Mass MoCA’s new director commits to “honoring the past and building from there”

The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (Mass MoCA) in North Adams, Massachusetts has a new director.

Kristy Edmunds, previously Executive and Artistic Director of the Center for the Art of Performance at the University of California at Los Angeles, replaces Joseph C. Thompson, who helped found the museum in the late 1990s and directed it for more than three decades.

In an interview, Edmunds describes herself as “another pair of shoulders” and says she is in no rush to make drastic changes to the institution.

“I see [the role] as a witness that has been transmitted to me in a entrusted manner, ”she told The Art Newspaper. “It’s not about how you reframe it, it’s about how you relate to what’s there. It’s about honoring the past and building from there, without trying to undo it for another set of ambitions.

Edmunds, who will be relocating from Los Angeles to New England in the coming weeks, brings to his new role extensive experience in the performing and multidisciplinary arts. She will continue to be an artistic advisor for the Nimoy Theater in Los Angeles.

Mass MoCA has not made it through the last year and a half unscathed from the pandemic, slashing its annual operating budget from $ 12 million to $ 10.5 million.

The closures related to the pandemic had a direct effect on 70% of the organization’s annual budget and half of the museum’s annual programming. The museum’s downsizing amounted to 120 of its 165 laid-off employees across all departments, including management, throughout 2020. The layoffs prompted employees to unionize earlier this year.

In April, the museum published an official statement that says, in part: “While we recognize the challenges we face as an institution, we believe in our people and our ability to meet these challenges together.” We respect the choice to unionize and look forward to working with the UAW [United Auto Workers] Local 2110 continues to cultivate an inclusive, diverse and sustainable work environment.

“They’ve definitely been through a period of layoffs,” Edmunds says. “There are so many ways for this institution to be interdependent with the local economy and artists around the world. “

Edmunds looks at the coming months “strategically, cautiously, optimistically and very cautiously, not getting ahead of our skis just because there is new momentum,” she said.

Attracting an average of 300,000 visitors per year, Mass MoCA exhibits large-scale art, comprising 250,000 square feet of open and often naturally lit space, immersive installations and galleries. A recently completed extension brought the complex to 650,000 square feet, roughly the total area of ​​the Louvre. The site’s 28 buildings form an elaborate system of interlocking courtyards and passageways spanning 16 acres.

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