Culture News

Phoenix Art Museum Board Rescinds Offer to Hire New Contemporary Art Curator

UPDATE: Jennifer Sudul Edwards is the applicant whose curator job offer was rescinded.

Phoenix Art Museum will be without a curator of contemporary art for a bit longer.

The museum's human resources department was in the process of hiring an applicant to take on the curatorship, confirms museum public relations manager Stephanie Lieb. That applicant was Jennifer Sudul Edwards, who has worked at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. However, the museum's board of trustees took back the offer. Its decision to do so was announced in a November 10 memo sent by HR on behalf of Jim Patterson, chairman of the museum's board of trustees, to the museum's staffers and its 11 support organizations.

See also: Phoenix Art Museum Director James Ballinger Announces Intention to Retire

Sudul Edwards had updated her LinkedIn profile to reflect her new job at Phoenix Art Museum before the offer was rescinded. As of this writing, her profile notes that she is located in the greater Los Angeles area, and her current job is listed as Curator of Post War and Contemporary Art at Phoenix Art Museum. Jackalope Ranch has reached out to Sudul Edwards for comment.

The museum hasn't had a contemporary art curator since Sara Cochran left Phoenix Art Museum in September 2013. Cochran now works as associate director at Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art.

Why take back the new curator's job offer? The answer is messy.

The museum is in a state of flux. Longtime director James Ballinger announced his impending retirement in April 2014. At that time, Patterson and the board of trustees began a search for a new museum director.

Jackalope Ranch reached out to Patterson via the museum. Carlotta Soares, PAM's director of marketing & PR, called Jackalope Ranch to say that Patterson had asked her to speak on his behalf.

The search for a new director is moving along more quickly than the board anticipated. Soares says that the museum likely will announce its new director in about 30 days. Because the board oversees the museum director and is so close to finalizing Ballinger's replacement, its members decided that the new director should be involved with the hiring of the new contemporary art curator.

Hiring curators is the responsibility of the museum's director, which means that Ballinger was working to fill the position of contemporary art curator. Soares says she can't elaborate on how the hiring process got so far along before Sudul Edwards' offer was rescinded because Soares is not part of the board or the committee working to hire the new director. She says it was a "decision based on a bigger decision" and that "nobody is at odds" at the museum.

It's unclear to what extent or why the board wasn't in the loop on the museum's near-hiring of a new contemporary art curator. What is clear is that Phoenix Art Museum still doesn't have one.

Editor's note: This post has been updated from its original version with new information.

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Becky Bartkowski is an award-winning journalist and the arts and music editor at New Times, where she writes about art, fashion, and pop culture.
Contact: Becky Bartkowski