Early Tuesday evening, the Milwaukee Art Museum announced that it selected Dr. Marcelle Polednik as its Donna and Donald Baumgartner director. Polednik is the first to receive the title, honoring the recently announced $8 million gift to the museum's endowment from Donna and Donald Baumgartner.
"Following a year of transformative and groundbreaking projects, the Milwaukee Art Museum is embarking on a period of tremendous growth and opportunity," said Don Layden, president of the Milwaukee Art Museum's board of trustees, in a press release. "Our board sought a candidate who recognized that momentum, and could build on it and take the institution to the next level. Marcelle is forward-thinking, bright and innovative, and we’re thrilled she’s coming to Milwaukee."
Polednik currently serves as the director and chief curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville. There, she moved the museum's focus from traveling exhibitions to self-curated projects, grew its exhibition program in both number and stature, helped found its "Project Atrium" series – receiving a two-year grant from the Andy Warhol Foundation of the Visual Arts in the process – and much more to expand its place in the local, regional and national spotlight. Some of her particular curatorial intiatives at MOCA Jacksonville include 2012's "SLOW: Marking Time in Photography and Film," 2013's "Abstraction over Time: The Paintings of Michael Goldberg" and 2015's "WHITE."
"I am honored to lead the Milwaukee Art Museum at the defining moment in the life of this exceptional institution," Polednik said in a press release. "Building on the solid foundation established by my predecessors, I look forward to working with the museum’s talented team, devoted board of trustees and the Milwaukee community at large to usher in an era of unprecedented artistic accomplishment, one that charts the path to deeper, meaningful audience engagement, financial sustainability and local, regional and national renown."
Polednik earned her doctorate in art history from the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University. Prior to her time at MOCA Jacksonville, Polednik served as chief curator at the Monterey Museum of Art, as well as an assistant curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art.
"Marcelle brings considerable curatorial and management experience from diverse museums to her new role," said Adam D. Weinberg, Alice Pratt Brown director, Whitney Museum of American Art, in a press release. "Her broad knowledge of 20th century art, her focus on creating distinctive, original exhibitions, her commitment to community involvement and her leadership abilities – not to mention her warmth and energy – make her the perfectly well-rounded director to lead the Milwaukee Art Museum into its next exciting chapter."
Polednik has additionally authored articles for several catalogs and institutions, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Polednik is expected to begin her work as MAM's first Donna and Donald Baumgartner director in mid-August, succeeding Dan Keegan, who announced last October that he will retire this month.