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The art of the search

January 24, 2004|by WANDA T. WILLIAMS

wandaw@herald-mail.com

A Washington County Museum of Fine Arts search committee reviewed candidate résumés Friday in its search for a new director.

Former museum director Jean Woods retired in July after 21 years with the museum. Following her departure, the museum formed an eight-member search committee led by Board of Trustees President Spence Perry.

The committee signed a one-year contract in August with Management Consultants for the Arts. The Connecticut-based firm, which specializes in filling top management slots for regional museums, has led a nationwide search for a new director.

"We paid them a consulting fee of $35,000, which also includes some modest travel fees, probably not more than $2,000 would be my guess," Perry said.

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The firm came highly recommended by museums across the country, including the Baltimore Museum of Art and The Walters Gallery in Baltimore, museum administrative assistant Christine Shives said.

Search firm senior consultant Adele Silver spent September and October in Hagerstown researching the community and meeting with members of the search committee.

"We were trying to give her a realistic picture of the community," Perry said. "This will help the firm locate a person who will fit this puzzle."

In November, the position was advertised in AVISO, an industry newsletter published by the American Association of Museums.

"It is not unusual for a search to take 12 to 18 months from beginning to the time the new director is in the chair," said Ed Able, president and CEO of the American Association of Museums in Washington, D.C. "It's a very competitive atmosphere at the moment to attract the best talent, especially when the candidate follows a long-term incumbent."

In addition to someone who is knowledgeable and passionate about the world of art, the announcement solicited candidates with the following skills: the ability to manage a $500,000 budget; a leader with a track record in developing collections and programs; and an ability to work with the community and create future programs.

"We wound up with about 60 serious applicants, and they had more than a casual interest in the job," Perry said.

Management Consultants for the Arts narrowed the pool to 12 candidates, whose résumés were reviewed Friday.

"Our hope is that in May or June, we hope to have a candidate that we can announce," Perry said.

The Washington County Museum of Fine Arts is one of only three accredited museums in the state.

Committee member Mary K. Shaw said Woods left big shoes to fill.

"This search can't be done overnight," Shaw said. "We have to find a director who will be a good fit."

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