Timothy Close has today resigned as Executive Director/CEO of the Museum of Glass after five and a half years leading the Tacoma glass museum. Citing the need for a change of leadership at the museum, Close says he wishes to return to a more general art museum. Current deputy director Susan Warner, who has a curatorial and art education background, will replace Close temporarily as interim director.
“This is a difficult decision for me, but I feel the timing is right for a leadership change at the Museum of Glass,” said Close in a press release. “It has been an honor to serve as the director of MOG. I truly love living in the Pacific Northwest and I have enjoyed working with so many talented artists and generous collectors…However, my professional interest is to return to a general art museum.”
Close thanked the museum’s staff, volunteers and docents for their part in the museum’s growth.
Board president Stephen Loeb said today that the board was proud of what Close had achieved in his time at the museum, and that Close’s resignation was not the result of any internal disagreement.
“We’ve certainly had our challenges, but this is what Tim feels is right for him,” said Loeb.
A photographer in his younger days, the 54-year-old Close came to the Museum of Glass in May 2006 from six years directing the Boise Art Museum, where he brought exhibits such as Dale Chihuly, William Morris and Degas that nearly doubled the institution’s attendance. In his time in Tacoma he has helped the museum develop its current all-glass focus, established its accreditation with the American Association of Museums, worked with the board to establish a fledgling collection including commissions from artists such as Preston Singletary and Martin Blank, established the Leonard and Norma Klorfine gallery and MoG-organized traveling exhibitions, and overseen the creation of the mobile Hot Shop program, which enables museum glassblowers to travel to schools and community events to demonstrate their art.
“Under Tim’s leadership, the Museum experienced impressive growth and development,” said Randy Lert, immediate past chair of the museum’s board of trustees. “He has a broad understanding of the Museum as both a cultural/educational center as well as a destination to promote cultural tourism… We are very appreciative of Tim’s many achievements and service to the Museum.”
During Close’s directorship, however, museum attendance dropped from 163,000 visitors in 2006/07 to 151,000 in 2010/11. Unlike other museums, the Museum of Glass has no endowment, relying heavily on entrance admissions to make up its budget.
Loeb said that while the board was concerned about the drop in attendance, still “a lot of museums would like to be in our situation.”
Attendance may also be a concern later this year as two large museums open in the area: the Dale Chihuly glass center, scheduled to open soon at the Seattle Center, and the new LeMay car museum facility in Tacoma’s Dome district, due to open in June. Both will attract tourist dollars.
Loeb, while acknowledging the new competition, isn’t worried.
“Will we get more people coming to see both (the LeMay and the Museum of Glass) than would otherwise come?” Loeb said. “We’re hoping so. It makes Tacoma a full-day trip with more museums.”
Close had taken over the museum directorship after Josi Callan, who had seen the museum through its first five years, left under a cloud in January 2006 after presenting major, non-glass exhibitions. The museum’s focus is now “All Glass, All the Time.”
Loeb says that the board has not yet decided on future plans, such as beginning a search for a new director or deciding what the museum’s focus will be. “We’re still figuring that out,” he said, “though (interim director) Susan Warner will be a part of the team going forward, and we have other talented folk as well.”