The Cedar Rapids Museum of Art has turned internally to its longtime curator to fill its executive director position.
The board of the trustees for the 3rd Avenue SE museum announced on Thursday it has appointed Sean Ulmer, 50, as the new executive director, effective immediately. Ulmer, who was the Curator of Collections and Exhibitions since 2005, had been serving as interim director for more than a year.
“I wouldn’t say it was expected,” Ulmer said. “They did an extensive national search, and I am honored to have been chosen.”
Ulmer emerged from a national search that drew about 30 qualified candidates, said Phil Lasansky, a trustee and chairman of the search committee.
Ulmer will quickly focus on completing a $1.3 million capital campaign tied to a $1.7 million museum renovation. The museum is planning a celebratory unveiling of the renovation in late June.
“My first goal is to finish up the campaign and finish up the renovations to the building, and planning the event in late June to celebrate the changes,” Ulmer said. “And, in the intervening time, I’ll be working with the talented staff here to come up with changes on the inside.”
Ulmer said staff will be leading updates to the inside of the museum. The process will include public forums soliciting feedback from stakeholders, he said.
Ulmer seemingly has been in grooming for the role since the previous director, Terry Pitts, announced he was retiring after 13 years in January 2013. Ulmer was immediately named interim executive director, and worked with Pitts up until he left at the end of June.
While other strong candidates emerged, including finalist Andrew Maus, executive director of the Minnesota Marine Museum of Art in Winona, Minn., Ulmer was the right man for the job, Lasansky said.
Lasansky said the search committee liked Ulmer’s 20 years of experience as a curator, relations he’s built in the community over the past eight years and the ability for continuity during these critical capital and building projects.
“It was his depth of experiences, including a lot of experience with our museum the last eight years,” Lasansky said. “He has a lot understanding of our collection, and in the interim period, he demonstrated he was a good director.”
Ulmer has a broad array of museum experience including curatorial work at the University of Michigan Museum of Art, Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University and the Ohio State University Wexner Center for the Arts. He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Toledo and the Ohio State University, respectively.