Doreen Bolger. Photo by Mitro Hood.
Doreen Bolger. Photo by Mitro Hood.

Bolger’s legacy includes free admission, 100th anniversary, and $28 million renovation

BALTIMORE, MD (April 8, 2015)—The Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) Director Doreen Bolger today announced she will retire from her position effective June 30, 2015. Bolger, who has served as director since 1998, is recognized for redefining the Museum’s artistic focus and placing greater emphasis on its world-renowned collection, initiating major traveling exhibitions, expanding educational programs, and eliminating general admission fees. The Board of Trustees will establish a committee to oversee a national search for the museum’s next director. Bolger will continue to advise the BMA as it moves through a transitional period seeking her successor.

“Under Doreen’s leadership, the Baltimore Museum has enjoyed significant growth. From attracting new audiences, increasing funding and envisioning and delivering exciting and groundbreaking exhibitions, Doreen has prepared the museum for continued success,” said Frederick Koontz, Chair, Board of Trustees.

Many of Bolger’s accomplishments during her 17-year tenure as director are the result of redefining the BMA’s mission to focus on art of the modern era, from the 19th century to the present, and placing greater emphasis on the collection. The museum developed a series of BMA-curated and BMA-organized or co-organized traveling exhibitions, each accompanied by a scholarly publication that  enhanced the BMA’s reputation for distinguished original research, such as: Joyce J. Scott: Kickin’ It with the Old Masters (2000); Painted Prints: The Revelation of Color in Northern Renaissance & Baroque Engravings, Etchings & Woodcuts (2002/03); Work Ethic (2003/04); SlideShow (2005); Pissarro: Creating the Impressionist Landscape (2007/08); Matisse: Painter as Sculptor (2007/08); Franz West: To Build a House You Start with the Roof (2008/09); and Cézanne and American Modernism (2010). The museum also initiated a series of smaller exhibitions that provide ongoing interest in the galleries. Under Bolger’s leadership, the BMA enjoyed a lively period of collection growth in nearly every area of the museum. Among the many acquisitions are works by Henri Matisse, important additions to the African, American, and contemporary art collections, as well as works by African-American artists ranging from historic paintings by Joshua Johnson and Henry Ossawa Tanner to contemporary mixed-media works by Kerry James Marshall and Nick Cave.

Engaging educational programs inspired by the collection include in-gallery experiences like family activity centers and audio tours, as well as mobile guides and electronic teacher resources that reach global audiences. The latter are just a few of the digital technologies Bolger has embraced for the museum’s educational practices and marketing. A new center for learning and creativity, opening in October 2015, will build on this legacy of innovation in presenting and interpreting art by creating new platforms for audience engagement and learning that look toward the future. Through a constellation of exhibitions, programs, digital initiatives, community outreach, and partnerships, the center aims to spark new ways of thinking about art, creativity, and the human experience.

“Doreen has transformed The Baltimore Museum of Art into one of the most dynamic and innovative cultural institutions in our country,” said Christine Anagnos, Executive Director of the Association for Art Museum Directors. “The BMA has evolved and grown under her tenure and I am especially proud of her focus on the diversity of the BMA’s audience and educational programs.  Doreen’s unwavering leadership of the BMA should be lauded. As a longtime member of AAMD, her wisdom and experience will be missed.”

The BMA has also been enhanced by the transformation of the museum’s 210,000 square-foot building. This work began with the successful renovations and reinstallations of the BMA’s Cone Wing in 2001 and Mary Frick Jacobs Wing in 2003. Bolger also led a rigorous institutional planning process for the renovation of the facility, which will be completed in fall 2015. This included a Space Use Study (2001), Strategic Plan (2003) Architectural Master Plan (2005); Campaign Feasibility Study (2006); and Architectural Concept Design Study (2007). The museum is now in the final phase of a $28 million renovation to revitalize the visitor experience, improve the care for the museum’s collection, and address critical infrastructure needs. The first phase was completed in 2012 with the reopening of the Contemporary Wing featuring a dynamic new presentation of more than 100 objects by established and emerging artists. This was followed by even more dramatic renovations of the Dorothy McIlvain Scott American Wing and East Wing Lobby and the reopenings of the Merrick Historic Entrance and Zamoiski East Entrance in fall 2014 during the museum’s 100th anniversary celebration. In 2015, the museum will reopen greatly expanded galleries for the African art collection, two new galleries for its Asian art collection, and the new center for learning and creativity.

