Head of Exhibitions – Spencer Museum of Art, The University of Kansas

The Spencer Museum of Art Head of Exhibitions is at the core of the Spencer Museum of Art’s work to advance teaching, learning, and research at the University of Kansas. Spencer Museum exhibitions stimulate learning for students in more than 40 academic departments and serve as a platform for generating new works and disseminating arts research conducted by the Museum’s academic staff, interns, and faculty, artists, and community partners. A key leadership position within the Museum, the Head of Exhibitions is the creative driver for the design and execution of all exhibitions and installations. The person in this position is also responsible for the realization of artist commissions, designing and fabricating crates for the transportation of collection objects for loans and conservation, and installation of graphic design elements and other building furnishings. The Head of Exhibitions also plays a critical role in facility care and improvement projects. Although a majority of time in this position involves collaborative thinking and problem solving, the individual must also be able to work with autonomy, nimbleness, and creativity, as they are responsible for daily decisions that affect the public face of the Museum. Reporting to the Executive Director of the museum, the Head of Exhibitions also contributes to helping envision the future Museum and its full integration into the fabric of the University, national and regional communities, and global society.

Due to COVID restrictions, this position will begin teleworking and may transition to on-site work when deemed safe and necessary.


Exhibition Development, Planning, and Project Management 30%)

  • Orchestrate the swift rotation of 10+ special exhibitions annually in the Museum’s galleries and 30+ short-term installations in the Brosseau Learning Center annually.
  • Advise curatorial staff on the structural soundness and feasibility of installations.
  • Lead the design of long-term and temporary exhibitions by applying design skills to frame and present works of art and ideas to facilitate close looking, sensory impact, and deeper understanding of artworks and ideas. Work requires collaborating with experts in education, security, collections, curatorial, and conservation.
  • Collaborate with staff across departments and external partners and artists to execute a shared vision for exhibitions through the iterative development of an installation’s layout and design solutions that demonstrate a shared understanding for how audiences will encounter works of art and ideas.
  • Collaborate with Digital Initiatives team on exhibitions’ digital presence both in gallery and virtually.
  • Contribute to the planning and development of proposals to federal agencies, private foundations, and individual donors by writing and reviewing text, co-developing content and ideas, such visual materials and supporting documents (e.g. floor plans, renderings, illustrations, etc.)
  • Implement large-scale exhibitions underpinned by a depth of scholarship and research that result from external funding through familiarity with curatorial research questions and methods and the skills to translate ideas into physical form.
  • Coordinate the scheduling of exhibitions in collaboration with Director of Advancement and Planning and manage all timelines for exhibition installation from conception to completion.
  • Conduct inquiries and execute exhibition planning as it relates to the preparation of scope of work, soliciting bids, and selecting outside vendors. Maintain respectful working relationships with vendors.
  • Establish, coordinate, and execute all budgets for exhibitions in collaboration with the Director and Deputy Director for Operations and Innovation, including purchasing of production materials and contractual services.

Construction, Collection Preparation, and Art Installation (25%)

  • Fabricate custom mounts, cases, and exhibit environments that meet the needs of a wide variety of delicate works of art.
  • Play an active physical role in all aspects of the fabrication and installation of exhibitions.
  • Responsible for maintaining proper procedures in the handling, installation, and lighting of works of art.
  • Install projectors, monitors, screens, speakers, and other technologies for exhibition of video, sonic, and mixed media works of art; and maintain working knowledge of latest display technologies.
  • Employ creative and thoughtful installation strategies to ensure the safety of collection objects while allowing audiences to have transformative experiences in the proximity of works of art during performances, art-making activities, film screenings, and large community events in the galleries.
  • Install objects with the experiences of all visitors in mind by adhering to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements, considering the needs of diverse visitors.
  • Maintain current knowledge of fire codes and other regulations and serve as point of contact for University and State fire marshals. 
  • Maintain the high standard of aesthetics that is the hallmark of Spencer Museum exhibitions through  familiarity with the changing standards in museum design practice and evidence of designing for greater inclusion and clarity of visitor needs.
  • Serve as lead on all aspects of design and lighting and as a spokesperson for integration of security, design, and safety of objects and aesthetic requirements.
  • Integrate interpretive elements into exhibitions in collaboration with the education and interpretation team, such as labels, signage, iPad stands, printed materials, feedback stations, signage, and other interactive components.
  • Supervise exhibition maintenance of all gallery spaces.
  • Construct custom cases, crates, and mounts for collection objects, loans, and conservation treatments; serve as a courier as needed.

