Laura Raicovich will leave her current position as president and executive director of the Queens Museum, the New York Times reported today. She had been with the museum for three years. Although the reasons for Raicovich’s departure are still vague, she said that fraying relations between her and the museum’s board members contributed to her decision.
One source of contention between Raicovich and the board had been her decision to close the museum on January 20, 2017, to participate in the J20 Art Strike, an art-world protest against Donald Trump’s inauguration in which galleries and institutions around America were meant to shutter for the day. The museum was one of the few to actually close for that protest; many others, the Whitney Museum among them, chose to alter their admissions policy for the day, in hopes of creating a dialogue about the importance of the arts. (At the time, early funding plans had included significant budget cuts for the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.) Instead of its regular programming, the museum held an event where the public could make protest signs.
Another source of contention between Raicovich and the board had been the choice to call off—and then, after some deliberation, to hold—an event that was sponsored by Israel last year. The program was a reenactment of the November 29 vote to partition Palestine to form Israel. Some had accused the museum of anti-Semitism by canceling the event, and several New York politicians spoke out against Raicovich’s initial decision.
“I am deeply grateful to the Board for the opportunity to imagine the Museum as a very vital, convivial, and inviting commons for art, ideas, and civics. I wish the Board, staff, and everyone who has participated in the life of the museum well,” Raicovich said in a statement. “As the daughter of an immigrant to Queens, Queens Museum and the borough will always hold a very special place in my heart.”
Raicovich had been known for her activist-oriented programming. She had recently taken to social media to defend such topics as Trump’s decision to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. When the New York Times interviewed Raicovich about her political views this past October, the Queens Museum’s board appeared to be supportive of her. Her next steps remain unclear.
In a statement, Mark Coleman, the chair of the museum’s board, said, “Laura brought a vitality and dynamism to her work, and was fearless in exploring new ideas and perspectives through art. Over the last three years, she produced several popular and critically acclaimed exhibitions and doubled the Museum’s fundraising capacity. The Board of Trustees will immediately begin an international search for a successor.”