Director - Palmer Museum of Art, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA

Applications for this position are closed.

The College of Arts and Architecture at The Pennsylvania State University seeks a dynamic, visionary, and collaborative leader to assume the directorship of the Palmer Museum of Art. The Palmer is an academic art museum for the students, faculty, and staff who comprise the Penn State community, as well as a civic institution serving the Centre region and the people of the Commonwealth. With a collection of 8,300 objects representing a variety of cultures and spanning thirty-five centuries of global art, the Palmer is the largest art museum between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. The museum’s collections, special exhibitions, and education programs support its mission to “serve as a cultural and scholarly resource for the University and audiences from Pennsylvania, the nation, and the world….  In accordance with the highest professional and ethical standards, the museum preserves and augments the collections it holds in trust for future generations.”

The museum traces its origins to 1972 when the University constructed the original building on the University Park campus. That building proved inadequate by the 1980s. A plan was undertaken to expand the museum, which in 1987 was renamed the Palmer Museum of Art, and work began in 1990. Designed by Charles Moore, the new construction surrounded and transformed the original building. Opened in 1993, the Palmer today consists of eleven galleries, three of which host changing exhibitions; a print study room; art storage facilities; an entrance atrium that includes a store; support and office spaces; and a 150-seat auditorium. The galleries range from intimate to spacious and allow for a variety of exhibitions. The expansion also included a dramatic new entrance to produce an iconic identity for the museum, a new outdoor plaza that serves as a campus focal point and gathering spot, and a sculpture garden adjacent to the museum.

A number of generous donors have enabled the museums to build an outstanding permanent collection that continues to grow at a strong pace. Areas of particular strength include American art from the late-eighteenth century to the present, Old Master paintings, and contemporary ceramics and glass. The Museum has a fine works-on-paper collection that extends from Old Master and Japanese ukiyo-e prints to photographs and contemporary drawings. Since the 1993 expansion, the museum has been able to show highlights from its permanent collection and mount a regular cycle of temporary exhibitions. It conducts a range of education and engagement programming that includes gallery talks, docent-led tours, lectures, a film series, community days, and workshops for both children and adults. Students in regional school districts are served with guided tours related to their curricula, and the museum offers a summer professional development institute for teachers.

Partnerships with the School of Visual Arts, the Institute of Arts and Humanities, and the departments of English and Art History, to name a few, have played an important role in the museum’s commitment to the academic mission of the University. Students in the Department of Art History and the Art Education program benefit from paid internships and graduate assistantships for educational and curatorial work.  Members of the curatorial and educational staff have the opportunity to teach undergraduate and graduate courses in these programs.

The museum operates with a full-time staff of thirteen. It has a docent corps of 35 and a membership group (Friends of the Palmer Museum of Art) of approximately 800, as well as an Advisory Board composed of members drawn from throughout the United States. The museum attracts approximately 35,000 visitors annually. Further information about the museum can be found at: 


“Advancing the Arts and Humanities” is one of five thematic priorities in Penn State’s 2016-2020 strategic plan. Important elements of this priority are to “invest in Penn State as a cultural destination,” to “elevate the institution’s cultural profile,” and to “raise awareness of Penn State’s role as a cultural hub” (see: This institutional vision—to which Penn State President Eric Barron is strongly committed—provides a singular, transformative opportunity for the next director to significantly raise the visibility and impact of the museum on local, national, and international levels. To that end, the university recently completed a feasibility study for a proposed “Cultural District” in the Arboretum at Penn State, which envisions the construction of a new art museum adjacent to a new science museum, with allocated space for collaborative art/science programming. With these circumstances in mind, the next director will have the opportunity to:

• Work closely with the museum staff; leadership, faculty, and students in the College of Arts and Architecture; and partners from across the University to position the museum as a vital center of academic and student life, broadening the museum’s collaborative relationships with departments, schools, colleges, centers, institutes, student services and organizations, and museums/galleries/collections beyond Arts and Architecture.

• Enhance the regional, national, and international reputation and stature of the museum, by creating and disseminating original scholarship relating to the museum’s collections and temporary exhibitions.

• Explore opportunities to expand the museum’s commitment to collecting and exhibiting contemporary art, while continuing to aggressively pursue collection growth in areas of existing strength. 

• Advocate for and secure additional operational funds to support activities and initiatives beyond staff salaries and maintenance of the museum facilities.

• Explore strategies for engaging Penn State students, faculty, and staff beyond the University Park campus.  (For information on Penn State’s twenty-four campuses, see:

• Play a lead role in accomplishing the recently completed feasibility study for a proposed “Cultural District” in the Arboretum at Penn State.


