Montclair Art Museum (MAM) Director Lora Urbanelli informed MAM’s Board of Trustees that she will retire in Summer 2020, MAM announced Monday. The ninth director of the museum since its inception in 1914, Urbanelli will have led MAM for more than 11 years, one of the longest tenures in recent history.
According to Frank Walter, president of the Board of Trustees, Urbanelli guided the museum through a chapter of extraordinary institutional advancement, and with her leadership, provided continuous creativity and inspiring service.
“Lora marked several key milestones while at MAM and she deserves huge credit for shepherding many team achievements during her tenure,” said Walter. “While we congratulate her and wish her the best in her retirement, she will be greatly missed by the board, and MAM’s dedicated staff and many volunteers.”
Urbanelli came to MAM in 2009 from her position as Director of the Farnsworth Art Museum and Wyeth Center in Rockland, ME, and prior to that served as Interim Director, Asst. Director, and Curator of Prints, Drawings and Photographs over the course of 20 years at the Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design. She was trained in studio art, art history and museum studies at Rutgers University and Syracuse University.
Along with many nonprofit institutions, MAM faced considerable challenges amidst the Great Recession as Urbanelli took the helm in 2009. She worked strategically and effectively with the board and staff to stabilize the museum’s finances and rekindle optimism. Leveraging the 2002 building expansion, the museum flourished under her watch, with Urbanelli and her team successfully guiding MAM through a decade of a refocused mission, invigorating exhibitions and programming, and enhancing facilities and operations.
Under Urbanelli’s leadership, MAM continued its tradition of acclaimed exhibitions and upgraded management of its storied collections. MAM’S New Directions contemporary art initiative broadened the museum’s exhibition roster and elevated its path forward. Continuing a lasting and inspiring legacy, MAM completed wholesale cataloging of its Native American collection and reinstalled and reenergized its popular Rand Native American Art Gallery.
One of the most significant contribution of Urbanelli’s directorship was her personal mandate to make the institution more accessible to all audiences through a robust arts education program. Under her leadership, the operations team opened MAM’s Ceramics Studio, the Greyer Community Arts Studio, the Nathaniel Harris Community Entrance and the Vance Wall Education Center lobby. As a capstone initiative, Urbanelli is also coordinating a multi-year design phase of, and laying the groundwork for, transforming the museum’s exterior with the proposed ArtPark at MAM.
“While I am ready to start a new chapter in my life, I am proud and honored to have been the caretaker of this grand institution and its legacy,” said Urbanelli. “As I pass the baton to the next director, MAM will remain a vibrant and revitalized arts center with an incredible team of staff, board and volunteers, ready to serve its members and the community.”
Urbanelli and her long list of accomplishments will be celebrated at the Montclair Art Museum’s May 2020 Gala.