Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center curator, Mary-Kay Lombino, receives fellowship for curatorial leadership

POUGHKEEPSIE, NY — Mary-Kay Lombino, the Emily Hargroves Fisher ’57 and Richard B. Fisher Curator at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center at Vassar College, is the recipient of a prestigious fellowship from the Center for Curatorial Leadership (CCL). This is the second-year of fellowships awarded for a program whose contention is that “the most successful new museum directors of the future should be chosen from the ranks of today’s curators.” Ten outstanding curators from art museums and institutions across the United States have been selected to participate in the 2009 CCL fellowship program.

“It is very gratifying that Mary-Kay Lombino and the museum program at Vassar has been recognized by the Center for Curatorial Leadership,” noted James Mundy, director of the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center. “Cultivating curatorial talent for a leadership role in America’s art museums is essential, keeping the focus of our collective mission on the art and its intellectual and social relevance.”

Cofounded by Agnes Gund, president emerita of the Museum of Modern Art, and Elizabeth Easton, the former chair of the Department of European Painting at the Brooklyn Museum, the Center for Curatorial Leadership will train curators to assume leadership positions in museums. “The members of the Class of 2009 exemplify the high values and priceless abilities of the finest curators across the United States,” Agnes Gund stated. “They are already leaders in their own fields. With CCL’s help, they will prove their capacity for leadership across the board.”

During the six-month course of the fellowship, Ms. Lombino and her nine colleagues will also participate in a mentoring program with directors and trustees from other museums. In their acceptance letter, the Center recognized Ms. Lombino’s “unique perspective, experience, and talent” as valuable assets with which to navigate the changing landscape of curatorial practice.

A panel of leading museum directors selected the CCL class of 2009. The program will begin on January 5, 2009, with instruction by faculty from the Graduate School of Business at Columbia University as well as top museum directors, administrators, and trustees from around the country. In addition there is a one-week residency at another institution, as well as a team assignment. All costs are fully funded by CCL.

Benjamin Genocchio noted in the New York Times article, “Boot Camp for Curators Who Want the Top Job,” of the first year of the fellows program that: “it is easier to teach a passionate curator to be a leader than it is to teach a professional manager to be passionate about the presentation and display of great art, the assumption being that you need both to be a good director.”


Mary-Kay Lombino was appointed to the position of Emily Hargroves Fisher ’57 and Richard B. Fisher Curator in 2006. During this time at Vassar, Ms. Lombino has curated several notable exhibitions, including Off the Shelf: New Form in Contemporary Artists’ Books; Out of Shape: Stylistic Distortions of the Human Form in Art from the Logan Collection; and Facebook: Image of People in Photographs from the Permanent Collection. Her current exhibition, Excerpt: Selections from the Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn Collection, is the first public showing of the collection of private art collector and independent curator, Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn.

Before coming to the Art Center, Ms. Lombino was the curator of exhibits at the University Art Museum (UAM), California State University, Long Beach, where she began in 1999. Before joining the UAM, she served as assistant curator at UCLA Hammer Museum for five years. Ms. Lombino received a BA in Art History from the University of Richmond and an MA in Art History and Museum Studies from the University of Southern California in 1995. She has also organized solo shows for numerous artists including Phil Collins, Ken Price, Amy Myers, Gay Outlaw, Euan Macdonald, Alice Könitz, Candida Höfer, and Mungo Thomson.

In 2005, Ms. Lombino received a Getty Curatorial Research Fellowship to study work by the late California Symbolist/Surrealist painter Dorr Bothwell.


The Center for Curatorial Leadership (CCL), cofounded by Agnes Gund and Elizabeth Easton in 2007, seeks to identify within the curatorial ranks individuals who have the potential to become leaders and will help them become curators who not only take charge of the art in their care, but who are also capable of assuming the leadership responsibilities essential to directing a museum.

CCL is founded on the belief that curatorial knowledge and expertise are fundamental to art museums and ought to be at the heart of museum leadership. In a widely heralded decision, The Metropolitan Museum of Art recently endorsed this principle by its appointment of curator Thomas P. Campbell to be its next director. With many other museums throughout the United States currently seeking directors, the CCL program makes a vital contribution toward ensuring that curators have the administrative and managerial skills to lead institutions.

Commenting on the success of CCL’s inaugural year in 2008, Ms. Easton stated, “The pilot program galvanized an interest throughout the field in the professional development of curators, raising awareness that curatorial leadership at the highest level of museums is not only possible but desirable.” She noted that, “members of the Class of 2008 have enjoyed promotions and assumed new roles, demonstrating CCL’s short-term success. The goal, however, is to have a long-term impact, not just on isolated museums but on the entire field.”

Ms. Gund has made a commitment to see the program through its first five years, and Eugene Thaw has pledged a three-year contribution through the Thaw Charitable Trust. Philippe de Montebello, director, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and many other museum directors from across the United States have pledged their time, enthusiasm and support.

In addition to Ms. Gund and Mr. de Montebello, members of the the CCL Advisory Committee include: William Griswold, director, Morgan Library and Museum, New York; Kathy Halbreich, associate director, The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Timothy Potts, director, The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge; Kimerly Rorschach, director, Nasher Museum at Duke University, North Carolina; Axel Rüger, director, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam; Rt. Hon. Lord Smith of Finsbury, former Secretary of Culture for the United Kingdom and director of the Clore Leadership Programme, London; Ann Tenenbaum, trustee, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Studio Museum, Harlem, New York; Susana Torruela-Leval, director emerita, El Museo del Barrio, New York; and Darren Walker, vice president, Foundation Initiatives, The Rockefeller Foundation, New York.

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The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center was founded in 1864 as the Vassar College Art Gallery. The current 36,400-square-foot facility, designed by Cesar Pelli and named in honor of the new building’s primary donor, opened in 1993. The Lehman Loeb Art Center’s collections chart the history of art from antiquity to the present and comprise almost 18,000 works, including paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, photographs, and glass and ceramic wares. Notable holdings include the Warburg Collection of Old Master prints, an important group of Hudson River School paintings given by Matthew Vassar at the college’s inception, and a wide range of works by major European and American 20th- century painters. Vassar was the first U.S. college founded with a permanent art collection and gallery, and at any given time, the Permanent Collection Galleries of the Art Center feature approximately 350 works from Vassar’s extensive collections.

Admission to the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center is free. The art center is open to the public Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, 10:00 am–5:00 pm; Thursday, 10:00 am–9:00 pm; and Sunday, 1:00–5:00 pm. Located at the entrance to the historic Vassar College campus, the Art Center can be reached within minutes from other Mid-Hudson cultural attractions, such as Dia:Beacon, the Franklin Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt national historic sites and homes, and the Vanderbilt mansion. The Art Center is wheelchair accessible. For more information, the public may call (845) 437-5632 or visit

Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential liberal arts college founded in 1861.

Posted by Office of Communications Wednesday, November 12, 2008