Executive Director

Background and Mission 

Cleveland’s Museum of Contemporary Art (moCa) plays an urgent and exciting role in the cultural landscape in Cleveland and beyond. As a non-collecting institution and the region’s only contemporary art museum, moCa is ever-changing, introducing new exhibitions throughout the year to create fresh experiences for visitors each season. Since its founding in 1968, moCa has presented the works of more than 2,000 artists, often through artists’ first solo shows. 

For more than 50 years, moCa has been both conduit and catalyst for anyone seeking creativity and inspiration, bringing the art and ideas of our time to Cleveland and the region at large. moCa was the first museum in the area to exhibit the works of vanguard artists such as Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol. We continue in that tradition, featuring the work of emerging and established regional, national, and international artists. These artists include Teresita Fernandez, Adam Pendleton, Liu Wei, Tony Lewis, Tauba Auerbach, and Michelle Grabner, among others. In the past 20 years, moCa has exhibited the work of 171 Black, Indigenous, People of Color artists, or 32% of artists presented overall. 

Unique and dynamic, moCa Cleveland advances the visual art of our time. moCa challenges, inspires, and teaches a wide range of audiences in order to push the boundaries of innovation, creativity, and exploration through exhibitions, publications, and programming. 

moCa’s History and Building 

moCa Cleveland was founded in 1968 by Marjorie Talalay, Nina Sundell, and Agnes Gund as The New Gallery to showcase contemporary art and introduce it to Clevelanders with the works of cutting edge artists such as Christo, Jasper Johns, and Laurie Anderson. In 1974, the New Gallery became a non-profit, and in 1984, changed its name to Cleveland Center for Contemporary Art. In 2002, the organization’s name was changed to Museum of Contemporary Art (moCa) Cleveland. In 2006, moCa announced relocation plans, and in 2011, broke ground for its new building. 

In the fall of 2012, moCa’s new $27.2M building became the anchor for Cleveland’s Uptown district in the culturally rich University Circle neighborhood. The building’s innovative, hexagonal space transforms as needed to accommodate growing exhibitions, programs, and audiences. It’s also in good company, adjacent to neighboring universities, medical institutions, cultural centers, and a host of Cleveland schools. 

The first structure in the United States designed by Farshid Moussavi Architecture (FMA), moCa’s debt-free building became an instant icon representing Cleveland’s revitalization and growth. It’s been cited by The New York Times, Fodor’s, and Architectural Digest as a symbol of the city’s renaissance. Moussavi’s design also demonstrates that a museum expansion need not be large in scale to be ambitious. Devised for both environmental and fiscal sustainability, the design is technically inventive, visually stunning and highly practical. In 2015, moCa’s building received LEED® Silver certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. 

Current Perspectives and Looking Forward 

In 2019, moCa celebrated its 50th anniversary with the launch of the OPEN HOUSE initiatives—a museum-wide commitment to ensure we are welcoming in every sense. In addition to disintegrating economic barriers with free daily admission, moCa has rethought how everyone approaches their work with a focus on diversity, inclusion, and accessibility to make the museum more engaging. 

The COVID-19 pandemic coupled with an urgent and necessary reckoning of systemic racism, white privilege, and colonization within museums has reinforced the importance of art and spurred new ideas about what it means to engage artists and audiences. Now more than ever, moCa believes that art matters, that artists’ voices are integral to the shaping of society, and that institutions must be responsive to artists’ needs while increasing collaborative community practices that ensure equity and create spaces of belonging for all. 

moCa Cleveland is governed by a 30-person Board of Trustees, who have fiduciary responsibility for the organization and contribute leadership, expertise, and judgment in working to sustain and ensure moCa’s mission and impact. The Board of Trustees is dedicated to an engaged, thoughtful partnership with the Executive Director. moCa employs 27 full-time employees or fellows and operates an annual budget of approximately $3.5 million. The endowment currently stands at approximately $6 million. moCa remained financially stable during the pandemic and anticipates a budget surplus in fiscal year 2021. 

The Role 

The Executive Director of moCa Cleveland functions as moCa’s Chief Executive Officer and reports to the Board of Trustees. In this role, the Executive Director has authority over all aspects of moCa Cleveland, including refining strategic vision, artistic and programmatic direction, building and diversifying the museum’s audience, developing budgets, fundraising, and overall advocacy for moCa Cleveland’s mission and impact in Cleveland and beyond. 

