The Oakland Museum of California’s mission is to inspire all Californians to create a more vibrant future for themselves and their communities. As a community gathering place, we strive to create a sense of welcome and belonging for visitors – to build trust, connection, and understanding between communities and people. As a museum, we engage with our communities in telling the untold and undertold stories of California utilizing OMCA’s collection of more than 1.9 million objects that include seminal art works, historical artifacts, ethnographic objects, natural specimens, and photographs. Our exhibitions and programs explore and reveal the factors that shape California’s character and identity, from its extraordinary natural landscapes, to successive waves of migration, to its unique culture of creativity and innovation.
BACKGROUND & CONTEXT
OMCA opened its doors more than fifty years ago in 1969, bringing together three civic museums of art, history and natural sciences that dated back to the early 20th century. This progressive multidisciplinary approach allowed its visitors to celebrate the many facets of California through a more immersive and holistic sensory experience, housed within a landmark building and seven-acre campus and framed as the “museum of the people.” A dozen years ago, OMCA undertook a major renovation and transformed its collection galleries in order to build upon the Museum’s original multidisciplinary and civic-minded intent by improving integration of OMCA’s collections and programs, strengthening its role as a public forum, and creating new opportunities for visitor participation. The collection galleries are animated by innovative interpretive tools and interactive features, and gathering spaces and program areas engage visitors and encourage them to share their own perspectives, questions, and stories. OMCA has just completed another phase of its campus renovation with the transformation of its roof-top terraces and gardens and creation of two new entries that connect the campus with the surrounding neighborhood.
As the only museum in California dedicated explicitly and exclusively to the state’s natural, cultural and artist history, the Museum’s collections extend throughout the state and have strength in both contemporary and historic art, material culture, and natural specimens. OMCA identifies three primary uses for our collections: Bridging, Bonding, and Self-Knowledge. OMCA’s collections preserve, document and exemplify the past for the future, catalyzing discussion and debate on urgent and compelling issues in California with the goal of creating a shared understanding. OMCA is a place of social connection, and collections provide opportunities for diverse communities to see themselves at the museum, tell their stories, and connect with others. OMCA’s collections also build personal experiences by evoking and provoking extraordinary emotional and intellectual responses.
OMCA nurtures its deep ties to the community by offering many educational and public programs. OMCA welcomes schools, scholars, local audiences, and all visitors to participate in its events and activities and to discover their place in California’s past, present, and future. In the most recent year prior to its closing in March 2020 due to the pandemic, more than 25,000 K-12 students experienced OMCA’s programs and more than 350,000 people visited the museum, 30% of whom were first-time visitors and 56% of whom are people of color.
In Spring 2021, OMCA undertook a staff organizational redesign that places equity, inclusion and anti-racism at the center of its organizational structure. The organizational design includes three broad functional units or “circles” (Advancement and Engagement, Content and Experience, and Organizational Effectiveness/Shared Resources) as well as self-directed cross-functional teams designed to support equity, innovation, collaboration, and leadership development at every level of the organization. Within this structure, OMCA fosters a practice of distributed leadership and collaborative decision-making, with senior leadership positions serving as coaches, mentors, and facilitators. This position co-leads the Content and Experience circle that includes the Curatorial, Collections, Production, and Learning, Experience, and Programming Departments.
The Senior Director of Curatorial Affairs position at OMCA provides an opportunity to help lead an institution that is exploring what it means to be a museum in true service to its community and centering equity, justice, and inclusion. The Museum has achieved major goals over the past several years in placing community and visitors at the center of its multidisciplinary programming, taking on urgent and compelling issues in its exhibition topics, exploring new approaches to collecting and collection access, and positioning itself as a vital town square. As a result of its programmatic development, its recent campus renovation, and the organizational design based on “north stars” of anti-racism, innovation, collaboration, and leadership development, OMCA now announces itself as a museum, a garden and gathering place — a space that functions as both a steward and interpreter of California’s cultural and environmental heritage, and a civic anchor for Oakland. As the institution weathers and emerges from the pandemic, we are looking ahead to our next phase of development, how we advance our mission and values, and how we hold ourselves accountable to the diverse community that is Oakland, the Bay Area, and California.
