Williams faculty, students, staff and friends,
It is my pleasure to inform you that Pamela Franks has accepted our offer to become the next director of the Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA). She will start in the role in mid-September 2018. Pamela will join us from the Yale University Art Gallery (YUAG), the nation’s oldest college art museum, where she is senior deputy director and Seymour H. Knox, Jr., Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art.
After earning her Ph.D. in the history of art from the University of Texas at Austin, Pamela started her career as a postdoctoral curatorial fellow at YUAG. She then served as the curator of public and scholarly programs at the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas before returning to YUAG as its first curator of academic affairs in 2004. In that position she initiated an outreach program for teaching art across disciplines and a student curatorial training program that has since resulted in 11 exhibitions. Once YUAG’s academic program was launched, Pamela moved into the role of deputy director and helped lead a major renovation and expansion, overseeing strategic planning, educational programming, and exhibitions. She also served as the lead curator for its modern and contemporary art department, fostering a dynamic program of special exhibitions and collection displays, making numerous major acquisitions, and engaging artists in the museum. She was made acting director of YUAG in 2016 and then moved into her current position as senior deputy director, chairing the Gallery’s senior management team.
Throughout her career, Pamela has shown a passionate commitment to the role of the museum in higher education and the inspiration art can bring to all audiences. She has played a central role in shaping and carrying out priorities for teaching, exhibitions, public programs, community engagement, technology, and collaborations with other academic art museums. She significantly increased the number of college courses that incorporated the Gallery’s collection into their syllabi, as well as the range of opportunities for students to learn about museum practice. She also produced a steady stream of scholarly publications, presentations, and lectures.
Pamela emerged as the top choice of our search committee, in large part due to her skill at uniting the academic and public-facing aspects of a great campus art museum. To quote President-elect Mandel, who interviewed the finalists, “Pamela’s experience and vision make her the perfect choice for Williams. Her commitment to learning and faculty partnerships will help promote WCMA’s collections as an academically inspiring learning resource and WCMA itself as an intellectual center at the college. At the same time, her vision for the arts will open up exciting possibilities for engaging the public in ways that distinguish WCMA from and complement our neighboring institutions like the Clark, MASS MoCA and the Bennington Museum. Personally, I was also struck by her interest in art as an avenue for exploring and fostering diverse identities and perspectives. I couldn’t be more pleased about the prospects for WCMA under her leadership.”
Jock Reynolds, Henry J. Heinz II Director of YUAG and Pamela’s longtime mentor, highlighted many of her related accomplishments at YUAG: “Pam Franks has served the Yale University Art Gallery for fourteen years as an extraordinarily talented curator of academic affairs, curator of modern and contemporary art, and most recently as our teaching museum’s senior deputy director. She is a born leader, deeply knowledgeable art historian, and expert administrator whose innovative work mentoring a legion of Yale student curators is highly esteemed. So are the many acquisitions, exhibitions, and public programs Pam has carried out in support of living artists and active learners of all ages.
“Pam is beloved by her fellow colleagues and members of the YUAG’s Governing Board, and is cherished throughout our city of New Haven for her devotion to public education and community service. I can think of no leader better suited to help Williams College achieve the lofty new goals it has established for its great teaching museum, and know that their museum’s enduring and close partnership with ours here at Yale will continue to flourish long into the future.”
Pamela was selected from an outstanding field of candidates, whose caliber collectively testifies to WCMA’s reputation in the art world and the exciting opportunities ahead for the arts at Williams. I want to thank the search committee whose work brought us to this happy result, and everyone at Williams who contributed ideas and nominations or participated in our public sessions with the candidates.
Pamela Franks is an outstanding choice for WCMA and Williams. I hope you will all join me in welcoming and supporting her as director when she arrives this fall.