The American Folk Art Museum announced today that its executive director, Anne-Imelda Radice, has informed its board of trustees of her intent to retire early in 2018. Dr. Radice, 69, has been director for just over five years, but during her tenure, she guided the museum through a near-death experience.
When she took over in September 2012, the museum was all but on life support. In the previous three years, it had defaulted on the bond for its flagship building on West 53rd Street, inaugurated three months after 9/11; sold the structure to its neighbor, the Museum of Modern Art; and retreated to its branch space at 2 Lincoln Square. At one point the dispersal of its great collection of folk and outsider art to other museums was considered.
When she was appointed director, Dr. Radice told The New York Times, “I’d very much like to be part of bringing the museum to the next level.” At the time, it seemed like little more than the obligatory soundbite, but she was as good as her word. As director, she balanced the budget; raised over $15 million from private donors and foundations; created new education programs; expanded the board of trustees; set in motion the process of digitalizing the museum’s more than 8,000 works; and strengthened the museum’s already admired exhibition program. In addition, the museum recently opened its Collections and Education Center in Long Island City, Queens. The new space includes public galleries that allow for displays drawn from the permanent collection, which are rarely possible at the Lincoln Square space.
Despite very little professional experience with folk art, Dr. Radice came to the museum impressive credentials. She had been director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the federal government’s largest cultural agency; held top posts in the National Endowment for the Humanities, department of education and the United States Information Agency; and served as the first director of the National Museum of Women in the Arts.
In the announcement, Monty Blanchard, president of the museum’s board of trustees, praised Dr. Radice for helping to “restore the museum’s position in the New York cultural landscape.”