Cincinnati Art Museum announces exit of Director Aaron Betsky

CINCINNATI -- A leading figure in the Cincinnati arts community is moving on.

The Cincinnati Art Museum announced Thursday that Director Aaron Betsky will step down effective when his successor is named.

Betsky has served as the museum’s director for seven years.

Museum officials said that during Betsky’s tenure, he enhanced museum collections, exhibition programs and expanded the physical facilities while balancing its budget and increasing its endowment by 18 percent.

During that time, the 132-year-old museum saw its second-highest attendance in 2011 and third highest in 2010.

"The museum now has the programming and staff in place, and the financial stability that will allow me to openly pursue my next position," Betskey said in a release. "I feel that I have accomplished the goals that I and the Board had envisioned when I first arrived and would like to explore opportunities that may include or combine my academic interests and institutional experience."

With Betsky at the helm, the museum completed construction of the new Longworth Wing, (formerly known as the Art Academy Building.) The addition frees up 20,000 square feet of space for programming and exhibits that was previously used for the museum’s library and offices.

Museum officials said Betsky helped lead the $13 million fundraising campaign for the project, as well as finding a way to preserve the history Art Academy Building. The museum is still working on funding the second phase of the upgrade and expansion. The new addition will add more than 16,000 square feet of galleries and education space in 2014.

Betsky also oversaw a renovation of several permanent galleries. Museum officials said Betsky also transitioned the museum from “blockbuster” exhibitions to high-impact, “focused” presentations such as three Rembrandt portraits (Three Faces of Rembrandt, 2008), Thomas Gainsborough and the Modern Woman (2010), Reflections: Monet at Giverny (2012) and more.

He is also credited with reinvigorating and expanding the museum’s education programs.

"It is remarkable what Aaron has been able to achieve for the Art Museum and the community," Board of Trustees President Martha Ragland said in a release.  "He has reinvigorated this venerable institution and opened it up for future generations.  On behalf of the Board, staff and people of Cincinnati I'd like to thank him for all that he has done."

The museum said its board is setting up a search committee to find Betsky’s replacement and he will help in the process.
 

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