Longtime OC Museum of Art CEO Departs

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Todd Smith

Todd DeShields Smith, Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Orange County Museum of Art (OCMA), is leaving the Museum to be Executive Director of the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art in Charlotte, North Carolina. Smith previously served in various capacities at museums in North Carolina, South Carolina and North Dakota, among others.

The announcement was made on Friday, July 10, by OCMA Board of Trustees Chair, Craig W. Wells.

Smith joined OCMA as Director and CEO in 2014, when the OC Museum of Art was still located in Newport Beach, where it had been for several decades.

During his six-year tenure, he oversaw major initiatives including the sale of the former OCMA site in Newport Beach, the museum’s move to a temporary location in Santa Ana under the refreshed “OCMAEXPAND” branding, the design of its new, award-winning 53,000 sq. ft. building currently under construction at Segerstrom Center for the Arts, and the raising of substantial funding for the new OCMA home.

Rendering of Orange County Museum of Art to be built at Segerstrom Center for the Arts

In announcing Smith’s departure, Wells said: “Todd has done a wonderful job guiding OCMA through this period of significant change to realize our vision of building a new museum. He leaves behind a strong leadership legacy – establishing OCMA as a major cultural institution dedicated to modern and contemporary art, with a strong focus on living artists of the Pacific Rim region; developing valued community and donor relationships for the museum; and leaving in place a talented and engaged team. The Board thanks Todd for his leadership and wishes him success in his new role.”

Said, Smith: “My time with OCMA in Orange County has been a highlight of my career. To be a part of this adventure with completion of the new OCMA Museum within sight is a success in which everyone I have worked with can share, from OCMA’s Board of Trustees, donors, volunteers, and especially the talented and hardworking leadership team now in place. I look forward to returning to Segerstrom Center and celebrating the opening of what will be the stunning Thom Mayne-designed Orange County Museum of Art.”

The OCMA Board of Trustees has formed a search committee and engaged an executive recruitment firm to conduct the search for the museum’s next Director and CEO.

In the interim, Sarah Jesse, currently deputy director of OCMA, will step in as Interim Director and CEO. OCMA Trustee, Annette Wiley, FAIA, Principal/Owner of Wiley Architects, and Chair of the OCMA Building Committee, will continue oversight for construction of the new museum, which broke ground in September of 2019.

About the Orange County Museum of Art

In May 2018, OCMA unveiled the design for the museum’s new home at Segerstrom Center for the Arts by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Thom Mayne of Morphosis. The museum broke ground in 2019, with a projected opening in late 2021.

With nearly 25,000 square feet of exhibition galleries, the new 53,000-sq.ft. museum will allow OCMA to organize major special exhibitions alongside spacious installations from its world-traveled collection. It will also feature an additional 10,000 sq. ft. for education programs, performances, and public gatherings.

Rendering of the new OCMA building at Segerstrom Center for the Arts

OCMA has an established reputation as an innovative art museum with a history of actively discovering and engaging with living artists at pivotal points in their careers. The museum has organized and presented critically praised exhibitions that have traveled nationally and internationally.

The museum’s collection of more than 4,500 works of art includes important examples of modern and contemporary art and artists inspired by or working in California, including: John Baldessari, Chris Burden, Vija Celmins, Bruce Conner, Richard Diebenkorn, Robert Irwin, Catherine Opie, Charles Ray, and Ed Ruscha.

In recent years the museum has broadened its focus to include artists of the Pacific Rim, transforming its biennial series into the California-Pacific Triennial, the first in the world to examine the totality of contemporary art from Pacific Rim.

In the last five years, OCMA has featured works by artists from 23 Pacific Rim countries, including Australia, Cambodia, Canada, China, Colombia, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, South Korea, and Vietnam.

As one of the preeminent visual arts organizations in Orange County, OCMA is committed to making the arts accessible to all and offers a host of programs that engage the community with modern and contemporary art and artists.

Admission to the temporary OCMAEXPAND museum is free. It is located in South Coast Plaza Village. Visit www.ocmaexpand.org for updated hours and COVID-19 restrictions.

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