The mission of the Erie Art Museum is to maintain an institution of excellence dedicated to the promotion and advancement of the visual arts by

  • developing and maintaining a quality art collection,
  • encouraging art in all its forms,
  • fostering lifelong art learning, and
  • building community among artists, art students and the public.

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A year of milestones

The coming year will be full of celebrations and transitions as the Erie Art Museum honors nearly 50 years of inspired leadership by Director John Vanco—and his retirement. It will also mark the 25th anniversary of an Erie music and cultural cornerstone, the Erie Art Museum Blues & Jazz Festival, which Vanco will continue to lead.

The museum will be honoring Vanco’s anniversary simultaneously with his retirement. Vanco’s many contributions to the EAM and the community will be celebrated as part of the museum’s second annual ARTrageous event on Saturday, June 10.

The EAM Board of Directors began implementing a comprehensive succession plan following Vanco’s announced plan to retire in 2017 after nearly 50 years as the strategic and innovative leader of the EAM. Vanco has served as the EAM’s first and only director since 1968. When he started, attendance was counted in the hundreds. Now the Museum serves over 65,000 people annually with its exhibits, tours, outreach, and music programs.

The Museum’s collection has grown from 65 works of art to over 8,000 and the Museum’s footprint has increased by an order of magnitude, growing from the house on West 6th Street to its current, state-of-the-art facility with 13 galleries, cafe, performance space, and classrooms.

“The Erie Art Museum and the communities it serves have truly benefited from nearly a half-century of stable, thoughtful leadership,” says Stephen Porter, president of the Erie Art Museum Board of Directors.

Succession planning for the museum began nearly four years ago, culminating with the recent formation of a dedicated transition team led by board member James Parlin, and comprised of board members and community leaders. That team will share regular updates as they lead the selection process for a new director, with the board’s choice for the position starting mid-year 2017. In support of the transition, Vanco expects to remain involved with the museum through August of next year.

Other celebrations throughout 2017 include the 120th anniversary of founding of The Art Club of Erie, the forerunner to the EAM. The coming year also marks the 25th anniversary of one of the region’s favorite cultural festivals, the Blues & Jazz Festival. Next year will also bring the announcement of a special funding campaign tied to both the transition efforts and future growth of the museum.

“Many nonprofit organizations are distracted by multiple leadership changes that impede a long-term strategic plan,” said Porter. “The Erie Art Museum has been fortunate to have made great strides because of John’s tenure, and we look forward to what the next phase of growth will bring.”

More information about ongoing celebrations of all these milestones will be shared with museum donors and members, as well as the general public, over the next few months.

After nearly 50 years of inspired leadership, John Vanco, Director will retire later this year. Succession planning for the museum began nearly four years ago, culminating with the recent formation of a dedicated transition team led by board member James Parlin, Department Chair of Edinboro University’s Art Department. The transition team, comprised of board members and community leaders has been meeting since last summer.

Additional members of the transition team include: Dr. Geoffrey Dunn-UPMC Hamot, Rich Holmgren -Vice President, Creative Services, Erie Insurance Group, B.J. Lechner-Partner at Decision Associates M&A LLC, Kevin O’Connell-McInnes Rolled Rings, Steve Porter, Erie Art Museum Board President and Attorney, co-chair of the North West PA Green Economy task force, Patty Rich, MD Search Firm, and Tammy Roche-Vice President,YMCA of Greater Erie, Financial Development, Membership & Marketing,

The anticipated timeline for the search will bring potential candidates to Erie for interviews in the spring, and have a new director in place by summer. The new Director will be publically announced and John’s many contributions and achievements will be celebrated as part of the second annual ARTrageous event in June. John will continue directing the Blues and Jazz Festival into the near future.

The Erie Art Museum and transition team will continue to keep the community updated on the process.

