Associate Director of Art in Public Spaces
University of Chicago
As the fine arts museum of the University of Chicago, the Smart Museum of Art is a site for rigorous inquiry and exchange that encourages the examination of complex issues through the lens of art objects and artistic practice. Through strong scholarly and community collaborations and a welcoming approach to its exhibitions, collections, publications, research and teaching, and public programs, the Smart Museum plays a dynamic role in expanding artistic canons, rethinking received histories, introducing new perspectives, and engaging diverse communities - locally, nationally, and internationally. The Smart Museum will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2024.
About the Department
The Associate Director of Art in Public Spaces is primarily responsible for overseeing the environment, care and conservation of artworks and objects within University-owned and loaned collections that are exhibited and stored in non-traditional settings outside of campus museums, including Art at the David Rubenstein Forum; the Chicago Booth Collections in Chicago, Hong Kong, and London; the Campus Collections; and Campus Public Art, among others (Collections). The Associate Director of Art in Public Spaces works in collaboration with curators and curatorial advisors who oversee these collections and related programming to ensure that environmental factors are well reported and advise on conservation and implement best practices in collections management.
The Associate Director of Art in Public Spaces works in collaboration with registrars, vendors including specialized conservators, facilities managers, and unit leaders across the organization, shares responsibility for managing, documenting, tracking, and reporting on the collections, and advises the public art committee. This position reports to the Director of the Smart Museum and has a dotted line report to the Senior Associate Vice President in the Office of the Executive Vice President. The Associate Director of Art in Public Spaces is part of a strong Smart Museum team with a collaborative work culture, and the role is key to the long-term success and sustainability of these significant art collections.
This is a full-time benefits eligible position.
- Establishes priorities for collections management in consultation with museum and campus stakeholders and University leadership.
- Oversees all aspects of the physical collections. Provides general oversight of display conditions, storage, and inventories.
- Develops overview of current Art in Public Spaces. Works with stakeholders to identify strategies for the University to promote its collections and raise visibility of arts on campus, in print and online.
- Manages strategic, operational, and project planning and budgeting processes.
- In consultation with stakeholders, establishes practical priorities, approaches, timelines, and approval processes to review proposed loans and acquisitions.
- Develops and implements standard policies and processes for reviewing and managing collections and campus loans, building on field-wide norms and the University’s Smart Museum Collections Management Policy, while acknowledging the particular nature of these collections and their display in non-museum spaces.
- Coordinates movement of collections; provides exhibition design feedback to ensure compliance with preservation requirements; consults on plans for installation and deinstallation of collections.
- Performs environmental checks and maintenance, maintain records, and regularly report on conditions to curators and senior staff. Advises campus stakeholders on potential display placements and recommends adjustments, relocation, or deinstallation in the event of safety or conservation concerns. Vets proposed locations for new displays of works of art prior to installation with an eye to preparation needs and anticipated costs.
- Assesses safety and security protocols and performance, and works collaboratively to optimize safety and security measures.
- Assesses conditions in off-site storage and recommend improvements as needed.
- Anticipates when possible and expertly respond to problems that may arise in the storage, exhibition, and movement of works within collections. Serves as primary respondent in the event of damage or potential damage. Project manages responses, including communication with stakeholders and overseeing emergency treatments, conservation, and removal if needed.
- Maintains and preserves all historic and culturally significant documents and objects of the collections to support and enhance the University’s mission. Ensures appropriate and meticulous record-keeping and documentation.
- Serves as a liaison to Facilities Services and facility operators to advise on the maintenance of appropriate display environments for collections, including monitoring and documenting environmental conditions in all areas where art is housed.
- Serves as liaison to the Office of Legal Counsel for all contracts, deeds, and agreements concerning collections and exhibitions.
- Serves as liaison to Risk Management for the collections and maintains related paperwork in partnership with the Associate Registrar and Smart Museum Head Registrar.
- Manages preservation, conservation, cleaning, and maintenance associated with the collections, working in partnership with collection curators and, where appropriate, Smart Museum staff in overseeing ongoing, regular care and maintenance and necessary conservation of collections, also consistent with loan agreements.
- In close consultation with collection stakeholders, establishes practical priorities, approaches, timelines, and approval processes to address larger conservation needs for collections.
- Advises on conservation needs and if within one’s area of specialty potentially undertake conservation work or procure and direct contracted services to perform conservation and maintenance of works of art. Ensures that conservators follow best practices, including appropriately consultative and research-based processes.
