Director – National Museum of African Art Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C.

About National Museum of African Art   Founded in 1964, in response to the Civil Rights Movement, the National Museum of African Art (NMAfA) inspires conversations about the beauty, power, and diversity of African arts and cultures worldwide. It joined the Smithsonian in 1979 and became the National Museum of African Art two years later. A new, primarily underground museum building was completed in 1987. The Museum is located on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., adjacent to other Smithsonian national museums. An outstanding resource for artists and scholars and a leader in representing the diversity of African creativity, NMAfA welcomes individuals of diverse backgrounds, ages, and interests to the Museum, with attendance ranging between 130,000-165,000 annually in recent years (pre-COVID). Millions more are exposed to and impacted by the arts of Africa through the Museum’s publications, website, social media, educational activities, and public programs.   NMAfA is a truly global platform dedicated to the understanding and public appreciation of Africa’s arts and artists The collection has served as an inspiration and resource for an array of scholars in the field. The Museum has a rich and varied intellectual history, which has evolved over time into an inclusive approach to collecting, exhibition development, international outreach and partnerships, and programming. This development has unfolded in the context of an evolving vision of African art that is becoming ever more complex, expansive, and diasporic.   With more than 12,000 objects from around the continent and across time periods, including the renowned Walt-Disney Tishman African Art Collection, NMAfA houses the largest collection of African art in the United States. The collections spans 11th century to contemporary commissions and is diverse in terms of location of origin and medium, including textile, fiber arts and accessories, sculpture and installation, time-based media, painting and works on paper; photography and digital arts; ceramics; metal and currency. In recent years, NMAfA has strengthened its commitment to contemporary art, and the Museum maintains an active exhibition and publication program. The Museum hosts permanent and changing exhibitions, a full suite of family programs, films, and special events, and often serves as a venue for visiting African dignitaries and leading figures in arts and culture. The Museum collaborates with African museums and cultural organizations on exhibitions, training, and public education initiatives.   NMAfA’s robust and innovative educational programs also serve to strengthen global arts and appreciation for the humanities by helping to increase understanding of our world’s cultural and artistic traditions through the lens of Africa and its diasporas. These include a range of at-home and digital education resources, student workshops, films and talks with thought leaders in the field, and extensive classroom and teacher resources.   The Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives is a research and reference center devoted to the collection, preservation, and dissemination of visual materials that encourage and support the study of the arts, cultures, and history of Africa. The archives’ collections contain approximately 350,000 items, including rare collections of glass plate negatives, lantern slides, stereographs, postcards, maps and engravings. NMAfA’s Warren M. Robbins Library (a branch of the Smithsonian Libraries and Archives) is a major resource center for the research and study of the visual arts of Africa.   The Museum has approximately 25 staff. This small team of curators, educators, conservators, registrars, exhibition specialists, and administrators is supplemented by a loyal group of docents and volunteers, interns, and by graduate and post-graduate fellows and visiting scholars. NMAfA is a place where differing histories, experiences, and identities are understood and celebrated, and where the discourse about questions and issues of inclusion and diversity are engaged in a thoughtful, respectful, and authentic manner. For the current fiscal year, the Museum’s annual operating budget for FY 2023 is approximately $6.3 million. In addition, the Smithsonian centrally supports the Museum’s security, maintenance and custodial personnel, utilities, leases, and other building costs.   For more information on NMAfA, please visit its website: Smithsonian Institution   Founded in 1846, the Smithsonian Institution is the world’s largest museum, education, and research complex, with 19 museums, nine research centers, five educational units, and the National Zoo. Every day the Institution continues to shape the future by preserving heritage, discovering new knowledge, and sharing its resources with the world. Under the leadership of the Secretary, the Smithsonian advances its core values of discovery, creativity, excellence, diversity, integrity, and service.   The Smithsonian employs more than 6,700 committed professionals, including renowned scientists and scholars, and a comparable number of highly motivated volunteers, interns, fellows, and visiting artists, including over 700 fellows and an additional 8,500 digital volunteers. The Smithsonian annually attracts more than 20 million visitors to its museums, and 160 million unique visits to its websites, as well as over eight million followers on social media. The Institution reaches millions of others through its cable channel, magazine, and other publications. The Smithsonian’s vast collections hold more than 154 million objects and specimens.   The Opportunity   The Director of the National Museum of African Art has responsibility for the overall strategy, direction, development, and management of all museum programs and activities. They are appointed by the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution and report to the Under Secretary for Museums and Culture. The Director is also counseled by NMAfA’s Advisory Board. Looking to the future, the next Director will have the opportunity to capture a new and refreshed vision for where the Museum is going, heightening its profile and deepening its impact on the field.   