June 29, 2017 Taos, New Mexico

The Harwood Museum of Art

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New Director/New Vision: Susan Longhenry Takes the Reins of the Harwood Museum of Art
March 08, 2010

New Director/New Vision: Susan Longhenry Takes the Reins of the Harwood Museum of Art

TAOS, NM (March 2010)—It’s been little more than six months since Susan Longhenry became director of the Harwood Museum of Art and in that time then she has begun to transform this 85-year old institution into a 21-century destination.

Lured away from her job at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, Longhenry had been looking for a new challenge, and with it a change of scenery. Relocating to this renowned art colony of 6,500 souls in the mountains of Northern New Mexico, one could say she’s found both.

“My family and I wanted to live in a place that truly honors artists and artistic expression,” says Longhenry, “and Taos has a long legacy that surely delivers on that. Add the area’s cultural diversity and unspoiled natural beauty and you have a very special opportunity. The Agnes Martin Gallery is known throughout the museum world as a kind of temple for this important modernist.” 

Longhenry arrives at a time of great excitement for the museum with three main goals on her agenda. The first is to oversee construction of a $6 million, 10,000 square-foot expansion that will add collection storage facilities, gallery space and a 135-seat auditorium. “We’re especially excited about our new care and conservation capacities,” she says. “Being stewards of this region’s art is one of the key ways we serve this community.”

She and her staff are also embarking on a new strategic plan that will assess the collection, sharpen programming and exhibitions, and bring the museum’s audience more clearly into view.

“Because of my 20 year experience in public programs and museum learning, I want to know what makes the Harwood museum-goer tick. Taking the time to identify our audiences—whether local or visitors to Taos—and finding ways to engage them is of special interest to me.”

The third major component of Longhenry’s charge is to move toward American Association of Museums accreditation. Longhenry plans to initiate the process in the next two years. “Accreditation is very important since it will lead the charge towards integrating best practices. It’s your compass. It’s an articulation of excellence in your field. Accreditation is essential for a first-rate museum like the Harwood and we are now putting into place all the pieces we need to accomplish that.”

First and foremost, Longhenry believes that the Harwood Museum Board chose her as director because of her strength in reaching out to audiences and enhancing the visitor experience. “For me, museums are more than a picture on a wall. It’s a place where magic happens when a person stands in front of that picture.  That complex reaction has fascinated me my entire career.”

The museum has also seen advances in electronic marketing and social networking updates with Longhenry’s arrival including a newly overhauled web site and a monthly e-newsletter, a presence on Facebook and YouTube, and some deep drilling down into data on museum visits, “to improve the visitor experience,” Lonhenry says.

For the past 20 years Susan Longhenry has been at the forefront of museum administration serving at several of the nation’s most prestigious art museums including Indianapolis Museum of Art, Georgia Museum of Art, Art Institute of Chicago, and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

Media Contact: Andrew Flack, Buzz, Inc. 575-758-8900, flack@buzzinc.net