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Susan Fisher Sterling Named Director of National Museum of Women in the Arts

March 7th 2008

The National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA) announced today that Susan Fisher Sterling, the museum's longstanding and highly regarded chief curator and deputy director, has been named director effective March 7, 2008.

"We are thrilled to begin NMWA's third decade by announcing our new director," said NMWA Board President Mary V. Mochary. "Susan is a creative and energetic leader with the capacity and wisdom to shape a compelling vision for the museum's future. She has earned the confidence of the Board of Trustees over many years and we look forward to working with her to bring the museum forward to the next level."

"Certainly, no one knows the museum and its workings better than Susan," said Wilhelmina Cole Holladay, founder and chair of the National Museum of Women in the Arts. "Her taste, scholarship, and innovation have been instrumental in the museum's success almost since the beginning."

Sterling has been with NMWA more than 19 years and is credited with helping to shape much of the museum's artistic direction over its twenty-year history. Sterling holds a Ph.D. in art history from Princeton University. She joined the staff of the National Museum of Women in the Arts in 1988 as associate curator, was promoted to curator of modern and contemporary art in 1990, chief curator in 1994, and was appointed deputy director in 2001. She is an alumna of the Museum Leadership Institute at the Getty (2004), and has received the Royal Order of Merit from the government of Norway and the Order de Rio Branco from the Republic of Brazil for her cultural diplomacy.

Among the major modern and contemporary exhibitions she has curated and/or organized for travel are the first surveys of Carrie Mae Weems (1994), Sarah Charlesworth (1997); two groundbreaking exhibitions of Brazilian art -- Ultramodern (1993) and Virgin Territory (2001); The Magic of Remedios Varo (2000), Amazons in the Drawing Room: The Art of Romaine Brooks (2000), Alice Neel's Women (2005); and the upcoming Fall 2008 Role Models: Feminine Identity in Contemporary American Photography; as well as a host of projects in the museum's acclaimed contemporary Forefront series. She also has enhanced the museum's reputation by bringing significant traveling exhibitions to NMWA such as A History of Women Photographers (1997), Inside the Visible: An Elliptical Traverse of 20th Century Art (1997), Julie Taymor: Playing with Fire (2000), and most recently, WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution (2007).

Sterling also has significantly expanded NMWA's holdings in contemporary photography and photo-based art, abstract painting and sculpture since 1960, and feminist art.

As deputy director she has been charged with supervising programs and staff in the curatorial, education, and registrar's departments, as well as the museum's renowned library and research center, and directly oversaw the budget for these departments.

The museum, which announced the completion of its first endowment campaign, raised more than $40 million in pledges, cash, and planned giving during its 20th Anniversary in 2007, creating a newfound financial stability upon which to build its programs.

"I am truly energized and honored to assume the directorship at this special moment in the museum's history. Working in concert with NMWA's dedicated board and staff, we will build upon our strong twenty-year foundation through imaginative approaches to programming and cultural partnerships," said Sterling. "I am confident that our future is bright as NMWA continues to build its audiences and carry the message of equity for women artists to a new generation."

The National Museum of Women in the Arts, founded in 1981 and opened in 1987, is the only museum dedicated solely to celebrating the achievements of women in the visual, performing, and literary arts. Its permanent collection contains works by more than 800 artists. The Museum maintains a Library and Research Center accessible to the public by appointment. The Museum is located at 1250 New York Avenue, NW, Washington, DC, in a landmark building near the White House. For information, visit the Museum's website at

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