- Conceives, proposes, and implements project plans that ensure high-quality management of ongoing workload as well as new initiatives. Recommends appropriate support staffing models to meet goals.
- Hires, trains, supervises, and evaluates support staff and contractors as needed, including contract registrars and conservators; art handlers, shippers, and technicians; interns, and/or other staff assigned to the department.
- Works closely with contractors and direct reports to ensure work is progressing smoothly. Performs regular check-ins and University performance reviews where appropriate.
- Shared responsibility to manage collections budgets and related paperwork.
- Contributes to fundraising proposals related to collections management as needed.
- Collaborates with curators and registrars on logistics and documentation for incoming donations and acquisitions of artwork, outgoing loans, and incoming exhibition loans.
- Manages the loan review process. With input from campus stakeholders, develops, implements, and periodically updates policies and practices to ensure smooth management of loans processes.
- When loans are approved, acts as primary contact for artwork loaned to external organizations, including reviewing facility reports and loan agreements.
- Oversees the preparation of loan agreements, invoices, and condition reports; coordination of packing and shipping and related paperwork including receipts; insurance documentation; and the creation, maintenance, and archiving of related files and database records.
- As needed, acts as a courier, both physical and virtual, for artwork in transit and during installation/ deinstallation as required. Trains and debriefs other staff acting as couriers on a loan-by-loan basis.
- Processes new acquisitions to collections in partnership with curatorial leads. Oversees packing and shipping for gifts, purchases, and loans; the assignation and application of asset numbers, and ensures that appropriate paper and digital recordkeeping practices are followed.
- In the event that curatorial leads wish to pursue deaccessioning or removal of objects from campus collections, supports rigorous deaccessioning processes in partnership with collection stakeholders and subject-matter experts following field-wide best practices and guidelines established in the University’s Smart Museum Collections Management Policy.
- Collaboratively partners with teams across the Smart Museum to ensure continuity and smooth operations across functions and collections. Attends Museum staff and other meetings as needed. Participates in diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts and other committees.
- Serves as an active member of the Public Art Committee and advises the Committee on proposed projects. Consults on temporary displays and projects developed by the Public Art Curator.
- Remains current on best practices and trends in the field. Represents the University and the Smart Museum in the field, including at conferences and professional organizations.
- Participates as needed in relevant partnerships across the University and UChicago Arts.
- Guides the execution of plans to ensure the care, management, and operations of University museums. Uses breadth and depth of experience of museum operations and conservation to preserve, document, showcase, and enrich permanent collections.
- Negotiates with individual and institutional supporters to secure funding. Promotes the museum's ability to serve as an academic resource for students, faculty, and the public.
- Performs other related work as needed.
Education:Minimum requirements include a college or university degree in related field.
- Master’s degree, preferably in art conservation.
- Previous work experience in conservation or in art museum collections management.
- Overseeing the general care, display, and storage of significant collections of works of art, preferably including contemporary art.
- Overseeing conservation of works of art, with deep knowledge of conservation techniques and best practices related to collections.
- Developing and overseeing contracts and contractors.
- Creating and maintaining reliable physical and digital records using The Museum System (TMS) database or similar Gallery Systems products.
- Domestic and international loan management.
- Acting as a courier for artwork.
Technical Skills or Knowledge:
- Extensive knowledge of standards regarding the care and handling of art and knowledge of legal and ethical issues surrounding an art collection.
- Strong computer skills and previous work with relational databases to manage loans and exhibitions; previous work experience with The Museum System (TMS).
- Meticulous work habits, organization, and attention to detail; consistency in procedures and quality of effort in all areas of work.
- Demonstrated ability to prioritize tasks and to meet competing deadlines in a fast-paced, deadline-driven environment.
- Commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility.
- Excellent interpersonal and communication skills. Discretion, tact, and ability to represent the University in a professional manner to donors, lenders, professional colleagues, and all University constituencies.
- Flexibility to travel locally in Chicago, nationally, and on rare occasion internationally.
- Work hours coinciding with movement and availability of works and major exhibition events, which may include some evenings and weekends.
- Potential for a share of the work to be performed remotely and on a flexible schedule.
- Resume/CV (required)
- Cover Letter (preferred)
When applying, the document(s) MUST be uploaded via the My Experience page, in the section titled Application Documents of the application.
Museum & Arts
Scheduled Weekly Hours
Drug Test Required
Health Screen Required
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