Tacoma is losing its art museum director to Washington, D.C.
Stephanie Stebich, executive director of Tacoma Art Museum since 2005, has been appointed director of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Smithsonian announced Tuesday. Stebich will take up her new post April 3.
“I am honored to have been chosen to lead the national museum of American art in our nation’s capital,” Stebich said in a news release. “I am eager to tell the inspiring stories of American art through the museum’s phenomenal collections and dynamic programs. I look forward to working with the museum’s talented staff and the other directors of Smithsonian museums.”
Stebich came to Tacoma Art Museum at a time of pivotal change for the museum as it segued from a small regional collection to an institution hosting and organizing major national exhibitions and greatly expanding its physical footprint. Arriving just after the museum moved to its current, Antoine Predock-designed building, Stebich has overseen major increases in collection and size. That includes the $20 million Haub wing and gift of Western art; more than 2,000 new works in the collection, including the largest museum collection of glass by Dale Chihuly; and most recently a planned expansion to house the Benaroya family gift of major Northwest art.
Exhibition highlights of her term as director include traveling shows by Norman Rockwell and Georgia O’Keeffe, Matika Wilbur’s “Project 562” and “Art AIDS America” and “Hide/Seek,” both of which gained the museum national attention for art about homosexuality and AIDS. During Stebich’s tenure the museum doubled its endowment to over $35 million, and received grants from organizations such as the National Endowment for the Arts and Andy Warhol Foundation.
“Stephanie brings a wealth of experience to the directorship of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, having served in leadership roles in major and regional museums across America,” said Smithsonian secretary David Skorton. “She has the knowledge, skill and stellar reputation that will enable her to build upon and extend the museum’s marvelous success in the years ahead.”
“We’re sad (about her leaving), but understanding,” said Tacoma Art Museum board president Steve Harlow. “Stephanie has a tremendous legacy, but the most transformative things are that we are now the (top) museum for Pacific Northwest art, we are in the top five museums for Western art, and thanks to recent gifts like the Benaroya, Chihuly and Marioni, we are in the top five for American studio glass.”
Harlow said guidelines were already in place for a search for Stebich’s successor, beginning with forming a search committee comprised of the board president and vice president, plus up to four trustees and four community members “with an emphasis on diversity.” The committee will then hire a search consultant around the end of April.
Mark Holcomb, former senior vice president of business services at Goodwill (Olympics and Rainier region), has been appointed as interim executive director, the museum announced Wednesday. A native Tacoman with a masters degree in organizational development and bachelor’s degree in international business from the University of Washington, Holcomb begins work immediately.
“Mark brings a wealth of organizational development and growth management expertise,” said Harlow. “He is a friendly and open leader with a proven track record in team engagement. We are delighted that he has joined the team and confident in his ability to maintain the museum’s positive momentum as the search committee seeks the right long-term fit for this role.”
“I am so pleased to step into the interim executive director role at TAM,” said Holcomb. “The organization is well-run, so my role will be to steward that success during the search for a new executive director…I’ll also have the exciting prospect of learning more about Northwest art and artists.”
The Smithsonian American Art Museum holds one of the largest collections of American art in the world, with works by more than 7,000 artists from the colonial period to the present. It supports major exhibitions of scholarship and maintains six research databases of American art.
Born in Germany, Stebich grew up in Scarsdale, New York, and has degrees from Columbia University and New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts, as well as a certificate in nonprofit management from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. She is a graduate of the Getty Leadership Institute in Los Angeles and was a fellow at the Guggenheim Museum. Prior to the Tacoma Art Museum, she served as assistant director of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and has worked at the Cleveland Museum of Art. She serves as a trustee of the Association of Art Museum Directors and the American Alliance of Museums.
She also has personal reasons for moving to the East Coast, having recently married Anne-Imelda Radice, executive director of the American Folk Art Museum in New York City.