Contemporary Austin names Sharon Maidenberg as Executive Director


The Contemporary Austin has named Sharon Maidenberg as its new executive director and CEO, museum officials announced today.

Maidenberg has served as executive director of the Headlands Center for the Arts in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area since 2010. She will assume her new post at the Contemporary on Sept. 1. Maidenberg succeeds Louis Grachos who left in May 2019 after almost seven years in the top position.

Related: Louis Grachos to leave the Contemporary Austin

Originally from the East Coast, Maidenberg has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. For the past 20 years she has been an active member of the Bay Area nonprofit arts community working with Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Southern Exposure, and New Langton Arts.

In a phone interview Maidenberg said that Austin’s similarity to the Bay Area held great appeal.

“I was tantalized with the potential and opportunity (the Contemporary) has, and especially with a museum that has two very different sites,” she said. “It will be important to keep an artistic rigor while maintaining a connection to place and community, and consider the important role museums can have and should have today.”

The Headlands Center hosts an internationally recognized artist-in-residence program that’s housed in historic military buildings which have been renovated by artists including Ann Hamilton and David Ireland. The center also presents exhibitions and public programs. During her tenure, Maidenberg has tripled the Headlands organizational budget, doubled its staff, and spearheaded a new outdoor visitor and programmatic space. Headlands’ advisory council includes creative celebrities such as David Byrne, Anna Deveare Smith, Julie Mehretu and Dave Eggers.

“At Headlands I’ve worked with artists directly, built a strategic culture of relevant and thought-provoking audience engagement, and invested deeply in cultivating meaningful relationships,” said Maidenberg. “I look forward to applying my experience and perspective to the Contemporary’s already strong programs, and to working with the great staff and Board to write the organization’s next chapter. “

Since the Contemporary formed in 2013 — a merger between Arthouse, a contemporary art center, and the Austin Museum of Art — the museum has completed a $3 million renovation of its downtown location at Congress Avenue and Seventh Street and transformed its historic lakeside Laguna Gloria site, establishing the Marcus Sculpture Park and building a new entrance pavilion with a café and museum shop. Sculptures and installations by Ai Weiwei, Jessica Stockholder, Wangechi Mutu, Paul McCarthy, Tom Friedeman, Liam Gillick and Elmgreen & Dragset now populate the Laguna Gloria grounds.

“Sharon brings great energy and deep experience working with living artists, along with strong values-driven organizational leadership and mission-driven strategic thinking,” said Valerie Armstrong, Contemporary board president. “I look forward to seeing what she will accomplish here in Austin.”

Jeanne Claire van Ryzin
Jeanne Claire van Ryzin
An award-winning arts journalist, Jeanne Claire van Ryzin is the founder and editor-in-chief of Sightlines.

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