Specific duties and responsibilities include:   • Vision and strategy: provides intellectual vision and overall leadership for NMAfA, its staff, supporters, and volunteers; formulates high level strategic plans for NMAfA to achieve its overall mission, and also defines program goals, objectives, and priorities for program operations consistent with Smithsonian strategic plans.   • Internal executive leadership: provides executive oversight of all NMAfA departments and teams in the planning, development, and management of all museum programs and activities, including but not limited to acquisitions, collections management, conservation, digitization, and dissemination, exhibits, external affairs, facilities management, fundraising, publications, public service, and research; makes policy decisions concerning NMAfA programs, including matters relating to budget, staffing, organization, and facilities.   • Fundraising and external leadership: serves as the key communicator and face for the Museum to the public, donors, the media, and museums and other institutions throughout the U.S., Africa, and beyond; leads effective fundraising initiatives to support NMAfA programs and operations; plans and participates in Smithsonian fundraising campaign activities, coordinating efforts as appropriate with Smithsonian Advancement; works closely with the NMAfA Advisory Board to identify needs and cultivate potential donors from private, corporate, and foundation sources.   • Team management: recruits, develops, delegates to, and leads an exceptional team, such that operations, capacity, and systems are strong; understands Smithsonian policies and works with the Office of Human Resources to ensure that the right people are in the right roles with the bandwidth and expertise to take responsibility for their respective functions, and that they function highly as a team; creates a culture that is diverse, equitable, and inclusive.   • Financial management: oversees the development, presentation, allocation, and execution of the annual operating budget for the Museum; works with staff to develop budget projections that reflect long-range planning for new and ongoing programs; advocates for the addition of new job lines; reviews budget justifications for and presentation of proposed budgets to the Smithsonian’s Office of Planning, Management and Budget, the Federal Office of Management and Budget, and Congress.   • Collaboration: works closely with Smithsonian leadership and other Directors to further the Smithsonian’s mission; attends high-level Smithsonian meetings and conferences, making significant contributions to the development of Smithsonian policy and priorities; works closely with the NMAfA Advisory Board to raise the profile and public awareness of the Museum and to develop national and international constituencies and partnerships supportive of the Museum; prioritizes both domestic and international outreach to and collaboration with diverse communities, patrons, and organization with equity and a true spirit of partnership.   • Collection management: works with key staff to develop and implement criteria for acquisition of artworks to the collection, and acts to obtain artworks through gift and purchase for the permanent collection; seeks input from the Advisory Board regarding proposed acquisitions that meet threshold criteria for review by the Collections Committee.   The National Museum of African Art and all arts institutions are called to introspection and action around issues of racism, social justice, and diversity, equity, access, and inclusion. Further, the organization has been adapting in real-time in response to the global pandemic, managing the cascading consequences and impacts of COVID-19 and navigating new outlooks for the future. The next Director’s role will include the mandate of leading the organization forward as it responds to this period of change and opportunity.   Candidate Profile   While it is understood that no one candidate will bring every desired skill, characteristic, and experience, the following offers a reflection of the ideal candidate profile.   The National Museum of African Art seeks an inspiring and collaborative leader who can convey a vision of impact for the future, create a clear strategy for the path ahead, increase the visibility of the Museum, and fortify an outstanding team. NMAfA intends to build upon its past success and act as a convenor, educator, and voice for African art and culture at local, national, and global levels. The Director will demonstrate a decisive and yet collaborative leadership style, entrepreneurial drive, and interpersonal gravitas, diplomacy, and discernment.   Top candidates should also have demonstrated a high level of achievement in developing or contributing to a compelling and forward-looking strategy for an organization, building the financial, operational, and ideological support for its implementation, and skillfully balancing and aligning the needs of multiple interests. In particular, they should be energized about building the Museum’s strategy for the future, as well as advancing its stature, recognition, and audience engagement.   In addition to internal leadership and management, the Director will serve as the external face of NMAfA, inspiring confidence in its capabilities and building its profile as a distinctive national and international asset and source of public understanding and programming. The successful candidate should be a powerful advocate for Africa and the arts and possess both the entrepreneurial instincts and the pragmatic skills to define, coordinate and lead collaborative outreach efforts internally and with other museums, diverse organizations, and collaborators throughout the US, Africa, and worldwide.   The next leader of NMAfA will have proven professional experience and leadership in one of the core fields related to Africa, its diaspora, and/or the arts. This individual will bring a deep appreciation for the relevance of Africa, its art, and its culture in today’s world, throughout history, and in the future. A genuine passion for African art and culture – whether demonstrated by a professional track record in the field or a deep personal commitment to, understanding of, and experience living and/or working in Africa – is essential. Related foreign language and other African diaspora-related experience is desirable.   