Just two weeks after receiving $50 million from the city to upgrade its building and modernize the galleries, the Brooklyn Museum on Wednesday announced that Kimberly Panicek Trueblood will be its new president and chief operating officer.
“We wanted to bring somebody in who was going to continue driving change,” Anne Pasternak, the museum’s director, said in a telephone interview. “She has led organizational change.”
Trueblood, who starts early next year, previously served as chief of staff at the American Civil Liberties Union and as director of White House operations for the Obama Administration from 2013 to 2015. She graduated from the University of Washington and received a master’s degree in public policy from the Paris Institute of Political Studies.
She will succeed David Berliner, who has served since 2016 and started as a member of the museum’s board in 2011. The position was established with Berliner’s appointment; the museum previously only had a board president.
In a telephone interview, Trueblood said she was “thrilled” to be joining an institution “that can be part of a conversation, that can help move civic society forward.”
At a time when the cultural world is trying to correct for the absence of people of color in leadership positions, some may question the museum’s selection of Trueblood, who is white. After hiring a white African art consulting curator in 2018, the institution was accused by one activist group of perpetuating “ongoing legacies of oppression.”
Pasternak noted that the museum had recently restructured its leadership team to include a more diverse group of deputy directors and that the search process had been broad and thorough — aided by the recruiting firm Isaacson, Miller. Pasternak added that it was “important to have women in leadership” and that Trueblood’s experience had prepared her well to lead an ambitious capital effort that will coincide with the museum’s celebration of its 200th anniversary.
Trueblood, 38, a Brooklyn resident, said she was committed to “making sure the next 200 years are even more inclusive than the last 200.”
The second-largest museum in New York after the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Museum has long struggled with financial pressures. Last year, it became the first major U.S. arts organization to take advantage of a two-year window in which the Association of Art Museum Directors allowed institutions hit hard by the economic crisis to deaccession, or sell off, work to help pay for collection care.
With such sales, Pasternak said the museum has succeeded in establishing a $40 million fund that can generate $2 million a year for care. Its permanent collection of more than 500,000 objects includes one of the world’s leading collections of Egyptian art.