With its current director and CEO, Kimerly Rorschach, set to retire in the fall, the Seattle Art Museum has named its new leader: Amada Cruz, who has been the director and CEO of the Phoenix Art Museum in Arizona. Cruz will take up her new position in September.
In a statement, Cruz, who hails from Cuba, said, “I am so excited about moving to one of the most progressive, innovative, and fastest-growing cities in the country. As an immigrant, Seattle’s embrace of diversity and commitment to inclusion certainly strikes a chord.”
Cruz’s tenure at the Phoenix Art Museum has been marked by large crowds and financial success—and controversy. According to a recent report in the Phoenix New Times, when she started at the institution in 2015, the museum had run up annual deficits of as much as $1 million; now it is more stable financially. Cruz increased the museum’s endowment, and she has placed an emphasis on diversity. One of her greatest achievements in Phoenix has involved turning the museum into a bilingual institution, in an attempt to welcome members of the city’s significant Hispanic community. A sign in front of the museum now reads Bienvenidos.
But that Phoenix New Times report held out suggestions of discord among some of the museum’s employees. Several docents complained of Cruz’s attitude toward museum staff and contested her changes to programming at the institution. In response, Cruz recrently told ARTnews that “the entire infrastructure of the museum has to change if you really want to reflect the community that you are working in.”
Prior to joining the Phoenix Art Museum, Cruz had been the director of Artpace San Antonio, a nonprofit residency program. She has also been director of the Center for Curatorial Studies Museum in Colorado and acting chief curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. She has also worked as the executive director of Artadia and the founding program director for United States Artists.
Cruz joins the Seattle Art Museum as the institution prepares to grow the Asian Art Museum, which the museum oversees. Budgeted at $54 million, the expansion will add 12,000 square feet to the Asian Art Museum, in an initiative expected to be completed in the fall.
Rorschach, the outgoing director, said in a statement, “I am absolutely delighted that Amada Cruz has been named to lead SAM into the future. She is an experienced professional of the highest integrity and brings an exciting vision for the future of our great museum.”