The longtime artwork collector and advertising and marketing govt Denise Gardner will change into the chairwoman of the Artwork Institute of Chicago in November, maybe the nation’s first Black girl to carry that place on a significant museum board.
“It’s exhausting to keep away from the historic significance,” Gardner mentioned in a phone interview on Monday. “That does add a way of accountability and strain to succeed, and that’s effective with me. I wish to exceed expectations.”
Gardner, 66, will succeed Robert M. Levy — whose time period ends in November — on the helm of the Institute’s college in addition to the museum.
Having served for 15 years as a trustee and for 5 in her present function as vice chair, Gardner has championed Black artists in addition to artwork accessibility and schooling for underrepresented audiences. “The work remains to be unfinished,” Gardner mentioned. “On this function, I can assist the museum speed up its progress.”
The appointment comes at a time when cultural establishments are in search of to diversify their staffs, boards and programming. Gardner can be on the steering committee of the Black Trustee Alliance for Art Museums, established final fall to assist museums carry on extra Black trustees, artists and curators.
“A frontrunner together with her credentials is strictly what we’d like proper now to take us into the long run,” James Rondeau, the museum’s director, mentioned in a cellphone interview on Monday. Given the Artwork Institute’s ongoing dedication to variety, he added, “The experiences and the views that she brings as a Black girl who’s so linked to town of Chicago will solely be an asset.”
Gardner — collectively together with her husband, Gary — was the lead particular person sponsor of the museum’s 2018 exhibition, “Charles White: A Retrospective,” which traveled to the Museum of Trendy of Artwork. (The Gardners personal three White works on paper.)
Her assortment focuses on Black and feminine artists, together with Frank Bowling, Nick Cave and Carrie Mae Weems. She was an early purchaser of Amy Sherald, whose reputation has surged since her official portrait of Michelle Obama, which hangs within the Smithsonian’s Nationwide Portrait Gallery.
“I would like individuals of shade to know the historical past and the ability and the contribution of their very own individuals within the visible arts,” Gardner mentioned. “That’s not one thing I loved in my schooling as a teen. I bear in mind as an grownup once I realized about Romare Bearden and Jacob Lawrence and I used to be virtually a bit of indignant — why didn’t I find out about these artists?”
Gardner was president of Insights & Alternatives, a advertising and marketing and strategic planning agency, and a co-founder of Namaste Laboratories, a magnificence producer.
She beforehand served on the boards of the Chicago Group Belief, Chicago Public Library and Chicago Humanities Competition, and holds positions on the boards of the Arts Membership of Chicago and the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, which helps conservation and small arts organizations.
Gardner mentioned she was delivered to the Artwork Institute as a volunteer virtually 27 years in the past by Jetta Jones, the museum’s first Black feminine trustee, who died final weekend at 95. “I hope she is aware of what’s occurring and I believe she would have been overjoyed,” Gardner mentioned. “This job may have been hers.”