Executive Search for Not-for-Profit Cultural Institutions

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Biggs Museum of American Art, Dover, Delaware

Challenge:

Tucked away in Dover, Delaware, the State capital, the Biggs was a small gem of a museum with big aspirations. It had grown professionally in the nine years that its departing Director, who had not come from the museum world, had held the reins. It had an excellent local reputation, but with limited financial resources, had ventured out into the national museum community only on rare occasions. The State government was supportive and proud of the Museum, providing the building and support for basic operations. Funding was otherwise modest. The Board believed that the quality of the collection, three centuries of mid Atlantic American art beautifully and creatively installed, needed to find the audience it so rightly deserved.

First and foremost, the Biggs needed the guidance of a seasoned art museum professional. The Board wanted a new Director to hire staff to support a major upgrade in programming, marketing and fundraising. Fundraising skills to support these new positions would be critical. The Director also needed to appreciate the importance of managing relationships with the government movers and shakers.

The location of the Biggs in a small town in a small state was an additional challenge for the search. Although major cities are within an hour or two of Dover, the location was viewed as rural.

Solution:

Our national search focused on both history venues with good collections and art museums. Previous experience as a director was important and a senior position at a larger museum was also possible.

Appropriate marketing of the Museum was critical. The search focused almost as much on making the field aware of the Biggs as on actually recruiting people whom ORI felt would be right for the job.

The marketing and recruiting strategies attracted many applicants. In the end, Charles Guerin, whom we knew and admired and who was doing an excellent job as Director of the Hyde Collection in Upstate New York, was the successful candidate. The Hyde, like the Biggs, is a small gem, but while the Biggs was surrounded by sizeable cities, the Hyde is in a truly rural community on the edge of the Adirondack wilderness. While both Charles and his wife loved small town life, they were now anxious to be in a more populated area of the country. To the delight of the Biggs trustees, Charles accepted their offer and began at the Biggs in 2015. At a recent meeting with the Board Chair we were told that Charles was exactly who the Biggs needed.