OMCA will be launching a new strategic planning initiative in fall 2022 and the position will play a central role – partnering with the Board, members of the Senior Directors Council, and the broader staff and community – in shaping the vision, priorities and strategy for the institution, particularly in the areas of exhibitions, content development, and collection presentation and access. The position collaborates with a directors’ council that shares responsibility for overall institutional direction in a structure that fosters innovation and experimentation, and with a team that is both highly skilled and experienced, and committed to learning and risk-taking. The Museum’s Board of Trustees is fully aligned with the institutional commitment to anti-racism and equity, and OMCA is situated in a community of great diversity and fierce community pride, known for its social movements, its environmental activism, and its creativity. The position offers the opportunity for both bold action and inspiring growth.
The Senior Director of Curatorial Affairs is responsible for the overarching vision and strategy that bring together exhibitions, collection gallery installations, and collection initiatives that support OMCA’s brand as a museum, garden and gathering place and that advance its social impact of building trust, understanding, and connection between people and communities. Working closely with the Executive Director and other team leaders, the position leads the development of a comprehensive content calendar for the Museum’s temporary exhibitions and collection installations that showcase the breadth of OMCA’s interdisciplinary collections, center equity and community voice, engage multiple constituencies, and tell the unique and compelling stories of Oakland and California. The position also co-leads the Content and Experience “circle” comprising departments that collaborate to create a dynamic and integrated set of programs that align with the Museum’s mission and achieve OMCA’s audience, social impact, and financial sustainability goals. As a member of the Senior Directors Council, the position shares in overall leadership for the Museum including responsibility for strategic planning and policy-making, and acts as coach, leader and supervisor to the collections, curatorial, and production teams.
- Provide leadership to the overall institution as a member of the Senior Directors Council, contributing to policy-making and ensuring the Museum’s vitality and success through active communication, problem-solving, and decision-making
- Provide leadership for institutional planning, annual priorities, and institutional initiatives
- Contribute to the prudent and ongoing monitoring of OMCA annual budget and financial demands to ensure a sustainable future
- Demonstrate exceptional leadership skills in motivating staff, delegating tasks, encouraging independent problem-solving by individuals and teams, and providing an understanding of the institutional vision as a context for individual and team work plans
- Keep apprised of trends and developments in the museum and non-profit field and ensure that OMCA maintains leadership as a model for a 21st century museum in service to the public
- Work with specific Board committees as staff liaison as assigned
- Serve as Acting Director in the absence of the Executive Director, as requested
- Act as an ambassador for the institution in its role in service to the public both internally and externally. Represent OMCA to public agencies, local government, peer organization groups, citizen groups, neighbors and private organizations
Leadership and Strategy
The Senior Director of Curatorial Affairs will oversee the work of Director of Content Development, Director of Collections, and Associate Director of Production to:
- Translate OMCA’s strategic plan, social impact and business model into multi-year institutional exhibition and core gallery priorities and budgets, monitoring performance and adjusting course to meet targets
- Lead priority-setting and budget planning and management for Curatorial, Collections, and Production departments
- Provide strategic leadership and coaching of key cross-institutional initiatives and teams
- Coach and mentor the circle’s senior team members including establishing priorities, individual and team goals, and participating in OMCA’s goal-setting and performance management program
- Participate in the development of grant and donor strategies and proposals; play an active role in donor cultivation and stewardship
- Serve as a spokesperson for the organization in the community, the field and media; participate in and present at professional conferences and conventions, attend community and civic gatherings on behalf of the organization; and play an active role in sharing OMCA’s work with the field and keeping abreast of developments in the field
- Collaborate with other Senior Directors on:
- development of meaningful and relevant visitor-centered public and education programs, including those for schools, families, and adults, tied to the programmatic schedule of exhibitions and core gallery presentations
- creating a welcoming and inclusive environment for new audiences to engage with OMCA’s exhibitions and collections to foster engagement, affiliation, and long-term support of the Museum
- development and solicitation of grants and sponsorships to support the Museum’s collection, exhibition, conservation, and program priorities
- partner with the Marketing & Communications department to develop communications related to exhibitions, collections, and other content strategies