Bolger retires with the museum’s financial future more secure as a result of In A New Light: The Campaign for The Baltimore Museum of Art, an unprecedented philanthropic initiative that secured $75 million, including more than $30 million in endowment funds and the largest gift in the institution’s history, a $10 million gift for support of the American Wing.  The campaign, which publicly began in 2008, also included an initiative to acquire more gifts of art led by Deputy Director for Curatorial Affairs Jay Fisher. More than 3,000 new works of art have been added to the collection and many of them will be featured in a series of celebratory exhibitions presented in 2015 and 2016.

“It is wonderful to leave the museum at such a high point in its history. I am honored to have served this amazing institution with such dedicated colleagues, Trustees, and volunteers, with so many generous and loyal supporters and patrons,” said Bolger. “I look forward to the BMA’s continued success—and to my own pursuit of projects I feel passionate about, in this community and in the field.”

The BMA’s impact on the community greatly expanded through the elimination of general admission fees in 2006 that was made possible by increased public and private support. Numerous partnerships and collaborations with arts and community organizations and educational institutions include two traveling exhibitions co-organized with the Walters Art Museum, citywide festivals celebrating Vivat!
St. Petersburg and Edgar Allan Poe, and classes and internships for students from The Johns Hopkins University and the Maryland Institute College of Art. Bolger also played a leadership role in founding and sustaining organizations dedicated to Baltimore’s vibrant arts community and helped the museum build connections with artists in Baltimore and Maryland through exhibitions and programs that showcased their work.

“From the Greater Baltimore Alliance’s (GBCA) early years, Doreen and the BMA have been leading partners and have demonstrated an unstinting commitment to the principles of working toward the common good of the cultural community—including artists and organizations both large and small,” said GBCA Executive Director Jeannie Howe. “By producing exhibitions for the Baker Artist Awards and the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts’ Sondheim Prize Finalists, the BMA has helped elevate and further recognize accomplished area artists. Along with the leadership of the GBCA, I am grateful and excited to learn more about what’s next for both Doreen and the museum.”

Bolger has served on the boards of the Maryland Citizens for the Arts, Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance, Charles Street Development Corporation, Design Center Baltimore, and Station North Arts & Entertainment, Inc., and is an enthusiastic supporter of the city’s emerging art scene. Prior to joining the BMA, she held positions as Director of the Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design in Providence and as Curator of Paintings and Sculpture at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Fort Worth, Texas. A scholar on 19th-and early 20th-century American art, Bolger concluded her 15-year tenure at The Metropolitan Museum of Art as Curator of American Paintings and Sculpture. She has a B.A. from Bucknell University, a M.A. from the University of Delaware, and a Ph.D. from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, and has published extensively on American painting, drawings, and decorative arts.

About the Baltimore Museum of Art

Founded in 1914, the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) inspires people of all ages and backgrounds through exhibitions, programs, and collections that tell an expansive story of art—challenging long-held narratives and embracing new voices. Our outstanding collection of more than 97,000 objects spans many eras and cultures and includes the world’s largest public holding of works by Henri Matisse; one of the nation’s finest collections of prints, drawings, and photographs; and a rapidly growing number of works by contemporary artists of diverse backgrounds. The museum is also distinguished by a neoclassical building designed by American architect John Russell Pope and two beautifully landscaped gardens featuring an array of modern and contemporary sculpture. The BMA is located three miles north of the Inner Harbor, adjacent to the main campus of Johns Hopkins University, and has a community branch at Lexington Market. General admission is free so that everyone can enjoy the power of art.

Press Contacts

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Baltimore Museum of Art
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Baltimore Museum of Art
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