June 21, 2018

Deborah Cullen-Morales to Lead the Bronx Museum of the Arts

THE BRONX, NEW YORK—The Bronx Museum of the Arts announced that it has hired Deborah Cullen-Morales as its new executive director. Cullen-Morales comes to the institution from the Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery at Columbia University. She succeeds Holly Block, who served as director of the museum for eleven years and died of breast cancer last fall.

Joe Mizzi, the chairman of the museum’s board of trustees, told the New York Times in a phone interview that Cullen-Morales has “big shoes to fill.” Among her many achievements at the museum, Block is known for spearheading the decision to stop charging admission in 2012—which caused the number of people who visited the institution to quadruple—sponsoring Sarah Sze’s presentation in the US pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2013, and launching a $25 million capital campaign to fund a major expansion project.

In a statement released by the museum, Mizzi explained that Cullen-Morales stood out as a candidate because of her relevant leadership at New York arts institutions. “She is recognized for actively engaging with the communities in which she works, for fostering established and emerging living artists, for her strong focus on African American, Caribbean, and Latinx art, and for her expertise in these areas.”

During her six-year tenure as director and chief curator of the Wallach Art Gallery, Cullen-Morales oversaw the venue’s expansion into the Lenfest Center for the Arts on Columbia’s new campus in West Harlem; founded “Uptown,” a new triennial of contemporary art that the gallery organized in collaboration with twelve other Manhattan institutions; and spearheaded efforts to engage more with the surrounding community. Under her leadership, the Wallach Art Gallery’s attendance increased to seven times the number of visitors it had received when Cullen-Morales first arrived in 2012.

Prior to joining the Wallach Art Gallery, Cullen-Morales worked at El Museo del Barrio in New York for more than fifteen years. Her projects at the institution included organizing the “Caribbean: Crossroads of the World” (2012) in collaboration the Queens Museum and the Studio Museum in Harlem and curating “Retro/Active: The Work of Rafael Ferrer” (2010) and “Nexus New York: Latin/American Artists in the Modern Metropolis” (2009). She also cofounded and cocurated the first four editions of El Museo’s contemporary art biennial, “The S-Files” (1999, 2000, 2002, 2004).

Commenting on her new role, Cullen-Morales said: “The Bronx Museum of the Arts’ mission and innovative programs intersect with my passion for working with emerging talents and exploring a diversity of contemporary production through crucial, accessible programming rooted in community. Now more than ever, in light of the pressing issues of our current moment, the Bronx Museum needs to resonate locally, yet project nationally and internationally.” She will take up the post in July.

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