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Head of Penn Museum Tapped for Spot in NYC

September 7, 2011 By:
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After 13 years at the helm of the University of Pennsylvania's Institute of Contemporary Art, Claudia Gould will become the next director of the 107-year-old Jewish Museum on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

She will replace Joan Rosenbaum, who is retiring after 30 years, and will assume the new role sometime this fall, the museum recently announced.

Gould, 55, grew up near New Haven, Conn., with a Jewish father and a Roman Catholic mother.

"Neither of my parents were very religious but culturally I felt both Jewish and Italian, in tandem -- always," Gould said in an email interview.

After earning a bachelor's degree in art history from Boston College and a master's degree in museum studies from New York University, she devoted her career to contemporary art.

Under her leadership, the Institute of Contemporary Art on 36th and Sansom streets tripled its annual budget to $3.1 million, dramatically expanded exhibitions and staff, doubled attendance, started an endowment campaign and recently completed a second long-range strategic plan. Gould worked to strengthen museum ties to the university by creating two-year seminars and to the city by bringing a coffeehouse into the space.

Before coming to Philadelphia in 1999, she worked as the executive director of Artists Space, a New York City alternative exhibition gallery and service organization dedicated to emerging artists.

During her tenure there, she eliminated a deficit, developed project space, and established the institution's first endowment, artist grants and newspaper. Before that, she was a curator at the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, Ohio, and oversaw a number of other projects.

The Jewish Museum will be the largest facility she has managed, with a $16 million budget.

In a news release, museum board chairman Robert Pruzan said Gould's expertise in contemporary art would "speak to ever broader and more diverse new audiences," and "bring great vitality" to the museum's mission of engaging the public in the understanding and preservation of Jewish arts and culture.

From Gould's perspective, that entails infusing a "contemporary sensibility" in exhibiting the collection of 26,000 paintings, sculptures, ceremonial objects and other historical Judaica items.

For example, she said, she would consider mounting architecture, design and fashion exhibits; showing more living artists; changing museum presentations several times a year and reinstalling the permanent exhibition, which has remained unchanged for years.

As for what prompted her to turn from contemporary art to a Jewish museum, Gould said she was attracted to the chance to work with renowned, multifaceted experts in Jewish artistic achievement as well as "the challenge of exploring what it means to be a Jewish museum today."

"You cannot understand the contemporary world without understanding the past," she wrote. "But you cannot fully appreciate or preserve the past without exploring its relationship to the present."

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