Above: Robyne Robinson posed with a mural by Minnesota artist Barbara Keith at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Photo by Kate Iverson.
The Minnesota Museum of American Art has chosen Twin Cities personality Robyne Robinson as its new board chair. Best known for her 20-year career as a news anchor at KMSP, Channel 9, Robinson was the museum’s top choice for spearheading its continuing evolution.
“She is super passionate about what the museum does, and about connecting with communities,” said the M’s Executive Director, Kristin Makholm. “She seemed the obvious choice to be at the forefront of this organization with me, and leading it into the next chapter.”
The new appointment comes at a pivotal time for the St. Paul museum, which announced Thursday that it has hired a new curator of exhibitions: Twin Cities-based art historian Laura Wertheim Joseph, who served as gallery director at Interact Center and was a curatorial advisor for former Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Alan Page and his late wife Diane, who assembled a strong art collection. She starts work Aug. 19.
Last December the museum opened its new space at the 130-year-old Pioneer Endicott buildings after more than a year of remodeling work. A second phase of renovations is on track to be completed by the end of 2020.
In the process, the M has also been re-branding. Part of its mission is to identify what it means to be an American art museum and one key component of that is understanding the museum’s role in the local community.
“We want people to identify [with the M] as they do the many things in their life – whether it is the church, the school, their grocery store,” said Robinson. “We want them to identify the M as their museum, that they have ownership in it.”
For Robinson, this connection between the community and the museum generates “emotional equity,” meaning people can “see their own faces in this collection,” as she explained.
She has also worked with other public-facing arts organizations. For six years she was the art director at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport. She also currently runs her own public-art consulting firm, Five x Five, and is a jewelry designer with her own company, Rox.
“She’s a polymath,” said Makholm. “She does everything and knows everyone. That is a great kind of board chair to have -- someone who is so super connected.”
Robinson already was a member of the museum's board, having served a three-year term. Four new members joined the 19-person board, which is now 44% women and 26% people of color.
Along with 50 other museums, the M was selected this week by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) to participate in a initiative to diversify museum boards and leadership across five U.S. cities. AAM will distribute $4 million to U.S. museums of varying size in the Twin Cities, Chicago, the Bay Area, Houston/Dallas-Ft. Worth and Jackson, Miss.