Research, Collaboration, and Engagement (15%)

  • Support artist residencies by working effectively and respectfully with living artists, finding creative solutions to bring artists’ ideas to fruition, supervising artists in residence within gallery spaces, and serving as an ambassador between internal collaborators and artists in residence.
  • Expand the Museum’s research portfolio by facilitating the production of knowledge through commissioned works of art.
  • Realize public art installations in outdoor spaces adjacent to the Museum, throughout campus, and within the community.
  • Organize occasional off-site exhibitions in partnership with communities across Kansas, including planning meetings, physical installation and de-installation, and coordination of Museum staff’s responsibilities.
  • Serve as Spencer Museum representative of exhibition/facilities design in national and international venues and professional organizations, such as American Alliance of Museums, Association of Academic Museums and Galleries, and American Institute of Architects.
  • Create and lead tours for University students and other visitors related to gallery design, interpretation, fabrication, and installation processes.
  • Consult with other KU entities and beyond as requested when their initiatives regard and relate to art.
  • Integrate design into Spencer strategic initiatives and advise other entities on campus in integrating art into the teaching and research of KU.

Facilities Improvement and Emergency Response (15%)

  • Coordinate and lead facility and renovation projects, including developing and determining timeline feasibility, selecting contractors and vendors, and overseeing implementation with architects and contractors.
  • Liaison with Facilities Planning and Development (FPD), contractors, and vendors.
  • Oversee outside contractors within secured gallery and art storage spaces.
  • Contribute to long-range planning for opportunities to update and replace aging systems.
  • Communicate the Museum’s mechanical, electrical, and structural needs to vendors and campus partners.
  • Oversee Exhibition Technician’s monitoring of the Museum’s environmental systems and meticulously track and advise and implement necessary changes.
  • Manage and maintain the security system database and equipment, including designating and regulating staff entry to all levels of security and entry to the building.
  • Receive and respond to alerts regarding building security and environmental conditions, such as temperature and humidity, fire, and water emergencies.
  • Develop with the Deputy Director for Operations and Innovation a comprehensive security and facilities strategy.
  • Maintain strong working relationships with KU Facilities Services (FS) and participate in building and landscaping maintenance management and service requests.

Management and Advising (15%)

  • Supervise two full-time exhibition technicians and a part-time matter/framer.
  • Mentor and supervise a student exhibition intern, when funding allows for the appointment.
  • Advise the Director on matters related to personnel, exhibitions, and overall long-term Museum goals.
  • Participate in advisor, curatorial and collections, and exhibition planning meetings.

Position Requirements

Due to COVID restrictions, this position will begin teleworking and may transition to onsite work when deemed safe and necessary.

Required Qualifications:

  1. Bachelor’s degree in fine arts, architecture, design, or related discipline.
  2. Five or more years of related professional experience.
  3. Demonstrated knowledge of exhibition design methodology, techniques, and materials.
  4. Experience implementing architectural and exhibition fabrication/production techniques.
  5. Previous experience in art handling, professionally or in a voluntary capacity.
  6. Work experience in the oversight of museum or climate controlled environments, including with lighting, temperature, and humidity established practices for art museums.
  7. Experience working on projects involving museum collection, conservation, and security procedures.
  8. Previous involvement in building maintenance and system management, including HVAC and other mechanical systems.
  9. Experience lighting works in a museum environment and demonstrated knowledge of current museum lighting technologies, including preventive conservation and lighting design.

Preferred Qualifications:

  1. Master’s degree or related advance or terminal degree.
  2. Five or more years of experience designing and implementing exhibitions in an art museum or related environment.
  3. Experience working with living artist on art installations and residencies.
  4. Experience managing and implementing budgets.
  5. Experience bidding out contracts and negotiating terms and conditions.
  6. Understanding of current art museum methodologies and trends.
  7. Understanding the unique aesthetic and security needs of an art museum space.
  8. Creative and conceptual thinker and astute problem solver.

Job Requirements:

  1. Must be able to lift heavy objects up to 100 lbs and climbing ladders for routine installation and maintenance with or without assistance.
  2. Operate heavy equipment, including scissor lift and a variety of woodworking shop machines.

Contact Information to Applicants

Jennifer Talbott, jtalbott@ku.edu

Additional Candidate Instruction

Please attach a cover letter, resume, and three (3) professional references and use your cover letter to address how you meet the required and preferred qualifications.  An online University of Kansas application must be completed to be considered for this position.  

Application review begins Monday, November 9, 2020 and continues until a qualified pool of applicants is identified.  For first consideration, apply no later than Sunday, November 8, 2020

Advertised Salary Range

        Starts at $70,000


The University of Kansas prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, ethnicity, religion, sex, national origin, age, ancestry, disability, status as a veteran, sexual orientation, marital status, parental status, gender identity, gender expression, genetic information and retaliation in the University’s programs and activities. Access to information regarding equal opportunity and diversity worksite posters is available at http://www.humanresources.ku.edu/policies_procedures/category_details/index.aspx?category=8 or you may contact 785-864-4946 or employ@ku.edu for alternate access options.  Any inquiries regarding the non-discrimination policies should be directed to: Executive Director of the Office of Institutional Opportunity and Access, IOA@ku.edu, 1246 W. Campus Road, Room 153A, Lawrence, KS, 66045, (785)864-6414, 711 TTY.

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