Ladies First! Part 2: 13 San Diego art museums have women at the helm


Here are six more of the women who head local arts institutions, some of them recent arrivals and some of them longtime leaders in the field; including Erika Torri, executive director of La Jolla’s Athenaeum Music & Arts Library. La Jolla Light published Part 1 listing the seven other museum directors in this space last week. You can read that story at or a direct link at

8. Leah Goodwin, Museum at California Center for the Arts

Leah Goodwin, who was the museum’s education director in its early years, took charge of the 9000-square-foot exhibition space in 2015, after a time as Director of Arts Programs at the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation. The space had been closed on-and-off due to financial problems, but she has now established a consistent schedule, presenting four exhibitions a year, becoming part of the Center’s overall strategic plan, and re-establishing the museum’s relevance to the community.

“Every exhibition includes a student component,” she said. “We’re building the next generation of artists.”

— Find the Museum at California Center for the Arts at 340 N. Escondido Blvd. in Escondido and online at

9. Linda Caballero Sotelo, New Americans Museum (Liberty Station)

Linda Caballero Sotelo was appointed Executive Director of the New Americans Museum in 2014, when NAM, originally founded by Deborah Szekely in 2001 to honor the immigrant experience, had been closed for over four years. “We called it our ‘reawakening,’ ” said Sotero, whose resumé includes being CEO of San Diego County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and project director of the trans-border arts festivals InSITE97 and InSITE2000.

“We came in with re-energized purpose, immigrant leadership and thoughtful visual arts programming to support storytelling in our spaces and ‘beyond-walls,’ and we’ve hosted more than 30,000 visitors to date,” she said. She is proudest of the way NAM handled an incident last Thanksgiving when their signs were defaced with anti-immigrant graffiti: They went public, inviting passersby to share their feelings about the hate crime on a Free Speech Wall.

“The response was overwhelming, and it really made our purpose come to life,” she said. “It galvanized our community to stand up for us, a small museum with big dreams of fostering tolerance among all Americans.”

— Find the New Americans Museum at 2825 Dewey Road in Liberty Station, Point Loma and online at

10. Carolyn Grant, Museum of Making Music

Carolyn Grant became MoMM’s Executive Director in 2001, having worked there since 1998. Devoted to the museum’s mission of preserving the history of musical instruments and giving visitors opportunities to try music-making for themselves, she praised “the staff and volunteers who see this mission through every day with their commitment to creating a welcoming environment for our audiences.”

— Find the Museum of Making Music at 5790 Armada Drive in Carlsbad, and online at

11. Megan Pogue, Timken Museum of Art

After 12 years as vice-president of business development at San Diego Symphony, Megan Pogue took the helm of the Timken in 2015. Since then, she has established a new infrastructure for the museum and made progress in “visitor engagement.”

“The Timken has gone from a small, static and staid 52-year-old organization to an ever-changing, vibrant community resource with multimedia exhibitions and family activities,” she said.

— Find the Timken Museum of Art at 1500 El Prado in Balboa Park, and online at

12. Diane Peabody Straw, Women’s Museum of California

In 2016, after serving as funds development chair for the Women’s Museum and doing freelance event planning and marketing, Diane Peabody Straw became the museum’s Executive Director. She is proud of the team she has developed. “The talented women who work here are dedicated, strong, and most importantly, supportive of each other,” she said. “I know that because of them, the Museum has a bright future ahead.”

— Find the Women’s Museum of California at 2730 Historic Decatur Road at Liberty Station, Point Loma and online at

13. Erika Torri, Athenaeum Music & Arts Library

Although the Athenaeum is not formally a museum, it is definitely an important exhibition space, and after 26 years as Executive Director, Erika Torri is the longest-term female director of all. Born in Germany, she was an assistant librarian at a Boston junior college in the mid-1960s, who became an award-winning weaver of miniatures, as well as a librarian. She was library director at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCASD) in the late 1980s, and then moved over to the Athenaeum, becoming Executive Director in 1991.

Among her proudest achievements are starting a renowned collection of Artists’ Books, introducing a wide range of art and music programming, beginning and growing an Endowment Fund, and “making the Athenaeum a lively, welcoming place.”

Find the Athenaeum Music & Arts Library at 1008 Wall St. in La Jolla and online at

• You can read the previous story about the seven other female directors of San Diego art museums at or a direct link at