OC Museum of Art Appoints Heidi Zuckerman as CEO and Director

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

The Orange County Museum of Art (OCMA) has been painting a masterpiece—its new 53,000-square-foot facility taking shape adjacent to the Segerstrom Performing Arts Center will have nearly 25,000 square feet of exhibition galleries, about 50 percent more than in OCMA’s former longtime location in Newport Beach.

The groundbreaking for OCMA’s new home took place on Sept. 20, 2019. It was originally scheduled to open this year, but is now on track to open in mid-2022.

The museum took another step forward this week when it announced that Heidi Zuckerman had been appointed to serve as its new CEO and Director, starting in February.

Heidi Zuckerman. Photo by Karl Wolfgang

According to information from OCMA, Zuckerman is a globally recognized leader in contemporary art and previously served as CEO and Director of the Aspen Art Museum. She was selected through an international search conducted by members of the OCMA Board of Trustees and will succeed Todd D. Smith, who led the Museum from August 2014 until his departure last summer.

Zuckerman will start at OCMA on February 8, 2021.

“Heidi is an innovative and inspiring museum leader who combines a deep love for art and artists with an exceptional record of leading museums to be entrepreneurial, vibrant, and sustainable,” said Craig Wells, the Co-Chair of the search committee and OCMA Board Chair. “The programmatic vision she has articulated for the Museum combined with her deep and proven experience in institutional growth make her exceptionally qualified to lead OCMA.”

“OCMA has always been ahead of its time, from its founding by 13 women to its historically important and trend-predicting exhibition program,” Zuckerman said. “Among the many other things the past year did, it freed our thinking about how people can engage with art. I believe together we can design a museum experience that responds in an ongoing way to the needs of the moment.”

Zuckerman has a terrific track record. She served as CEO and Director of the Aspen Art Museum from 2005 to 2019. She led the revitalization and re-imagination of the organization as a world-class institution, securing more than $130 million in investments, creating a highly acclaimed new museum building with Pritzker Prize-winning architect Shigeru Ban, and working with the Board to recast the institution’s mission and vision.

She also developed the Aspen Art Museum’s first multi-year strategic plan, devised successful strategies and initiatives for increased investment, audience growth, and financial stability, and achieved budget surpluses every year.

As CEO and Director of OCMA, Zuckerman will take charge of all aspects of the Museum’s far-reaching programs, including completion of its new home at Segerstrom Center for the Arts, designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Thom Mayne of Morphosis.

Zuckerman has curated more than 200 museum exhibitions, and has emphasized the importance of communicating contemporary art to the public in a way that is accessible and engaging.

Rendering of the new OCMA facility at Segerstrom Center fort the Arts

Engaging the public has been an important aspect of the Orange County Museum of Art throughout its nearly six-decade history.

The Orange County Museum of Art was founded in 1962 as the Balboa Pavilion Gallery by 13 visionary women. With a focus on modern and contemporary art, their efforts garnered the museum national recognition.

By 1968 the institution became known as the Newport Harbor Art Museum, and in 1972 moved to a larger location. Interest and support continued to grow, as did its collections and exhibitions, and in 1977 the museum opened its doors in a new building in Newport Center.

In 1997, the museum was remodeled and renamed the Orange County Museum of Art. The Museum 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 to more than 35 museums. 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.

Recognizing the growing influence of the Pacific Region within Southern California and the art world in general, 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.

The Museum’s current facility in South Coast Plaza Village is temporarily closed due to government restrictions, but when it is allowed to reopen, visitors will find myriad exciting examples of what’s in store for OCMA visitors once the new venue opens.

For more information, visit www.ocma.art.

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