The new Director will be a dynamic and innovative leader who is eager to step into this position during a pivotal moment of transition for moCa Cleveland. Under this Executive Director’s guidance, moCa Cleveland will strengthen its leadership role as an inclusive and engaging artistic player, refining and cementing the unique space, relationships, and impact the Museum creates in this community. Implicit within this will be the Executive Director’s ability to draw upon their expertise in contemporary art, as well as knowledge of and connectivity to national and international communities of artists and other contemporary art institutions, to strengthen moCa Cleveland’s impact, focus, and reputation. 

Critical to the Executive Director’s success will be the ability to build authentic relationships across the diversity of communities in and around Cleveland and galvanize community support for the museum. The Executive Director will approach resource-building with significant creativity and clarity of purpose. Ensuring a wide range of donors feel included and involved, the new Executive Director will increase and diversify financial support from individual donors, foundations, corporations and, where relevant, government funders, for annual operations and growth of the Museum’s endowment. 

The Executive Director will empower and lead a dedicated professional staff. They will ensure that strategic objectives are collectively agreed upon, effectively implemented, and realized in a fiscally responsible manner. The Executive Director will inspire the volunteers and support organizations to work in concert with the strategic goals of the Museum. They will approach the financial administration of the institution with resourcefulness, sound judgment, and a clear understanding of budgets. 

The Executive Director will also serve as moCa Cleveland’s primary spokesperson throughout Cleveland and the broader region. Outreach and engagement in the community are fundamental aspects of the Museum’s work. To that end, the Executive Director will be accessible and able to interact with the wide range of constituencies important to the Museum with the goal of expanding audiences and accessibility and broadening the institution’s stakeholder relationships. The Executive Director will build strong partnerships with other organizations throughout Cleveland and beyond. They will work with the curatorial, education, and program staffs to develop and expand programming that enhances the Museum’s position as a key player in Cleveland’s highly diverse, dynamic, and growing arts and cultural community. 

Candidate Profile 

The ideal candidate for the next Executive Director of moCa Cleveland will demonstrate a collaborative leadership style, entrepreneurial drive, empathy, and a demonstrated commitment to diversity, equity, access, and inclusion. The candidate will exhibit a deep passion for contemporary art, as well as a fundamental belief in art and creativity’s value in society. They will have an understanding of and perspective on the important role that non-collecting institutions play in the 21st century arts landscape. 

The candidate will bring a track record of senior-level leadership experience within another museum or arts-focused organizations. The ideal candidate will have the ability to lead through and motivate staff, donors, the community of Cleveland—as well as national arts leaders interested in what an arts platform like moCa Cleveland can mean to its community—around a shared vision. They will have an understanding of the role of museums in the 21st century, including digital strategies for audience engagement. 

This individual will have earned a reputation for effective management and leadership, as well as effectiveness in partnering with a Board and senior management team. They will bring strong business acumen and financial management experience. They will be an excellent communicator and listener, as well as have an eagerness to cultivate relationships with diverse constituencies both internally and externally. The Executive Director will be a civic-minded leader who is eager to dive into Cleveland’s social and cultural environment; and committed to investing the time and energy needed to solidify moCa Cleveland’s reputation as a creative leader in connecting Cleveland’s many and diverse audiences. 

The next leader of the Museum will have demonstrated a high level of achievement in developing or contributing to a compelling and forward-looking strategy for an organization, building the financial, operational, and ideological support for its implementation, and skilfully balancing and aligning the needs of multiple interests. In particular, they should have experience managing institutional transition, and will be energized by building the Museum’s strategy for the future, as well as advancing its stature, recognition, and audience engagement locally and more broadly. The ideal candidate will be a natural team builder with the energy, optimism, and drive to lead moCa Cleveland into the future. 

