The San Antonio Museum of Art has announced Emily Ballew Neff as its new director. Neff joins the museum following a six-year tenure as director of the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art in Tennessee. She will take the helm at SAMA on January 18.
In a statement, Ballew Neff said, “Across the past 40 years, SAMA has grown from its grassroots beginnings into an institution recognized for its expansive encyclopedic collection, a history of scholarship and innovative presentations, and a deep commitment to its community. I am so looking forward to the opportunity to work with the Museum’s team and board to further enhance its leadership role within the city of San Antonio and the nation’s broader arts and culture landscape.”
During her tenure as director of the Memphis Brooks, she oversaw the institution’s relocation to a new building in downtown Memphis and spearheaded a curatorial fellowship in African American Art and Art of the African Diaspora, in a push to promote diversity and inclusion that also included a reinterpretation of the museum’s permanent collections.
Prior to her work at the Memphis Brooks, Neff served as the director and chief curator at the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art at the University of Oklahoma and as the founding curator of American painting and sculpture at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. She helmed that department from 1997 to 2013 and oversaw the acquisitions of works by American artists both iconic and little-known, including Benjamin West, Thomas Cole, Georgia O’Keeffe, Helen Torr, and Charles Deas.
Ed Hart, SAMA board chair, said in a statement, “As San Antonio continues to develop as a vibrant cultural hub, she is exactly the person we need to lead the institution into its next chapter as an engaging civic institution that embraces and reflects its many audiences.”