Akron Art Museum Director to Step Down and New Chief Curator to Start August 20, 2012

After 26 years as director, with one of the longest tenures of any art museum leader in the country, Dr. Mitchell D. Kahan announced to the Akron Art Museum’s Board of Trustees that he will leave January 2, 2013 and assume the title of Director Emeritus. In addition, Janice Driesbach will join the staff on August 20, after a year-long national search, as the museum’s new Chief Curator.

Under Kahan’s direction, the Akron Art Museum enjoyed significant institutional growth: from a 25,000 square foot facility to 83,000 square feet; from an endowment of just over $2 million to well over $­­20 million following three endowment campaigns; from a collection of 2,000 objects to over 5,000; from a staff of 22 to over 50; and a capital campaign that raised $44.8 million surpassing the final goal of $42 million. Most significantly for future generations, Kahan raised almost $5 million in permanent endowment funds for purchases of art; there were no funds for art purchases when he arrived in1986.

Kahan plans to continue living in the Akron area with his partner Christopher Hixson and will focus on foundation management, arts journalism and making art.

Driesbach, a native of Lakewood, Ohio, has worked as both a curator and museum director. After an undergraduate degree in art history and political science from Allegheny College, she received her M.A. in art history from University of Iowa, where she studied with art historian Frank Seiberling (son of Goodyear founder F.A. Seiberling). She later worked at the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento as Curator of Art and held two museum directorships, at the University of Nebraska’s Sheldon Museum of Art and The Dayton Art Institute.

Her specialty is American art, and she has spearheaded numerous collaborations among cultural institutions on a variety of topics. Driesbach helped to develop the collection of American contemporary sculpture at University of Nebraska and in Sacramento expanded institutional holdings of regional art, a dual approach that mirrors Akron’s commitment to both regional art and developments elsewhere. She is delighted to return to her first love, curatorial work. Her husband John is a printmaker and is a retired professor of art from California State University-Sacramento, where he earlier served as chair of the art department. Their two daughters live in Chicago and Fort Collins.

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