Ladies First! Part 1: 13 San Diego art museums have women at the helm


There is a well-known gender gap when it comes to museum directorship, according to the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) and the National Center for Arts Research (NCAR), but according to a recent report, “while progress is incremental, the needle is moving with changes accomplished through cultural shifts within the field and in broader society, and with the emergence of a new generation of leaders.”

Here are a baker’s dozen of women who are the heads of local arts institutions, some of them recent arrivals and some of them longtime leaders in the field. This is Part 1 of the story, Part 2 will be published in the Aug.10, 2017 issue of La Jolla Light or see it at

• 1. Reesey Shaw, Lux Art Institute

La Jolla’s own Reesey Shaw founded Lux in 1998, having previously been founding director of the California Center of the Arts Museum in Escondido. Among her achievements at Lux she lists: “Opening the first LEED-certified ‘green’ art museum building in California in 2012, and having it win a Grand Orchid Award; having had, to date, 50 inspirational artists-in-residence from all over the world; and continuing to stimulate creativity in our classes, camps, and workshops.”

— Find Lux at 1550 S. El Camino Real in Encinitas and at

• 2. Kathryn Kanjo, Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego

Now a La Jolla resident, Kathryn Kanjo became The David C. Copley Director/CEO on October 18, 2016 (MCASD’s 75th Anniversary), stepping up from her former position as the museum’s Deputy Director of Art and Programs. Her proudest achievement so far? “I am honored to have secured the unanimous approval of the city’s Planning Commission for MCASD’s transformative expansion,” she said. “It will quadruple our gallery space, create an ocean-view art plaza on Prospect, and add two new terraces along Coast Boulevard.”

— Find MCASD at 1100 Kettner Blvd. in downtown San Diego (the La Jolla branch at 700 Prospect St. is closed for expansion) and at

• 3. Roxana Velásquez, San Diego Museum of Art

Roxana Velásquez, formerly Executive Director of the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City, became SDMA’s Executive Director in 2010. Her accomplishments include, besides significant additions to SDMA’s permanent collection and the creation of new, more attractive displays, “Establishing the presence of our museum in international cultural capitals and the awareness of our community that SDMA is Their Art Museum.”

— Find San Diego Museum of Art at 1450 El Prado in Balboa Park and at

• 4. Judy Forrester, New Children’s Museum

Judy Forrester joined the Museum as Executive Director/CEO in 2015, after years of helping various San Diego non-profits build their business models. Under her guidance, admissions are up 40 percent over last year, many coming in for free or at steep discounts.

“When I see the faces of children every day deeply involved in art-making, I am incredibly proud of our team, especially those who work to create fun and meaningful art experiences out on the floor,” she said. “And we’re well positioned for continued growth as we approach our 10th anniversary next year.”

Find the New Children’s Museum at 200 West Island Ave. in downtown San Diego and online at

• 5. Maria Mingalone, Oceanside Museum of Art

Last year, Maria Mingalone, a teaching artist known for creating innovative public programs, left a long-term position as Director of Curatorial Affairs at the Berkshire Museum in Massachusetts to take over as OMA’s Executive Director.

“OMA is an important destination along the cultural corridor between Los Angeles and San Diego/Tijuana, but it had hit a few bumps along the road, and I was brought in to turn things around,” she said. “In a short time, we’ve made terrific progress, raising the community’s awareness of the museum’s important work in uplifting the lives of residents near and far and providing a place to showcase Southern California artists.

“These efforts have stabilized operations and increased our financial viability for the coming years.”

Find the Oceanside Museum of Art at 704 Pier View Way in Oceanside and online at

• 6. Deborah Klochko, Museum of Photographic Arts

Director and Chief Curator of the Museum of Photographic Arts, Deborah Klochko started at MOPA in 2006, after years of experience in photography museums as educator, director and curator.

“My proudest accomplishment has been to position MOPA as a museum for the 21st Century,” she said. “The artist Olafur Eliasson said it best, ‘Museums today ... should be a part of the world, a part of the times in which we live.’

— Find the Museum of Photographic Arts at 1649 El Prado in Balboa Park and online at

• 7. Beth Smith, Visions Art Museum

In 2009, when Beth Smith first came to Visions after being Director of Development at Oceanside Museum of Art, it was an all-volunteer, nonprofit quilt gallery. Under her leadership, the gallery became a museum, established a permanent collection of contemporary quilts, and now presents 16 exhibitions a year, along with lectures, workshops and online exhibits.

“We are grateful for the support of many generous donors and sponsors who continue to appreciate America’s only museum devoted exclusively to contemporary art quilts,” she said.

— Find Visions Art Museum at 2825 Dewey Road in Liberty Station, Point Loma and online at

• Coming Next Week: Part 2 of this story with profiles of additional female directors of San Diego museums will be published in the Aug. 10, 2017 La Jolla Light or see it at