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Art museum won't extend director's contract

April 19, 2007|By TAMELA BAKER

HAGERSTOWN

Three years after hiring Joseph T. Ruzicka as director of the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts, the museum's board of trustees decided this week it would not extend his contract, according to board Vice President Thomas C. Newcomer.

Newcomer said the board reached its decision Wednesday. Ruzicka confirmed Thursday that Wednesday was his last day at the museum.

"The board and I agreed that our visions for the future had diverged at some point," he said, "and it would be best for everyone if I moved on."

"I'm very proud of everything the board and I have done in the past three years" to enhance the museum's presence in the community, he said. He declined to elaborate on the differences between himself and the museum's board.

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Newcomer said "there were a variety of different things that (the board) looked at" in reaching its decision.

The board's executive committee met Thursday to discuss an interim policy, Newcomer said.

Afterward, board President William Plavcan told The Herald-Mail that while the committee is making plans for the interim, there was "nobody specifically in mind" for an acting director.

He did not discuss differences between Ruzicka and the board. "Artistically, he did fine," Plavcan said. "There were some differences, but I don't think I can go into that now."

The future direction of the museum, he said, "will be largely dependent" on Ruzicka's replacement.

"I think the museum is a great community treasure," Plavcan said. "We're very fortunate to have it; we have some of the world's treasures there. It's the property of the community, and we respect that."

Ruzicka said he was especially proud of the Festival of the Arts the museum sponsored last September, which drew some 3,000 visitors - many of whom Ruzicka said had never visited the museum before. He said he believed the festival established the museum as "belonging to the entire community."

"I think it's been a real honor and privilege for me to direct that museum, and for me and my wife to be part of this community," Ruzicka said. "A lot of my heart is in that building."

Ruzicka was executive administrator of the Association of Art Museum Curators in New York before coming to Hagerstown. His duties here officially began July 1, 2004.

He holds a bachelor's degree in art history from the University of Wisconsin in Madison, and a master's degree and a doctorate from the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University.

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