Tuesday, August 25, 2009
UPDATED: O'Keeffe Museum Names New Director, Robert Kret
By Deborah Baker
SANTA FE — The Georgia O'Keeffe Museum announced Tuesday it has hired Robert A. Kret as its new director.
Kret, currently the director of the Hunter Museum of American Art in Chattanooga, Tenn., will begin the job Oct. 26.
He succeeds George King, who left last month after 11 years to head the New York-based American Federation of Arts.
The Santa Fe museum, a top tourist attraction, has the largest collection of O'Keeffe's paintings, drawings and sculptures in the world, nearly 1,200 pieces.
It also has a research center for the study of American modernism and owns O'Keeffe's former homes and studios in the northern New Mexico village of Abiquiu and in a rural area nearby.
"From my perspective, it seemed like a nice combination of the visual arts as well as ... historic preservation," Kret said in an interview.
Kret, 48, has been director since 2000 at the Hunter Museum, where he oversaw an expansion and renovation project that was part of a broader, public-private waterfront redevelopment effort.
Kret said the museum on a riverside bluff had been "disconnected, physically and sort of intellectually" from the community.
The expansion roughly doubled the number of visitors, the size of the staff and the museum's operating budget, and the museum's education programs have made it a more integral part of the community, he said.
Before the Hunter Museum, Kret was director at the Miami University Art Museum in Oxford, Ohio, and the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum in Wausau, Wis.
He also was executive director of the Ella Sharp Museum in Jackson, Mich., and director of museums for the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities in Boston.
O'Keeffe, one of the foremost American painters, lived for almost 40 years in northern New Mexico. She died in Santa Fe in 1986 at the age of 98.
The museum is dedicated to perpetuating her legacy, and museum officials recently got into a flap with Georgia O'Keeffe Elementary School in Albuquerque over what the museum viewed as possible trademark infringement because of the use of the artist's name on school-related items.
The differences were resolved and the museum plans to work with the school on art projects for students.
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