Collector and patron Suzanne McFayden will serve as the next board chair of the Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas at Austin. She begins in September and succeeds Janet Allen, who was elected chair in 2018.
“We are incredibly fortunate to now welcome Suzanne McFayden as our new Board Chair at such a momentous time, as we transform the museum experience through the revitalization of our grounds,” Blanton director Simone Wicha said in a statement. “She is a passionate champion for our exhibition program and collection, and for amplifying diverse voices. As we shape the future of the Blanton, her leadership and strategic thinking will keep us moving forward in service of the arts and our community.”
McFayden’s appointment as board chair comes as museums are increasingly looking to not only diversify their boards but to name people of color to leadership roles at their institutions. Earlier this week, Seena Hodges was named board president for the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, and in April, Denise Gardner was appointed as board chair for the Art Institute of Chicago. Both trustees became the first African Americans to lead their respective institutions, and Gardner was likely the first Black woman to achieve the top role at the board of a major art museum anywhere in the United States.
McFayden is currently the Blanton board’s vice chair, and has been a trustee of the museum since 2015. As a trustee, she has helped support the museum’s Contemporary Project exhibition series, which has presented solo shows by artists like Diedrick Brackens, Susan Philipsz, Sedrick Huckaby, Kambui Olujimi, and Lily Cox-Richard, and often results in the museum acquiring works directly from the exhibition. She was also a major underwriter of the museum’s 2018 show “Making Africa: A Continent of Contemporary Design.”
Born and raised in Kingston, Jamaica, McFayden has lived in Austin since 2011 and is a prominent collector of contemporary art by Black artists, including Wangechi Mutu, Nari Ward, Alma Thomas, and others. She is also a board member of the Studio Museum in Harlem.
In a statement, McFayden said, “Art plays such an important role in our connection with the world and our fellow human beings. As the Blanton moves into a new chapter—both in person and virtually—I look forward to partnering with the museum’s staff, my fellow board members, and other friends and collaborators in continuing to build the museum’s impact throughout Austin and beyond.”