WCMA welcomes new director

On Jan. 18, President Falk announced the appointment of Christina Olsen as the next director of the Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA) in an all-campus e-mail. Olsen will begin work on May 1.

Olsen currently serves as the director of education and public programs at the Portland Art Museum. She has previously held positions at the Getty Foundation and Getty Museum in Los Angeles. Olsen said she applied for the position at WCMA because she wanted to work somewhere she could have a large impact in a position of leadership. “WCMA has unique opportunities,” Olsen said. She added that the museum’s proximity to Mass MoCA and the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute provide advantages that are not available in other locations.

Olsen will come to the College with a forward-looking vision for the direction of the museum. “My initial goal is really about learning the collection, getting to know staff and faculty and understanding Williams and its culture better,” she said. “My larger vision is to make the museum matter – to make it an intellectual and social hub for the community. I’d like to see students, faculty and artists deeply involved in many more aspects of the museum.”

She also added that she is interested in learning more about the opportunities available in the Berkshire area, hoping the museum can find ways to connect to the energy and initiatives on campus and in the region. Moreover, she would like to take advantage of not only nearby museums but also other colleagues in the area. “Partnerships are important,” she said.

“I think my principles are really about openness, dialogue and transparency,” Olsen said. “Staying true to those maximizes the museum’s capacity to be a real catalyst for learning and experimentation.”

Falk expressed enthusiasm in regard to Olsen’s appointment. “Tina Olsen is the ideal leader for WCMA at this moment in its history, as it prepares to build on the great achievements of the museum under [former Director] Lisa Corrin’s directorship,” he said. “Tina brings a deep commitment to the educational mission of museums from her time in Portland and an equally impressive collection of achievements from the Getty, where she worked in a museum operating at a global scale. I could not be more excited.”

A committee chaired by Provost and Professor of Philosophy Will Dudley ’89 led the recently completed search for a new WCMA director.

The committee was composed of students, faculty, alumni and staff and was aided by the firm Heidrick & Struggles.

According to Dudley, the search took 10 months from start to finish.

“The committee was looking for candidates with the qualities necessary to lead a great teaching museum,” Dudley said. “Those include knowledge of art, compelling vision of the intersection of academics and the museum, innovative approach to audience engagement and the use of technology and the ability to collaborate with faculty, students and WCMA staff.”

Dudley went on to enumerate the qualities that made Olsen in particular qualified for the position.

“Her experience, intelligence and passion are going to serve WCMA and the Williams community very well,” he said.

When asked to reflect on the move to Williamstown, Olsen said, “I feel excited and a little anxious.” She added that she is moving to the Berkshires with her family, which includes children.

“The other feeling that I have is that there is something very symbolic about moving back to the East coast after such a long time away from it,” Olsen said. She originally grew up in New York. However, she has been living on the West coast for more than 20 years.

Lisa Corrin, the former director of WCMA, left the position last June.

Katy Kline has been serving as interim director since Corrin’s leave and will continue in this position until May.