While the Erie Art Museum prepares for a milestone year of celebrations including the 120th anniversary of the founding of the Museum as The Art Club of Erie, ARTrageous, the 25th anniversary of the Blues and Jazz Festival and John Vanco’s retirement after 50 years of service, the transition team is excited to announce the search for a new Director.

The team, chaired by James Parlin, Chair of Edinboro University’s art department, is comprised of board members and community leaders and have been meeting since last summer.

On February 15, the job description for EAM’s future director was posted online on three different sites for art museum professionals. In addition, the position is also posted on the Erie Art Museum’s career page http://erieartmuseum.org/careers/. If you know of anyone who might be interested, please have him or her view the job description and submit an application online. The transition team plans to have the new director in place this summer.

John Vanco’s retirement will be celebrated at ARTrageous on June 10. He will remain through August to support the transition, to manage the 25th annual Erie Art Museum Blues & Jazz Festival and lead its transformation into a multidisciplinary arts festival. It’s an exciting time for the Erie Art Museum. The transition team will continue to keep the community posted on the search for a new Director.

The 93rd annual Spring Show is a hectic but wonderful time at the EAM. Just as there is much that goes on behind the scenes to make the Spring Show successful, there is a behind the scenes bustle within the EAM community to prepare our first leadership transition in 50 years.

The Transition Team is currently interviewing candidates for the Executive Director position and planning a number of other activities to make the leadership transition as smooth as possible.

With have engaged a transition consultant to lay the groundwork for a successful transition— including an Organizational Assessment of internal operations, a thorough review of the Museum’s finances and an On-Boarding Plan to help the new Executive Director hit the ground running. We have formed a communications team to ensure we communicate effectively with our supporters and the public as we go through the transition. We have begun a special funding campaign to help support the transition and formed a Campaign Cabinet chaired by Herm Weber with representatives from the Board and public to guide the effort. To date the campaign has been largely internal (among current and former Board members), but you will be hearing more of this effort in the future!

Most importantly, the Erie community has been stepping up to do its part—interest in Museum programs is at an all-time high and support for our annual fund and ArtRageous sponsorships have exceeded expectations. On behalf of the entire Board, the staff and the broader community I want to thank each of our supporters—from our army of volunteers to our major donors—for ensuring that we as a community take responsibility for the future of the Erie Art Museum.

Stephen Porter
Board President

New Curator Hired

The Erie Art Museum is pleased to announce the appointment of Susan Barnett as the Museum’s new Curator. The new Curator position was created as part of the succession plan from the leadership of long-serving director, John Vanco. Although he has served for fifty years as Director and Curator, this combination of duties is highly unusual in a mid-sized Museum. Susan Barnett comes to the Museum from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where she has been working as an Independent Curator and Collections Manager. She previously served on the Curatorial Team at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center to research and develop a retrospective exhibition the Arts/Industry Program’s 40-year history, and co-author Arts/Industry: Collaboration and Revelation. Barnett also served as Director and Curator of the Cedarburg Cultural Center; interned at the Milwaukee Art Museum; and worked as a writer and nonprofit Board Consultant.

Barnett has an M.A. in Art History from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and a B.A. in Fine Art–Printmaking from Montana State University. Before moving to Wisconsin, she owned and operated a gallery in Butte, Montana, and served as Director and Curator of the Copper Village Museum and Art Center in Anaconda, Montana.

In addition to her professional experience, she is an avocational cellist and has served on the board of nonprofit arts organizations. Barnett looks forward to programming exhibitions in the Museum’s galleries and collaborating with education staff and other regional arts organizations.

Barnett has researched the mutual influence of mainstream contemporary art and the work of regional and self-taught artists. Many of the Erie Art Museum’s collections areas align with Barnett’s areas of expertise, such as photography, printmaking, ceramics, and contemporary craft. “I love the variety of contemporary and historic spaces in this museum,” she wrote. “I am impressed by the quality and breadth of the collection, and by the regional art represented in the Annual Spring Show. I look forward to learning more about these artists and their work.”