Executive Director – Museum of Nebraska Art (MONA), Kearney, NE

Museum Search & Reference is excited to announce the opportunity to assume the leadership of a beloved regional art museum of surprising depth and unique cultural power dedicated to the art and artists of Nebraska. The Museum of Nebraska Art (MONA) is in the midst of a major, $36.5-million restoration, renovation and expansion project, including $5 million allocated to an operating endowment. MONA is slated to reopen to the public in 2024 following a three-year closure. MONA is located in the charming, friendly, community-centric mid-Nebraska city of Kearney (say: “Kar-ney”); and the museum is expected to have a significant impact on the surrounding community and region when it reopens to the public. This opportunity will appeal to an ambitious, energetic, and fearless museum professional with a sense of adventure, a midwestern work ethic, and an appreciation for, or connection to, the Great Plains. The ideal candidate will value the family-forward, measured pace, and authenticity of community connections forged and found in rural America.

Background and Mission of the Museum of Nebraska Art

As the steward of the state’s art collection, the mission of the Museum of Nebraska Art, is to celebrate the history of the art and artists of Nebraska. MONA is the only museum dedicated to telling the story of the state through its art and is closely affiliated with the University of Nebraska at Kearney. The museum’s history dates to 1976, with the birth of the Nebraska Art Collection, which began with fewer than 30 pieces of art and a dream to create a collection that would celebrate Nebraska’s unique artistic heritage. In 1979, the Nebraska Legislature recognized the fledgling collection as the official collection of the state. A national endorsement came later that year when the NEA provided funds to broaden the collection to include the work of contemporary artists. A locally initiated effort to provide a home for the collection culminated in the purchase and renovation of the 1911 Kearney Post Office, a Neoclassical building listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Museum of Nebraska Art opened to the public in October 1986. The museum increased its footprint in 1991 to accommodate MONA’s growing collection, expanding into a 38,000-square-foot facility including galleries for permanent collections and rotating exhibitions, education and program space, a library and research center, a sculpture garden, and museum shop. The collection represents 200 years of history and comprises over 5,000 works by artists of local, national, and international acclaim, with many surprises including works by Roy De Forest, Albert Bierstadt, Eulabee Dix, and Thomas Hart Benton, all of whom have strong personal ties to Nebraska. MONA’s collection ranges in scope from nineteenth-century artists and explorers like George Catlin and Thomas Worthington Whittredge, to the early-twentieth-century American master Robert Henri (one-time resident of Cozad, Nebraska), to American regionalist Thomas Hart Benton. Contemporary Nebraska artists represent a significant and growing part of the collection. MONA also owns one of the nation’s premier collections of wildlife art by John James Audubon. Native American materials include nineteenth-century objects created and used by the tribes of the Great Plains as well as works by living Native American artists. Endowment funds of $2.6 million are designated for acquisitions, enabling MONA to regularly acquire new works.

MONA serves as a cultural center for Nebraska art and artists by providing quality exhibitions and programs to audiences in Kearney and statewide. Approximately 21,000 people visit the museum each year and an additional 22,000 participate in its outreach programs. Having been closed to the public for three years to prepare for its reopening in 2024, MONA is uniquely positioned to make an enormous impact on the greater community and the state, encompassing Lincoln and Omaha to the east and including the potential for collaborative partnerships with museums including the Sheldon at the University of Nebraska and the Joslyn Museum in Omaha. MONA is a private nonprofit museum affiliated with the University of Nebraska at Kearney (UNK). With an operating budget of $1.5 million, and a $4.4 million endowment, MONA’s staff number eight full-time and two part-time employees including a Director of Learning and Engagement, Curator, Development Manager, and a Marketing Coordinator. https://mona.unk.edu/mona/

Opportunities of the Position

The ideal candidate will have a passion for regional art and solid management along with fundraising skills, the capacity to inspire and support and grow a dedicated staff, and the comfort and level of leadership experience to take the reins at MONA. The candidate will also lead the major renovation and expansion project and bring it to fruition successfully, building upon a strong and stable financial position. The candidate should have experience in managing an active and engaged Board of Directors. They will be an intrepid advocate for MONA, sharing its mission and values with a wide variety of audiences and stakeholders. They will project the vision and leadership required to activate the potential of this new cultural institution and re-introduce it to the public in compelling ways. They will deeply resonate with Nebraskan culture and appreciate the history of the Great Plains, and have an affection for creative, rural communities that are safe, family-friendly, and live the value of authentic relationships. MONA can provide competitive benefits to eligible employees through its relationship with the University of Nebraska at Kearney, including exceptional health care coverage, academic opportunities, a generous retirement plan, and university housing options.

