Above: Leon Hushcha, left, and Vladimir von Tsurikov, right, at the Museum of Russian Art, Friday, June 3, 2016 in Minneapolis, MN. (Note: The art in the background is not that of the artist-was not up yet). Photo credit: Elizabeth Flores/Star Tribune 

The only museum on the North American continent dedicated to Russian art will be without an executive director come August 21. At the time of this report, the museum cannot say where he will be going next.

“It’s been a very exciting time working here, especially during these politically difficult times when relations between the U.S. and Russia have not been good,” said von Tsurikov, when reached by phone. “Promoting Russian art and Russian culture is a very important topic. I’m really grateful for the opportunity and have had a really good experience.”

Von Tsurikov arrived at the Museum of Russian Art in 2014 from the Foundation of Russian History in Jordanville, N.Y., where he had been since 2011. During his time at the museum, he was tasked with expanding the museum’s visibility, increasing attendance expanding the donor base, growing the board of directors, and bringing in more grants and financial contributions.

Development Officer Alex Legeros called the transition “not turbulent, but not necessarily expected,” adding that von Tsurikov chose this moment to depart “because the organization is in a good place.” In the departure announcement, TMORA said that the museum’s community has “swelled in its support for the only major nonprofit institution in North American devoted entirely to Russian art, history and culture.”

Though the museum cannot say where von Tsurikov will go next, they did hint that he will be departing for warmer climes. When asked what that meant, von Tsurikov joked, judging by the temperatures from last winter, that “I think going to Alaska would be warmer.” (In fact, when I was visiting the museum this past winter on a particularly cold day, I checked temps in St. Petersburg, Russia, only to discover that it was several degrees warmer there.)

The German-born von Tsurikov, whose family left Russia after the 1917 revolution, was the museum’s first Russian-speaking director. His long lost relatives include the commander-in-chief of the Russian army, who defeated Napoleon in 1812. He grew up in Germany and moved to the U.S. in 1988, earning an M.A. in Russian language and literature from Middlebury College and his PhD in Russian history from Moscow Theological Academy.

Founded in 2002 by Minneapolis businessman Ray Johnson, TMORA has been in its present location in a renovated Spanish Colonial-style church at 55th St. and Stevens Ave. S. since 2005.