Susan Sollins, the founder and executive director of Art21, died on October 13, Art21 announced today. “We will miss her profoundly as we carry on and honor her legacy,” the nonprofit art education organization wrote in a statement. No information has been made available about the cause of Sollins’s death at this time.
Sollins established Art21 in 1997 with the intention of using digital media to educate the world about contemporary art. Since 2001, Art21 has been responsible for the biennial PBS documentary series Art in the Twenty-First Century. The show is slated to kick off its seventh season on Friday with “Investigation,” an episode that focuses on the ways contemporary artists use their art to make discoveries.
Sollins recently appeared as a juror at the Grand Rapids-based art competition ArtPrize alongside Leonardo Drew and Katharina Grosse, two artists featured on this season of Art in the Twenty-First Century, and premiered the show’s seventh season.
Sollins’s career was marked by a passion for art education and contemporary art. Prior to working at Art21, Sollins was the curator of education and of the Discovery Gallery (a space devoted to contemporary art) at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C. Sollins also co-founded Independent Curators International (ICI), a nonprofit organization that has developed, organized, and traveled contemporary art exhibitions since 1975. ICI’s other co-founder, Nina Castelli Sundell, died earlier this year, in August.
Sollins’s time at Art21 brought her acclaim and a Peabody Award for Art in the Twenty-First Century. ICI Board Chair Patterson Sims called her “the Vasari of our own times” for such work as her 2010 documentary William Kentridge: Anything is Possible, which profiled the South African artist.
“She was a real visionary,” ICI’s executive director, Renaud Proch, told ARTnews. “She was someone who had a contagious interest and enthusiasm for the arts, and she wanted to share it with as many people as humanly possible.”