In terms of the performance and personal competencies required for the position, we would highlight: 

Setting Strategy 
  • Track record as an innovative and entrepreneurial thinker, comfortable taking risks; will have the vision, creativity, and judgment to identify nuanced objectives and lead an inspiring plan for moCa Cleveland’s future. 
  • The inclination to seek and objectively analyze data from a variety of sources to support decisions and to align others with the organization's overall strategy. 
  • The ability to effectively balance the desire/need for broad change with an understanding of how much change the organization is capable of handling, to create realistic goals and implementation plans that are achievable and successful and which respect moCa Cleveland’s institutional history. 
  • The ability to develop a productive and mutually fulfilling relationship with the Board of Trustees and Museum staff in guiding the articulation of moCa Cleveland’s vision and strategy for the future. 
  • Executing for Results 
  • The ability to translate moCa Cleveland’s over-arching strategy into clear goals, while committing the Museum to improved performance; accountable in driving results. 
  • The ability to adapt nimbly and lead others through complex situations. 
  • A leader who is viewed by others as having a high degree of integrity, sensitivity, and forethought in their approach to making decisions; the ability to act in a transparent and consistent manner while always taking into account what is best for the organization. 
  • Will approach the financial oversight of the Museum with an even-handed and reasoned approach to decision-making. 
Relationships and Influence 
  • Naturally connects and builds strong relationships with others both inside and outside the institution, demonstrating strong emotional intelligence and an ability to communicate clearly and persuasively. 
  • An ability to inspire trust and followership in others through influence, enthusiasm, passion in their beliefs, and active drive; will persuasively communicate moCa Cleveland’s direction and strategy both internally and externally and assure effective communication among the Museum’s stakeholders including the Board of Trustees and the growing donor community. 
  • Encourages others to share the spotlight and visibly celebrates and supports the success of the team. 
  • Creates a sense of purpose/meaning for the team that generates followership beyond their own personality and engages others to the greater purpose for the organization as a whole. 
  • Embraces the role of digital and technology in museums to increase engagement and community. 
Leading Teams 
  • The ability to attract and recruit top talent, motivate the team, delegate effectively, promote and celebrate diversity within the team, and manage performance; they will encourage and celebrate the talents of that team while also holding each accountable to mutually agreed-upon goals. 
  • Will foster a culture of collaboration, mutual respect, teamwork, and empowerment, and will have the ability to counsel and coach the senior management team and curatorial leadership for success. 
  • The ability to persevere in the face of challenges and exhibit a steadfast resolve and relentless commitment to higher standards, which commands respect from followers. 
  • A leader who is self-reflective and aware of their own limitations; leads by example and drives the organization's performance with an attitude of continuous improvement by being open to feedback and self-improvement. 
  • Must have the ability to create excitement and lead with inspiration, balanced with the judgment to provide calm, consistent guidance and leadership to internal staff. 
Resource Development 
  • Will have experience building an institution’s funding base—in partnership with the Board—to increase and diversify financial support from individual donors, foundations, and potentially corporations and government funders for both annual operations and future capital needs, as well as to continue building the endowment. 
  • The ability to inspire loyalty to and support of moCa Cleveland and continue to carve out its distinct niche and place in the Cleveland cultural and philanthropic communities, as well as elevate the reputation of and excitement around the Museum. 
  • Will engage their professional network to substantively further moCa Cleveland’s mission, particularly through partnering with the Cleveland community and key collectors. 
Personal Characteristics 
  • An energetic and inspiring leader who genuinely enjoys and excels in both the internal and external aspects of a museum Director’s role. 
  • Will embrace the Cleveland community professionally and personally, enjoying the opportunity to live in the city and region. 
  • Tirelessly and optimistically drives the Museum forward in clarifying and asserting its local and national identity and individuality. The new Director will lead moCa Cleveland with integrity, courage, and enthusiasm. 

Russell Reynolds Associates has been exclusively retained for this search. Prospective candidates are invited to submit application materials to the following address: mocacleveland@russellreynolds.com. All inquiries and discussions will be considered strictly confidential. 

Michael Singleton

Russell Reynolds Associates

277 Park Avenue, Suite 3800, New York, NY 10172

T: +1.212.351.2551


Katherine Armstrong

Russell Reynolds Associates

One Federal Street, 26th Floor

Boston, MA 02110

T: +1.617.722.6223


Trevor Hooper

Russell Reynolds Associates

101 California Street, Suite 2900

San Francisco, CA 94111

T: +1.415.352.3300