Permanent Collection Installations
• Research and propose exhibitions for museum presentation, including both traveling and internally developed exhibitions.
• Oversee the development of exhibitions.
• Draft content and collaborate with education team to produce labels, brochures, and text panels.
• Manage the display of art in permanent collection galleries.
• Devise collection development plans.
• Lead the collection acquisition and deaccession process, following a strategic vision for evolving the collection over time.
• Work with the Executive Director to cultivate collectors and attract gifts to the museum.
• Oversee acquisition funding strategies, including working with board members, collectors, and other members of the community.
• Field prospective donations to the permanent collection.
• Oversee and conduct research on the permanent collection.
Curatorial Department and Institutional Responsibilities
• Collaborate with the Executive Director and other curators to develop and refine a vision for the temporary exhibition program, permanent collection galleries, and museum collections.
• Working with the Executive Director, other curators, and collections & exhibitions department, develop and oversee the annual curatorial and exhibition budgets.
• Serve as content authority for the art of the museum, working with staff, board members volunteers, and press.
• In coordination with the collections & exhibitions department, maintain departmental records related to acquisitions, deaccessions, exhibitions, and archives.
• Work with the development department to develop financial support for exhibitions and permanent collection and provide content for grant applications and funding proposals.
• Work with collections & exhibitions department to oversee the collection management policy.
• Draft content and collaborate with marketing and publicity colleagues to produce text for press announcements, website, and other collateral materials.
• Lead Board of Trustee’s Collections and Exhibitions Committee meetings.
• Perform other duties as needed on behalf of the institution.
Maintain a balance of quality and relevance in the exhibition program, working to ensure that the program has energy, authenticity, scholarly integrity, diversity, and accessibility.
Provide original insight in articulating the evolving purpose of the museum’s collections.
Support the museum’s commitment to diversity, equity, access, and inclusion in every dimension of the job, including programming, staffing, and workplace environment.
Advocate for art and artists on the leadership team, while respecting the mix of interests and other factors that determine museum activities.
Demonstrate empathy to others with different levels of experience while representing the museum’s commitment to art and expertise.
Demonstrate respect for the expertise of colleagues in all areas of the museum, embracing the professional capabilities of those in other departments, such as education, public relations, visitor services, and fundraising.
Who Should Apply
Qualified candidates will have a passion for art and community-building and believe in the capacity for art and art museums to change people’s lives and impact the health of communities.
The successful candidate will be both a strategic and nurturing leader. They will have the ability to set clear expectations and priorities, delegate and manage appropriately, and take a professional and analytic approach to all issues. The candidate will also be an inclusive leader, interested in a wide range of perspectives, and capable of uniting a team around a shared vision. This individual should be willing to mentor others, foster growth throughout the organization, and help nurture a culture of kindness and empathy.
The Chief Curator will have the ability to establish a rapport with people across the entire museum network, including board members, docents, volunteers, community leaders, donors, students, and families.
The Chief Curator will have excellent interpersonal and communication skills and demonstrate a willingness to collaborate with others across all levels of the institution and community. They will exemplify the values the museum aims to promote, which include being inclusive, authentic, open-minded, respectful, and creative.
Qualified candidates will demonstrate a commitment to antiracism and the values of diversity and equity. They will exemplify the museum’s ambition to represent all segments of our diverse community in all our activities.
Qualifications and Requirements:
• Minimum 10 years of curatorial experience.
• Minimum 5 years working with a permanent collection.
• Excellent verbal and writing communication skills.
• Advanced degree in arts, humanities, or social sciences.
• Strong email, calendar, Microsoft Office, and Google Apps skills.
• Strong research, budgeting, and communications skills.
• Efficient general computer, social media, and internet savviness.
• Excellent time management and organizational skills.
• Attention to detail, punctuality, and top-tier reliability.
• Proactive work ethic and drive to push tasks and projects forward with minimal handholding.
• Ability to learn quickly and adapt in an ever-changing environment.
• Adaptable and versatile to changing circumstances and situations.
Compensation and Benefits:
The salary range for this position is $145,000 - $155,000. The Museum also provides a competitive benefits package, including medical and dental insurance (HMO and PPO options), vision, life insurance, and Aflac options. After six months employees are eligible to participate in the 401 (k) plan. We also offer vacation pay, generous paid holidays and paid sick leave, as well as free membership in the Museum.
Commitment to Diversity, Equity, Access and Inclusion:
Palm Springs Art Museum strives to create an inclusive, equitable, and welcoming environment that honors all experiences and identities. We are committed to attracting and retaining a diverse staff and are looking for a candidate that represents the diversity of our staff, visitors and community.
Qualified candidates should submit a letter of introduction and resume or CV to firstname.lastname@example.org, with Chief Curator in the subject line. The position will remain open until filled. All applications received by June 16 will be fully reviewed.
Number of people supervised: 2-3
Positions supervised: N/A
Classification: Full time, Exempt
Revision date: April 2023