The Lucas Museum of Narrative Art in Los Angeles, which is still under construction and without an opening date, has announced a major hire that hints at the possible direction of the $1.5-billion museum. Sandra Jackson-Dumont, currently the chairman of education and public programs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, will be the Lucas’s new director and CEO. She will begin in her post in January 2020.
Since joining in 2014, Jackson-Dumont has been instrumental in creating forward-thinking programs that help to connect the Met to various communities around New York, ones that have often not been viewed as its primary audience. Her signature change was to help expand the Met’s open house for teens into Teens Take the Met, a robust program that is organized in partnership with over 40 other organizations.
Jackson-Dumont also established in 2018 a new residency program, the Civic Practice Partnership, at the museum that looks to support artists with practices that have strong connections to local communities throughout the five boroughs. Its first two residents were Miguel Luciano and Rashida Bumbray. And, as part of the museum’s successful career retrospective of Kerry James Marshall, she planned a day-long convening to discuss the artist’s work, with the likes of Greg Tate, Hank Willis Thomas, and Arthur Jafa weighing in, which she then turned into an annotated book that provided more insight into what was discussed.
Mellody Hobson, the co-founder of the Lucas Museum, said in a statement, “Education is at the core of our mission, so it’s fitting that the director of the Lucas Museum be a deeply experienced museum educator … and we believe she is the leader who will help bring our vision of creating an inspiring and accessible museum to life.”
Added George Lucas, “We want the Lucas Museum to be a vital resource for our community and we believe Sandra will help us achieve that goal.”
Prior to joining the Met, Jackson-Dumont was the deputy director for education and a curator at the Seattle Art Museum for eight years and had previously held posts at the Studio Museum in Harlem and the Whitney Museum.
The Lucas Museum has not been without its critics since it announced its decision to open its future home in Los Angeles, after previously exploring options in Chicago and Los Angeles. The museum’s planned site is in Exposition Park, a neighborhood within South Los Angeles that is a federally designated “Promise Zone.” The Lucas will also join other nearby museums like the California African American Museum and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles, as well as the elite private University of Southern California.
Because the neighborhood is primarily black and Latinx, housing activists have voiced concerns that the Lucas did not announce any plans to stymie gentrification and displacement once it opens as the neighborhood will surely brace for an influx of tourists and new development.
Speaking to ARTnews in 2018, Jackson-Dumont talked of the necessary work museums must do in order to connect with their communities, but she stressed important work remains to be done, “While museums are certainly diversifying their programs, I think we all know there’s a lot of work to be done. It’s important to remind people that we’re not there. The pitch has evolved, but don’t let all this news attention fool you into thinking that the imbalance has been eradicated.”