This individual will bring deep personal commitment to diversity, equity, access, and inclusion in all aspects of the Museum’s work, and will seek to build an organization that is substantively diverse and reflective of the diversity of its communities. The successful candidate will be a natural team builder with the energy, optimism, and drive to lead NMAfA into the future.   The ideal candidate is an accomplished leader of organizations who has effectively navigated complex contexts/structures. The candidate may bring different backgrounds and experiences, including having served in a leadership role in the arts, academia, the broader nonprofit community, government, business, or some combination of these arenas.   In terms of the performance and personal competencies required for the position, we would highlight the following:   Setting Strategy • The ability to create and articulate an inspiring and inclusive vision for NMAfA and lead the Museum into its next chapter; a creative approach to developing new, innovative ideas that will stretch the Museum and attract new audiences and supporters. • The ability to effectively balance the desire/need for broad change, setting realistic goals and implementation plans that are achievable and successful over time. • A leader who is able to work both as the Director of the museum and within the framework of the broader Smithsonian Institution; possesses an attitude of collegiality, collaboration, and humility.   Executing for Results • Track record of setting clear and challenging goals while committing his/her organization to improved performance; tenacious and accountable in making decisions and driving results. • An exceptional manager of resources; thoughtful about making changes in the structure of the museum to ensure the most successful delivery of NMAfA’s mission. • Comfortable with ambiguity and uncertainty; able to adapt to and persevere in the face of unforeseen challenges and lead others through complex situations while building consensus. • A leader who is viewed by others as having a high degree of integrity and forethought in his/her approach to making decisions; the ability to act in a transparent and consistent manner while always taking into account what is best for the Museum and for the Smithsonian.   Building and Leading Teams • Track record of attracting and recruiting top talent, empowering and motivating the team, delegating effectively, celebrating diversity, and managing performance; widely viewed as a strong developer of others. • An inclusive leader who values and respects all members of the team and ensures they have the tools they need to be successful; fosters collaboration, encourages transparency, and unifies all members of the team around a common vision and priorities. • A leader who is self-reflective and aware of his/her own limitations; leads by example and drives the organization’s performance with an attitude of continuous improvement by being open to feedback.   Communication, Relationships, and Influence • Enthusiastic fundraiser, who proactively builds philanthropic relationships and enjoys making the case for support; track record of expanding his/her organization’s fundraising base and collaborating with others to raise significant funds; a credible ambassador who can build partnerships externally with important constituencies. • Naturally connects and builds strong relationships with others, demonstrating strong emotional intelligence and an ability to communicate clearly, diplomatically, and persuasively; possesses strong cultural sensitivity and the communication skills essential for representing the museum domestically and aboard; credible spokesperson and galvanizer in Washington, D.C., the United States, the African continent, and beyond. • Creates a sense of vision and purpose that generates followership for the organization, beyond his/her own personality, and engages others in the mission of the organization.   Credibility & Expertise • Appreciation for, if not expertise in, African art, in both historical and contemporary contexts, which illustrates a trans-disciplinary perspective on and integration into a larger understanding of African and African Diasporic experiences. • Orientation must allow for inclusion of diverse peoples and communities in the making of African art and contributions to the expressive cultures of the continent and diaspora. • Demonstrated ability to connect African artists, arts organizations, contributors, partners, themes, and topics. • Ability to understand NMAfA’s assets and distinctive capabilities and develop an intellectually coherent and articulate perspective that will attract funding, talent, and institutional partners in the US, in Africa, and elsewhere globally.   Compensation & Benefits   Salary is competitive and commensurate with experience. The salary range for this role is $290,000 – $350,000 with a generous benefits package   Contact   Koya Partners, the executive search firm that specializes in mission-driven search, has been exclusively retained for this engagement with Naree Viner, Chartise Clark, and Stephen Milbauer as the search team. To express interest in this role please submit a letter of interest and resume by filling out our Talent Profile:, or email the team directly at All inquiries and discussions will be considered strictly confidential.   About Koya Partners   Koya Partners, a part of Diversified Search Group, is a leading executive search and strategic advising firm dedicated to connecting exceptionally talented people with mission-driven clients. Our founding philosophy—The Right Person in the Right Place Can Change the World—guides our work as we partner with nonprofits & NGOs, institutions of higher education, responsible businesses, and social enterprises in local communities and around the world.   For more information about Koya Partners, visit

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