Springfield Museum of Art executive director leaves legacy of accomplishments

Ann Fortescue concludes an eight-and-a-half year stint today as executive director of the Springfield Museum of Art, having helped lead the organization in new directions, including six consecutive years of being profitable.

She has accepted the position of president and executive director of the International Museum of Art and Science in McAllen, Texas, a Smithsonian Affiliate and dual discipline museum with art and science collections, exhibitions and programs.

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The move is bittersweet for her staff and the museum’s board of trustees.

“We’re happy to have known and worked with Ann and wish her the best in her new position,” said Pete Duffey, president of the trustees. “She’s been an amazing advocate of the museum as a whole and Ann and her husband had a passion for the community.”

J.D. Beiting will serve as interim executive director, Duffey said.

Plans are underway to conduct a national search for a permanent director according to Duffey, who estimates it could take three to six months or longer if necessary to find the right candidate.

The museum has an annual budget of $480,000 and will have two full-time staff, including the part-time interim director, and seven part-time staff after Fortescue leaves.

Fortescue began her position here in January 2011, drawn by the opportunity to build community partnerships and re-start education programs.

Duffey said her key contributions included growth in donor and memberships, more education opportunities, increased educational outreach in the community and sustained profitability

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Fortescue had her own favorite accomplishment.

“Becoming a Smithsonian Affiliate has been a game-changer for the museum and the community,” she said.

Through the Affiliation, the museum brought a prestigious Ansel Adams exhibit to Springfield in 2014, attracting attention and visitors to the museum; allowed curator Erin Shapiro to become one of 10 museum professionals nationally chosen to attend the first Smithsonian Visiting Professionals seminar on digitizing art collections in 2018; and participation in the Youth Capture the Colorful Cosmos STEAM program has allowed local middle schools students unique learning experiences and earned national recognition for science teacher Matt Warrington and museum curator of education Annette Eshelman.

“I’d like my legacy to be reconnecting the museum with its community and ensuring its sustainability by working with a dedicated, engaged board to set the strategy and vision for the museum and bringing together a dynamic, innovative team who create meaningful museum experiences that reach audiences on all levels,” she said.

Duffey said a lot of people will miss Fortescue and moving on is the nature of the business she’s in.

Beiting is on assignment from the Benefactor Group. He has more than 18 years of experience non-profit development, governance and operations, according to a release announcing his interim appointment. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a bachelors of art in Art History.

“Not only does J.D. bring relevant executive experience in leading arts organizations, his ability to communicate with our various constituencies is exactly what the Springfield Museum of Art needs right now,” Duffey said.

Beiting said he’s honored to serve the museum. “This time respresents an opportunity for the museum to continue its understanding community and artist engagement, as well as its powerful impact through art education — the hallmark of its 73-year history.

Duffey said the museum will offer a number of exciting things in the upcoming months including the 73rd Annual Juried Members’ Exhibition opening today, an exhibition showcasing Springfield-born children’s author and illustrator Lois Lenski on July 12, KidsFest on July 14 and the 50th Annual Art Ball on Aug. 24.

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