Timothy Close resigned Tuesday as executive director and CEO of the Museum of Glass after five and a half years in the post.
In a news release, Close said he felt it was time for a change of leadership at the museum, and he wants to return to work at a more general art museum.
Current deputy director Susan Warner, who has a curatorial and art education background, will replace Close temporarily as interim director.
“This is a difficult decision for me, but I feel the timing is right for a leadership change at the Museum of Glass,” said Close in the release. “It has been an honor to serve as the director of MOG. I truly love living in the Pacific Northwest and I have enjoyed working with so many talented artists and generous collectors.”
Board president Stephen Loeb said the board of directors is proud of what Close achieved in his time at the museum, and his resignation is not the result of any internal disagreement.
“We’ve certainly had our challenges, but this is what Tim feels is right for him,” Loeb said.
A photographer in a previous career, the 54-year-old Close came to the Museum of Glass in May 2006 after six years directing the Boise Art Museum, where he brought in exhibits from Dale Chihuly, William Morris and Degas that nearly doubled that institution’s attendance.
In his time in Tacoma, he developed the museum’s current all-glass focus, led MOG to accreditation with the American Association of Museums, worked with the board to establish a fledgling collection including commissions from artists such as Preston Singletary and Martin Blank, established the Leonard and Norma Klorfine gallery and MOG-organized traveling exhibitions, and launched the mobile Hot Shop program, which enables museum glassblowers to travel to schools and community events to demonstrate their art.
“Under Tim’s leadership, the museum experienced impressive growth and development,” said Randy Lert, immediate past chairman of the museum’s board of trustees. “He has a broad understanding of the museum as both a cultural/educational center as well as a destination to promote cultural tourism. … We are very appreciative of Tim’s many achievements and service to the museum.”
During Close’s directorship, however, museum attendance dropped from 163,000 visitors in 2006-07 to 151,000 in 2010-11. Unlike other museums, the Museum of Glass has no endowment, relying heavily on entrance admissions to make up its budget.
Loeb said that while the board is concerned about the drop in attendance, MOG is weathering the poor economy better than some. “A lot of museums would like to be in our situation,” he said.
Attendance could be affected later this year when two large new museums open in the region: the Dale Chihuly glass center, scheduled to open soon at the Seattle Center, and the new LeMay car museum in Tacoma’s Dome district, set to open in June. Both will attract tourists and their dollars.
Loeb, while acknowledging the new competition, isn’t worried.
“Will we get more people coming to see both (the LeMay and the Museum of Glass) than would otherwise come?” Loeb said. “We’re hoping so. It makes Tacoma a full-day trip with more museums.”
Close had taken over the museum directorship from Josi Callan, who had seen the museum through its first five years. Callan left under a cloud in January 2006 after presenting major, nonglass exhibitions.
Loeb said the board has not yet set up a search for a new director or decided what the museum’s goals will be. “We’re still figuring that out,” he said, “though (interim director) Susan Warner will be a part of the team going forward, and we have other talented folk as well.”