The Executive Director will be expected to:

  • Work with committees of the Board to bring the currently ongoing capital campaign to a successful conclusion.
  • Interface with MONA’s owner’s representative on the building renovation and expansion project through the final stages of construction.
  • Develop and envision the museum’s anticipated growth, opportunities, and challenges, including the reopening of the museum, and chart a strategic and pragmatic plan for its future.
  • Lead the development of all exhibition and education programs, in partnership with the professional staff.
  • Oversee the stewardship of the collection and new acquisitions.
  • Advance and develop strong fundraising and marketing plans with key staff, creating opportunities to connect with new audiences locally and statewide through a variety of programs and initiatives.
  • Utilize a strong philanthropic mindset to continually sustain and develop relationships with individual donors, foundations, corporations, and government agencies.
  • Develop and manage an annual operating budget of $1.5 million as well as the projected operating endowment of $5 million.
  • Work closely with a Board of Directors composed of 26 voting members and with the Board’s committees to encourage transparent and open leadership and communications, contributing to a healthy organizational culture at all levels.
  • Build and strengthen an active and productive partnership with the University of Nebraska at Kearney.
  • Actively engage with the local arts community to work collaboratively to support the arts and culture throughout the region and state.
  • Collaborate with university staff to ensure adequate building and grounds management including long-term and ongoing maintenance needs.
  • Possess good communication skills and the ability to motivate staff and volunteers.
  • Embody a coaching and mentorship mindset, supporting professional development and internal staff-advancement practices.
  • Bring a well-developed awareness of best practices in the museum field and a commitment to promote and uphold professional standards. Experience with the AAM accreditation process a plus.

Education and Experience

The ideal candidate will possess the following qualifications:

  • M.A. in Museum Administration, Art History, History, or related field and at least three to five years in a leadership role at an art museum or state history museum. A knowledge of American art preferred. Experience in a community-based or regional museum a plus.
  • Experience developing strategic plans and participation in the oversight of exhibitions and collections.
  • Strong working experience partnering with and developing Boards of Directors.
  • Successful supervisory experience along with strong organizational, communication, and team-building skills. Comfortable with delegation, evaluation, mentorship, and a proponent of professional development.
  • Excellent organizational and planning skills; ability to manage multiple complex projects simultaneously.
  • Familiarity with facilities management and/or experience with building expansion and renovation a plus.
  • Willingness to travel regularly to Lincoln and Omaha, as well as occasionally to smaller communities and rural areas throughout Nebraska, to advocate for and represent MONA and meet with supporters, donors, and other stakeholders.
  • A degree of personal understanding, history, or connection to Nebraska, the Great Plains, and/or neighboring states. A history of working or living in rural communities is a plus.


  • $110,000–$130,000 per annum (commensurate with experience).
  • The position is based in Kearney, Nebraska.
  • MONA’s comprehensive benefits package is provided through the University of Nebraska at Kearney and includes generous allowances for personal and holiday leave, in addition to excellent medical benefits and academic opportunities.

To apply in confidence, submit the following materials via email to Suzanne Tan, Senior Search Consultant, Museum Search & Reference at SearchandRef@museum-search.com.

1) A letter expressing interest in this position and giving brief examples of past related experience

2) A résumé or C.V.

3) The names of three references with contact information

Submit application by July 29, 2023. Applicants are encouraged to apply early as candidates will be considered on a rolling basis. References will not be contacted without prior authorization.Nominations are welcome.

The Museum of Nebraska Art (MONA), home of the Nebraska state art collection, is a place of welcome for all. MONA does not discriminate in any aspect of its programs, hiring, employment, or corporate governance because of race, color, ethnicity, religion, age, national origin, socioeconomic status, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or any other classification historically associated with discrimination. MONA is committed to the adherence of policies supporting diversity, access, equity, justice, and a sense of belonging for all.

For additional information visit: http://museum-search.com/open-searches/.

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