The director reports to the dean of the College of Arts and Architecture and is member of the college leadership team.  S/he sets the museum’s strategic direction and oversees its operations.

Specific responsibilities include:

• Plan and execute strategies and initiatives necessary to fulfill the museum’s mission and ensure its financial stability and growth.  Align the mission, vision, and strategic plan of the museum with those of the college and the university;

• Provide vision and leadership to clearly articulate the role of the museum as a university and community resource, assuring its active engagement with all of its current and potential constituencies, including students, faculty, staff, administrators, alumni, donors, and community members;

• Develop, oversee, and implement the museum’s annual budget and its short and long-term strategic plans;

• Partner effectively with the dean, college and university development staff, and the Advisory Board and the Friends to engage actively and effectively in fundraising and collections building, including regular travel in support of these objectives;

• Together with museum staff, and in concert with faculty and students in the college and beyond, develop and implement significant exhibitions and public programs that engage both the university and broader communities;

• Inspire museum staff by setting and maintaining high professional standards for the museum in all areas, encouraging cross-function collaboration, and providing professional development opportunities;

• Work with the Advisory Board and Friends to clarify and strengthen their roles by establishing clear policies and procedures and specific responsibilities;

• Work collaboratively with the college leadership team (dean, associate deans, and leaders of departments, schools, and the Center for the Performing Arts) to set, pursue, and achieve shared strategic objectives.


The ideal candidate should have:

• Demonstrated ability to serve as an effective spokesperson and ambassador for the museum, college, and university with excellent written and oral communication skills.

• Strong and proven leadership skills;

• Direct experience and competence in establishing strategic priorities, creating and managing budgets, managing operations, and directing and supporting staff;

• Knowledge of how a large, complex organization works and the ability to navigate successfully within one;

• Ability to build and nurture relationships with a wide range of individuals within the university, as well as with community members, donors, collectors, and the broader art world;

• A track record of successful fundraising that includes prospect engagement, donor cultivation, and stewardship;

• Seven to ten years of management/leadership experience in an art museum or relevant arts organization; experience at an academic museum is desirable;

• An innovative and intellectually rigorous approach to planning and realizing exhibitions and educational programs;

• A master’s degree (required) or earned doctorate (preferred) in an appropriate discipline. A strong background in art history is essential;

• Transparency in all dealings, and an awareness of ethical best practices stipulated by the Association of Art Museum Directors, the American Alliance of Museums, and the Association of Academic Museums and Galleries.


Arts and Architecture is one of fourteen academic colleges on Penn State’s University Park campus. It comprises the School of Music, the School of Theatre, the School of Visual Arts, the Department of Art History, the Stuckeman School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, the Center for the Performing Arts, and the Palmer Museum of Art. It is a professional college committed to artistic and scholarly creativity, arts and design research, and the preparation of specialized practitioners and scholars in all of the arts and design disciplines. Through the activities of the Palmer Museum of Art, the Center for the Performing Arts, and the Schools of Music and Theatre, the college offers an extensive and highly regarded array of programming and outreach activities that engage and serve the university as well as local and regional communities. For the current Arts and Architecture strategic plan: 


Founded in 1855, Penn State is a multi-campus, land grant, public research university that educates students from around the world, and supports individuals and communities through integrated programs of teaching, research, and service. There are approximately 46,000 students on the University Park campus and a total of 97,000 students on all campuses.

Penn State is ranked among the top 100 universities in the world by the Time Higher Education University Rankings, the Center for World University Rankings, and the Academic Ranking of World Universities.

Penn State’s University Park campus is located in State College, PA. State College is ranked among the lowest-stress and safest small cities in the country. Along with the surrounding communities of Centre County, State College offers excellent public schools, beautiful parks and other natural assets, and a vibrant and growing arts community. For more information, visit: and 


The salary is competitive and negotiable. The University offers an excellent benefits package.  For general information, see the Penn State HR website: 


The preferred start date is no later than summer 2017.


Review of applications will begin immediately and continue until the position is filled. Applicants should submit a current CV, a letter of application stating their interest in the position and their experience as it relates to the responsibilities and qualifications described above, as well as the names of three references. Initial screening of candidates will be conducted by Diane Frankel of Management Consultants for the Arts, an executive search firm working with the Palmer Museum of Art. Recommendations of qualified individuals are also welcome.

Send applications to:

Management Consultants for the Arts, Inc.
Attn:  Diane Frankel 

Email only:   This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Subject line:  Palmer Museum Search

Penn State is an equal opportunity, affirmative action employer, and is committed to providing employment opportunities to all qualified applicants
without regard to race, color, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability or protected veteran status.

Last modified on Tuesday, 28 March 2017 10:35