April 21, 2010

Mint to name new executive director

Charlotte's Mint Museum of Art will announce a change at the top today as it prepares to enter a bold era in its 74-year history.

Charlotte's Mint Museum of Art will announce a change at the top today as it prepares to enter a bold era in its 74-year history.

Kathleen Jameson, assistant director of programming for the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, was approved unanimously this week by the Mint's trustees as the next executive director.

She will succeed the retiring Phil Kline, who took over in 2002, leading the museum to financial stability and laying the groundwork for the Mint's expansive new home as part of the uptown cultural campus.

"There is a time and place for certain leadership," said Kline, 61, a former insurance executive who leveraged his business experience to get the Mint on track during a difficult period. "Now it's time to get back to a more traditional model."

That leaves Jameson with the job of guiding the largest visual arts institution in the city into a new day for the arts in Charlotte when the Mint moves into its new location uptown this fall.

Jameson brings a diverse background to the position, both in arts and business. She has worked in curating, raising money, managing people and is pursuing a master's degree in business from Rice University in Houston.

"To find someone who has that combination is not common in museums today," Kline said Tuesday.

Seen as visionary leader

"She's very community conscious, but has an emphasis on high quality - and that's a very rare combination," said her boss, Peter Marzio, director of Houston's Museum of Fine Arts. "It's usually one or the other. She's got the best of both ...

"She's a humble person. She will go at things tactfully. She's really visionary and once people get to know her, they'll find she's someone who gets done what she says she's going to do," Marzio said.

Jameson, who turns 41 Friday, said she thinks the Mint is well positioned for the future. Among the strategic opportunities she'd like the museum to pursue are building its collections of contemporary and African-American art, and launching traveling exhibitions.

"I'd like to see the Mint building a collection meaningful to the community," she said. "Museums are meant to serve the community and make them a relevant part of our lives." Improving educational programs may be another focus.

Jameson said the new 145,000-square-foot building will give the Mint opportunities to collaborate with the other attractions on the burgeoning Wells Fargo Cultural Campus - the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture, the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art and the Knight Theater.

Turning-point time for Mint

Jameson arrives at a crucial juncture in the life of the Mint, North Carolina's first fine art museum named for the Gold Rush-era building it was born in - the remnants of the old U.S. Mint branch that opened in Charlotte in 1837.

Besides opening the uptown museum on Oct. 1, the Mint will renovate its present home on Randolph Road, which will house ceramics, art of the ancient Americas, and historic costume and fashionable dress collections.

Jameson will also lead the museum as it creates a new strategic plan for the future, which will be the blueprint for growth beginning with the fiscal year starting in summer 2011. In uptown, the Mint will have a five-year option to purchase 19,000 square feet of undeveloped space in the South Tryon Street campus, potentially opening the way for more exhibition space.

Kline will stay on until Dec. 31, assisting Jameson in the transition. Jameson starts her job in Charlotte July 15.

Search for successor

Kline notified the Mint's board last year that he planned to step aside after the new building opened.

An international search for his replacement began quietly last June, said Jay Everett, chairman of the search committee. Using a head-hunting consultant, Management Consultants for the Arts, 15 potential candidates were selected and three were brought in for interviews.

Because of her broad experience, educational pedigree and a well-articulated vision of the Mint's opportunities, Jameson was the unanimous pick of the search committee, Everett said.

Kline, who took over the Mint during a tumultuous period following the defeat of an uptown arts and sports referendum in 2001, leaves the Mint in good condition.

There is no debt on the new building. Its endowment, $7million when he took over, has grown to $27 million and is expected to reach more than $35million at the conclusion of an ongoing pledge drive.

"One of the compelling attractions coming to this institution is the deep commitment by the staff and board to building the Mint as a center of excellence," Jameson said. RESEARCHER MARIA DAVID CONTRIBUTED.

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