An Interview with Richard Kelly
"Andrew Camden, MTA Chairman Emeritus is one of my oldest friends and he introduced me to MTA. At that time I was just a collector of American Illustration who had a natural affinity for museums. I began as a Patron member and as Andrew had predicted, found I enjoyed the people involved and was especially impressed by the “behind the scenes” looks at both museums and private collections. By coming to MTA conferences I was getting opportunities that I could have never gotten any other way. Later, as I became a trustee myself, first on the Federal Reserve Fine Arts Advisory Panel and then on the board of the Norman Rockwell Museum I was invited to serve on the MTA Board."
Tell Us About Your Museum Board Service.
"I’ve been on the Fine Arts Advisory Panel of the Federal Reserve for almost 20 years now. My biggest challenge there came during my tenure as Panel Chair, when we were transitioning from our founding director to her successor. There was widespread concern about the future of the program, and it was all I could do to keep the board intact until the situation became clear. The program not only continued, but a successful search led to our finding Stephen Phillips who has led us to even greater heights.
For the last 6 or so years I’ve been on the Board of the Norman Rockwell Museum. I began there as a member of the National Advisory Council and was then asked to be on their Board. As a result of my collecting knowledge I serve as the Chair of the Museum’s Collection Committee."
What are some key responsibilities of a trustee?
"The key responsibilities of a trustee are to ensure the financial stability of the institution, and to put in place the right Director and policies to ensure that the mission of the Museum is successfully carried out. It is up to the Trustees to ensure that the museum is well-funded and run on a fiscally responsible basis and that strategic plans are in place to ensure the future well-being of the institution. Policies must be in place to protect the collections, staff and facilities. The Board Chair must work closely with the Director on all major decisions that affect the health and reputation of the Museum both now and into the future. And last but not least, the trustee must be a cheerleader for his/her museum, spreading the good word and garnering support whenever and wherever they can."
What are your goals for MTA as Board Chairman?
"My goals as MTA Chairman are to expand our membership and to continue to develop content to give our Museums the “best practices” governance information they need to have the most effective Board of Trustees possible. I would also like to see us continue to develop our relationship with the AAM until we become universally recognized throughout the field as the source of the most effective museum Trusteeship, which of course we are!"
Share an MTA Memory.
"I remember at one of the early conferences I attended in Washington DC I found myself at a dinner at the National Gallery of Art and Carter Brown, the then Director, was giving us a talk. Our group was the only one there, and I remember looking around thinking to myself what a very special opportunity this was. And this was simply the highlight of a day where we had viewed session after valuable session on the practical information that Museum trustees need to do their job effectively. That tradition of combining useful insights and special locations continues as we meet at both the New Orleans Museum of Art and the National World War II Museum this spring and look forward to a reception at the relocated Barnes Museum in Philadelphia this fall."
What are some challenges currently facing the museum field?
"One of the biggest challenges museums face these days is the quickly evolving way people get their information. As more people live their lives through their screens, museums need to find a way to reach these people, first to bring them into the museum, and secondly to connect with them once they come through the door. We must stay up to date on social media, interactive exhibits and long distance learning opportunities. While nothing will ever surpass the firsthand experience of viewing a great work of art (or historic house or aquarium etc.) up-close and personal, our new challenge will be convincing current generations of that fact, and finding alternative methods of information delivery when schedules or lifestyles won’t permit onsite visits."
Why should a museum leader attend the NOLA Forum (or any MTA Forum)?
"The reason to attend an MTA forum is to hear from experienced long-time trustees on how to successfully navigate the difficulties museum boards face every single day. It is where Trustees from across the country come to discuss the problems they have faced and the solutions they have found while running our most important cultural institutions. This spring in New Orleans (besides our Board Chair/Director workshop) we are covering such topics as Investing, Capital Campaigns and Trustee Recruitment and training among other timely subjects. Then we tour some of the host city’s finest museums—in this case The New Orleans Museum of art and the National World War II Museum. And finally our Patrons round out their days sampling the finest cuisine the city has to offer and going behind the scenes into many of the privately held collections located in the area. There is not a more fulfilling way a dedicated museum trustee can spend his/her weekend."