Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art.EXPAND
Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art.
Lynn Trimble

Sara Cochran Is Out at SMoCA Amid Scottsdale Arts Shake-Up

There's been a major shake-up at Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art.

Scottsdale Arts has appointed Jennifer McCabe as acting director for Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, effective immediately, according to Gerd Wuestemann, CEO for Scottsdale Arts.

Sara Cochran had been the museum's director and chief curator since January 2016. Prior to that date, Cochran had served as the museum's interim director and before that as associate director.

McCabe joined SMoCA as the curator of contemporary art in 2016. She is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in art history.

Cochran resigned on Monday, April 9, Wuestemann says. Cochran has not returned Phoenix New Times' request for comment as of this writing.

McCabe's appointment is one of three personnel changes Wuestemann made on Monday, April 9, less than a month since he joined Scottsdale Arts as its CEO.

The nonprofit organization is contracted by city of Scottsdale to oversee management of SMoCA, Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, and Scottsdale Public Art.

"This is a good moment in time to empower these people," he says. "They've all been part of the recent successes at Scottsdale Arts."

The other two changes involve leadership at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, which now has a team of three directors.

Jamie Prins is the event director, and Abbey Messmer is the programming director. Maribeth Reeves will become managing director on June 4. She currently serves as executive director for Scottsdale-based Desert Foothills Theater.

"This is a really innovative management team," Guestemann says. "The center is a really big part of everything we do, including events and education, so the three-pronged approach makes sense."

It's just the latest in a long list of changes at Scottsdale Arts, which also includes the resignation of CEO Neale Perl in October 2017. Perl had served as CEO since August 2014. During his tenure, the organization rebranded from Scottsdale Cultural Council to Scottsdale Arts, and lost several key personnel.

All three divisions underwent significant change during Perl’s time as CEO.

Cory Baker joined Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts as director in 2010 and left in June 2015. Ally Haynes-Hamblen served as interim director, then director for a time. Amy Nesbitt came on board in August 2017, but was already gone by early October. After that, Messmer served as both programming manager and interim director for Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts.

After serving for six years as director for SMoCA, Tim Rodgers stepped down in May 2015. Then Cochran became interim director, and was promoted to director and chief curator in January 2016.

Donna Isaac retired as director of Scottsdale Public Art in June 2017. Kim Curry-Evans stepped into that role in September 2017.

Wuestemann became CEO of Scottsdale Arts on March 17. He previously served as executive director of the Acadiana Center for the Arts in Lafayette, Louisiana. This is the first significant change in Scottsdale Arts leadership since Wuestemann came on board.

"I feel very strongly that we have a phenomenal team assembled here," Wuestemann says. "There's greater synergy than the organization has seen in some time, and a real positive culture is evolving."

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