Heather Pesanti to leave top curator post at the Contemporary Austin

In June. Andrea Mellard, the museum's director of public programs, also left the museum

Heather Pesanti
Heather Pesanti

Heather Pesanti, chief curator of the Contemporary Austin, has resigned her position, museum officials announced today.

Pesanti joined the Contemporary in 2013, brought on board by Louis Grachos when he assumed the directorship of the Austin museum. Both were previously at the Albright-Knox Gallery in Buffalo, where Grachos was director and Pesanti was curator. At the Contemporary, she was named was named Chief Curator and Director of Curatorial Affairs in 2018. (Grachos left the Contemporary in 2019.)

At the Contemporary, Pesanti has organized monographic exhibitions and outdoor commissions of work by John Bock, Carol Bove, Abraham Cruzvillegas, Anya Gallaccio, Lionel Maunz, Rodney McMillian, Wangechi Mutu, Monika Sosnowska, Robert Therrien, and Marianne Vitale, as well as the thematic exhibitions “Strange Pilgrims” and “The Sorcerer’s Burden: Contemporary Art and the Anthropological Turn.” Most recently she curated the exhibition “Deborah Roberts: I’m” and co-curated the upcoming survey of the late visionary musician and artist Daniel Johnston.

“We are very grateful to Heather for her vision, hard work and leadership over the past 9 years,” said sharon maidenberg, executive director and CEO of the Contemporary. “Her tenure overlaps with a significant period of growth and curatorial ambition for The Contemporary and lays the foundation for a new era here at the museum. We wish Heather all the best in her future endeavor!”

Pesanti is leaving the Contemporary to manage the corporate collection of Dimensional Fund Advisors, the financial firm lead by billionaire David Booth. The two have been a couple for several years.

In June, Andrea Mellard, the museum’s director of public programs resigned to assume the executive directorship of the Shield Ranch Foundation.

Museum spokesperson Nicole Chism Griffin said that, before any positions are posted, the museum will take both openings as an opportunity to rethink its organizational structure.

Mellard gained the admiration of the Austin arts community for her innovative and inclusive programs, creating fresh and original experiences for both the museum’s locations — the lakeside Laguna Gloria grounds and the downtown Jones Center. In 2014, Mellard helped pioneer the Contemporary’s Crit Group program for an annual cohort of Austin artists. Mellard co-curated the upcoming Crit Group reunion opening Sept. 11.