Susan Baley Named Director of Grinnell College Museum of Art

November 10, 2021
Susan Baley

Susan Baley has been named as the new director of the Grinnell College Museum of Art. Chosen after a nationwide search, Baley will assume the duties of director on Jan. 4, 2022.

Baley is currently executive director of 108 Contemporary, a nonprofit community arts center in Tulsa, Oklahoma that celebrates fine crafts and the works of contemporary craft artists through exhibitions, programming, and classes. Prior to 108 Contemporary, Baley served as executive director and curator at the Swope Art Museum in Terre Haute, Indiana, where she distinguished herself by expanding programs and staffing and by the enthusiasm and support her staff had for her leadership.

Baley previously served 17 years as director of education at the Fred Jones Jr. Museum at the University of Oklahoma, one of the nation’s finest university art museums, with important collections of American art, Native American art, and French Impressionism. While at the Fred Jones Jr. Museum, Baley built the education department from two employees to five, increased student attendance, built audience engagement, and established a number of external partnerships and networks, including the first statewide forum on arts education, organized through the Oklahoma Arts Council. While there, she also served as an adjunct faculty in the School of Art and Art History.

Interim Dean of the College and Vice President for Academic Affairs Elaine Marzluff, who co-chaired the search committee, said, “We were all impressed with the depth and breadth of Susan’s museum career. She brings experience in all the areas that our museum is prioritizing: deepening engagement with students and faculty in museum activities; growing and implementing programs that serve diverse community audiences locally, regionally, and online; and building the museum’s reputation and engagement with contemporary art and artists. She has also overseen building renovation projects and expanded staffing. She is well-positioned to guide the Grinnell College Museum of Art beyond its foundational first 20 plus years.”

Baley was selected after a national search, with the enthusiastic support of the search committee and the endorsement of President Anne Harris. Baley said she is excited to take on this new post. “It is an honor to be invited to join the Grinnell College Museum of Art, with its dedicated and distinguished staff, and its track record of high-caliber exhibitions that serve both the museum and the community. I am looking forward to again working at an academic museum, to working with a permanent collection that is acquiring contemporary works, and to deepening the museum’s already strong student and community engagement. I am inspired by Grinnell College’s commitment to social justice and look forward to working with staff, faculty, and students to lead in creating the next chapter of this museum’s history.”

Baley will take over from former director Lesley Wright, who has led the museum since its opening in 1999. Wright will retire at the end of 2021.

The search committee was co-chaired by Marzluff and Michael Mackenzie, Grinnell professor of art history. The committee was comprised of university administrators, faculty, and a student. Committee members were Monica Chavez-Silva, Adam Laug, Joshua Marshack, and Sophia Wojdylo ’22. For the national search, Grinnell College retained Connie Rosemont of Museum Search & Reference, an executive-search firm located in Manchester, New Hampshire, and Boston, Massachusetts, that specializes in placing museum leaders.

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