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Ringling Museum of Art Names Steven High as Executive Director

By: FSU News Release
By: FSU News Release

Sarasota, FL —March 24, 2011 —

Steven High today was named executive director of The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, home to the Ca’ d’Zan mansion, Museum of Art featuring a rare Old Masters collection, Circus Museum and Historic Asolo Theater. The announcement was made after Eric J. Barron, president of The Florida State University, approved his appointment by the Ringling Museum Board of Directors.

“Today is a great day for the state of Florida, The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, and the future of this iconic and beloved Sarasota institution,” Barron said. “With Steven High at the helm, I have every confidence that The Ringling Museum possesses the artistic and business leadership required to achieve ever greater prominence and excellence building on its outstanding reputation for its art collection, programming, educational opportunities, buildings, library, grounds and gardens, and events.”

High, who is currently the director and CEO of the Telfair Museums in Savannah, Ga., will take office at The Ringling Museum on June 1, 2011.

“I am looking forward to collaborating with Steven High and hearing his exciting ideas to further enhance the Ringling Museum’s leadership position as an internationally acclaimed center for visual and performing arts,” said Sally McRorie, dean of the College of Visual Arts, Theatre & Dance at Florida State University. “His 30-plus years of museum and university experience coupled with his strong business savvy are a perfect match for The Ringling Museum. We also are very pleased that he will join our fine Department of Art History faculty within the College of Visual Arts, Theatre & Dance. His training and scholarship in art history combined with his practical experience in museum leadership will be critically important in our preparation of students in museum studies, art history, arts administration, and related disciplines.”

McRorie added, “I would also like to take this opportunity to publicly thank Marshall Rousseau for his significant contributions, service and dedication to The Ringling Museum as interim director.”

Rousseau will assist with the transition.

“I am thrilled by the prospects and relish the opportunity that comes with being director of The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, as well as the responsibility to honor and perpetuate the legacy of our founders, John and Mable Ringling,” High said. “The timing could not be better with the opening this year of the James Turrell Sky Space, new wing of the Circus Museum in The Tibbals Learning Center, the 2011 Ringling International Arts Festival and special exhibitions like Beyond Bling: Voices of Hip-Hop in Art. I am looking forward to meeting the community, museum members, supporters, partners and the press.”

High has been director and CEO of the Telfair Museums since 2007. While at the Telfair, the oldest art museum in the South, with a staff of nearly 90 and an operating budget of $5.2 million, High and his staff built community ownership of the museum through the delivery of exhibitions and programs that are inclusive, innovative, and entertaining. During his tenure, the Telfair developed strong partnerships with local companies, schools, civic and cultural organizations. In 2008, High led a five-year strategic plan that resulted in reinforcing the diversity and the synergy of the Telfair’s three sites (Telfair Academy, Owens-Thomas House, and the new Jepson Center for the Arts). Telfair Museums ended 2010 with the highest attendance in the museums’ history at 180,000 visitors.

During his 10-year tenure as director/CEO of the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno, Nev., High substantially increased the budget, endowment, assets and membership for this private non-profit institution. Under his leadership from 1996 to 2007, the Nevada Museum of Art’s annual operating budget increased roughly six-fold from $500,000 to more than $2.9 million. Operating endowments jumped from $1 million to more than $7 million. More than $24 million in gifts and pledges were raised for capital and endowment expansion projects, far surpassing the initial plan and 35 percent over goal. Total assets climbed to $28.4 million, up from $3.6 million in 1995. Membership soared from 900 to 7,000 households. He also supervised the design, construction, and successful opening in 2003 of the museum’s new home, a $16 million, four-story, 60,000-square-foot facility designed by architect Will Bruder that features a skylit atrium carved through the entire building section that is a constantly changing space of light and shadow.

High has also held a variety of positions with the Anderson Gallery, School of the Arts, Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va.; Baxter Gallery, Portland School of Art (now, Institute of Contemporary Art, Maine College of Art) in Portland, Maine; Williams College Museum of Art in Williamstown, Mass.; Massachusetts Institute of Technology Museum in Cambridge, Mass.; and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

He began his career in the museum field with Telfair Academy of Arts and Sciences in Savannah. Since 1986, High has curated 41 exhibitions on contemporary art with a particular focus on contemporary international art, published 19 catalog essays, three magazine articles and numerous introductory forewords.

High is the recipient of numerous awards, including the 2006 Nijinsky Award from the Sierra Arts Foundation and the 2003 Directors Chair Award from the Western Museum Association. Under his leadership the Nevada Museum of Art received the 1999 National Award for Museum Service, the highest national award for museums and presented at a White House ceremony, from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

He is a member and former board member of the American Association of Museums, as well as a member of the Association of Art Museum Directors. He is chairman of the Savannah Convention and Visitors Bureau and is on the board and executive committee of the Savannah Chamber of Commerce. Other board positions include the Savannah Tourism Leadership Council, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, an international working retreat for visual artists, writers, and composers based in Amherst, Va.

High holds a Master of Arts degree in art history from Williams College in Williamstown, Mass. and a Bachelor of Arts degree in art history from Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. He also earned a Masters of Business Administration from Virginia Commonwealth University, and participated in the Museum Leadership Institute at The Getty Center in Los Angeles.

High currently resides in Savannah with his wife, Lisa. His son Jake is an artist living in New York City, and son Nicolas is a college student in Reno.

The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Florida State University, is one of the largest museum/university complexes in the nation. It preserves the legacy of John and Mable Ringling, educating and enabling a large and diverse audience to experience and take delight in a world-renowned collection of fine art; Cà d’Zan, the Ringling historic mansion; the Circus Museum; the Original Asolo Theater; and historic architecture, courtyard, gardens and grounds overlooking Sarasota Bay.


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