dsmExclusive: Art Center Announces New Director

Newly appointed as the Des Moines Art Center’s John and Mary Pappajohn Director, Dr. Kelly Baum currently serves as a curator of contemporary art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Photo: Aron Johnston.

The Des Moines Art Center announced today that its next director will be Kelly Baum, who has served multiple roles at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City since 2015.

Baum will become the center’s John and Mary Pappajohn director in May, following the retirement of Jeff Fleming, who has served in that role for the last 18 years. She will lead the center’s mission to provide art experiences through its collections, exhibitions and educational programs.

“The Des Moines Art Center is an exceptional place. … It’s a public institution in the best sense of the word, a place of connection, exchange and shared learning,” she said in a prepared statement. “I’m thrilled to lead the Des Moines Art Center into the future, working with its staff to grow its extraordinary collection, to care for its historic campus, to bring its resources to the lives of ever more communities, to forge meaningful collaborations with local and national partners, and to magnify its impact in the city and beyond.

Baum (pronounced “bomb”) is currently a curator of contemporary art at the Met, where she has organized a dozen exhibitions and shaped plans for a new wing for modern and contemporary art.

She earned a Ph.D. in art history from the University of Delaware and has specialized in modern and contemporary art for the past 23 years at several prominent museums, including the Princeton University Art Museum, the Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas at Austin, and the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston. At both the Met and Princeton, she helped expand the museums’ collections of artwork by women and people of color.

“As the art center celebrates its 75th anniversary year and the remarkable tenure of retiring director Jeff Fleming, the trustees and staff are excited to partner with Dr. Kelly Baum as we look forward to the next 75 years,” board of trustees President Darren Jirsa said in a prepared statement.

To learn more, read dsm’s recent articles about Fleming and the art center’s 75th anniversary exhibition, which will open Feb. 11.

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