Curatorial and Exhibitions Oversight and Execution
- Define a clear strategic direction for OMCA’s exhibition and core gallery initiatives based on community listening and an analysis of the internal and external programmatic landscape as well as distinctive strengths of OMCA’s collections, staff, and history
- Lead annual and multi-year planning of innovative exhibition and gallery programs that meet OMCA’s mission, business and social impact goals; engage the community in conversation and reflection on the relevant and pressing issues of our time; and ensure a clarity of vision and appropriate frameworks, principles, tools and resources are in place for productive cross-discipline and cross-departmental collaboration in creating the visitor experience
- Support the direction of priority setting and planning for the collections, curatorial and production teams to ensure exhibition and gallery projects are delivered effectively, efficiently, on time and on budget, and with timely engagement of and collaboration with internal stakeholders
Collections Care and Management
- Lead OMCA’s collecting and collections strategy including facilitating multi-year and annual planning for collection documentation and care, acquisitions and deaccessions; support the development of innovative programs and methods for community-centered collection access, interpretation and presentation
- Oversee and consult in the care, installation, and interpretation of the collections
- Oversee and consult in the shaping of the collections, including acquisitions and deaccessions
- Advocate for internal initiatives that modernize, streamline, and integrate collection content, aligned with industry standards and using existing and new processes, to provide enhanced access to collection information for both internal and external stakeholders
- Support the institutional position on ethical collections and exhibition practice including NAGPRA and CalNAGPRA compliance, intellectual property and copyright concerns, and integrating community input into collections care and descriptions
Possessing seasoned leadership skills with a minimum of seven years of management experience in a museum or collecting-based cultural institution, the Senior Director will also have a growth mindset and will be eager to learn about OMCA, the Oakland community, and broader trends in the field for organizations committed to human-centered, equitable organizational cultures. The Museum is seeking an approach to leadership that deploys management practices, cultural attributes, and intentional actions that invite people into content development and decision-making processes. Ideal candidates will have a demonstrated track record of fostering collaboration within and between teams, inspiring trust in colleagues, and creating the conditions for team and institutional success. The ideal candidate will have led major institutional initiatives and be able to move fluidly between big picture strategic thinking and pragmatic delivery against deadlines and outcomes. Successful candidates will also be outstanding communicators and have a high level of cultural competence, emotional intelligence and empathy.
Curatorial, Collections, and Production Experience
The Senior Director of Curatorial Affairs will have deep background within the museum field with experience applying community-engaged practices to exhibitions and collection care, access, and presentation. Experience within a multidisciplinary institution is highly desirable and a commitment to exploring interdisciplinary connections and working across disciplines is essential. Strong candidates will be able to articulate a process for creating a programmatic vision that both achieves OMCA’s social impact and meets community needs, and advances the institution’s financial sustainability and audience development goals. The successful candidate will also have the capacity to create a strategic and cohesive throughline between and with exhibitions and other programming that projects a distinctive voice and offers a perspective that is uniquely OMCA.
- Ability to display the competencies of strategic thinking, development of self and others and ability to deploy and align organizational strategies and objectives
- 10+ years of experience with progressive growth towards senior leadership within a museum or collection-based cultural institution
- 7+ years supervisory experience
- B.A. in relevant field
- Demonstrated experience in directing successful exhibition and collection initiatives in museums, including major grant-funded initiatives
- Familiarity with multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary fields including the arts, history, and/or natural sciences with a focus on community engagement and civic and audience development
- Demonstrated knowledge of trends and progressive practices in the museum field
- Demonstrated achievements as an adaptive change agent, collaborator, coach, and team and coalition-builder
- Superior communication and presentation skills, both written and verbal, including command of public speaking
- Strong interpersonal skills, with a capacity for managing and leading people with diverse backgrounds, views and work styles
- Understanding of fundraising techniques, grant application procedures, and funding sources
- Demonstrated cultural competence and a history of building equitable and inclusive programming
- Works well in a deeply collaborative, highly fluid culture
- Experience with utilizing Google platform preferred
To apply: visit our career site here
Categories: Job Postings