Ben Heywood posed in "Pledge Project," a 2014 installation at the Soap Factory. Photo by Jeff Wheeler, Star Tribune

Former Minneapolis art curator Ben Heywood will head Pivot Art + Culture, a new non-profit announced Friday in Seattle by Paul G. Allen, art collector and Microsoft co-founder. Heywood was hired last month by Allen's private company, Vulcan, but neither his duties nor his new title were stated then.

Pivot Art + Culture will be a 4,000 square foot, two room gallery located in the Allen Institute for Brain Science, a research facility that the venture capitalist and philanthropist is developing on the edge of downtown Seattle in the South Lake Union neighborhood. Scheduled to open in December, it is intended to be a cultural magnet in an area known as a tech and bio-medical hub.

"It's a marvelous job and I'm extremely excited about it," Heywood said, adding. "Allen is a great guy with extremely deep pockets and I think we can do some very exciting things here."

Heywood is still developing Pivot's program but said it will combine pieces from Allen's collection with the kind of experimental art that he worked with at The Soap Factory, the unconventional Minneapolis visual and performing arts space he ran for nearly 13 years prior to taking the Seattle job.

"It will combine alternative programming with traditional museum practices," Heywood said. "We want to produce exhibitions that people like and enjoy that also have great artistic integrity."

The Soap Factory recently named David Fey as interim executive director while it launches a search for Heywood's successor. Fey is a Senior Consultant with Cincinnatus, an advisor to nonprofit organizations, with experience in leadership transitions.

With a personal fortune estimated at $17.5 billion, Allen has the means to indulge his interests in sports (he owns the Seattle Seahawks football team and the Portland Trail Blazers basketball team) and art. In the past 25 years he has donated more than $100 million to arts and culture organizations while amassing a 300 piece private art collection that ranges from a 1625 painting by Jan Brueghel the Younger to a contemporary "spot" painting by Damien Hurst.

Forty landscape paintings from his collection will be shown in "Seeing Nature," opening October 10 at the Portland Art Museum. The show, which includes masterpieces by J. M W. Turner, Claude Monet and Gustav Klimt, will travel to Washington, D. C., New Orleans and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts next year before closing at the Seattle Art Museum in early 2017.

Allen's company, Vulcan, also is a chief sponsor of the Seattle Art Fair.