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Kristin A. Swain to Retire as Executive Director of The Rockwell Museum with Over 40 Years of Dedicated Service

KS_HeadshotOctober 17, 2016 | The longtime executive director of The Rockwell Museum has announced her plans to retire.  Kristin A. Swain, who has shepherded The Rockwell through two major reinventions, is in her 14th year as Executive Director and has been involved with The Rockwell for the entire 40-year history of the institution.

Furthermore, Swains’ tenure ends on a high note after just completing a reinvention project including a broadened mission statement, the Smithsonian Affiliation status, reimagined galleries and a diverse fundraising program that supports The Rockwell’s growing arts in education programs. 

Swain said the timing of her announcement was made to “ensure that the succession-planning process will be deliberate and seamless until the proper person is found, and that a smooth transition follows.”  The Rockwell’s Board of Trustees have spent the last several months conducting a national search for her successor.  The search is nearly complete and Swain will remain as Executive Director through the end of the year, expecting that her successor will be in place in January 2017.

“The Rockwell is a nationally-recognized fine art institution and a model for educational outreach initiatives in the community. As The Rockwell embarks on the next 40 years, an important foundation has been established. From recently becoming a Smithsonian Affiliate to an expanded mission statement to reflect art about the American experience, I’m thrilled to see what lies ahead for The Rockwell,” says Swain. 

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Kristin gives remarks at the 2015 Museums of NY Conference

A culminating year, The Rockwell has celebrated its 40th anniversary throughout 2016 with the opening of a new Modern and Contemporary gallery, new acquisitions, a Centennial National Parks tour, the opening of a newly revitalized museum store, a special anniversary exhibition and soon to come, a 40th Anniversary Gala.  

“More than anything, I have enjoyed working closely with the board, volunteers and terrific staff and playing a role in the evolution of The Rockwell through various roles over 40 years. Connections and interactions make (a museum) work” said Swain. 

More about Kristin A. Swain’s Career at The Rockwell Museum 

Kristin Swain began her career with The Rockwell Museum in 1976 helping to prepare exhibits and opening events.  After having served for over two decades as the President of the Corning Incorporated Foundation, Swain served as the President of the Board of Trustees of The Rockwell from 1997-2002 and was named Executive Director in 2002.  Of particular note, Kristin has guided two major museum reinventions– one in 2001 and the second most recently beginning in 2012.  

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Kristin poses with Jennifer Brundage of Smithsonian Affiliations as she accepts the new partnership

During her time as Board President, The Rockwell underwent a $6.75 million reconstruction project that included a complete collection reinterpretation and a top-to-bottom restoration of Old City Hall in 2001.  “When the doors reopened in 2001 to a magnificent facility, the board and staff were charged with developing engaging programs and educational offerings for the community.  The last 14 years of work has been a time of invention and reinvention,” says Swain.   

Under Kristin’s leadership, The Rockwell received subsequent accreditation from the American Alliance of Museums, grew attendance by 48%, kick-started an Arts in Education fund which now serves as the primary support for students visiting The Rockwell, started The Silver Dollar Society, a high-level donor group, developed a series of signature public programs that educate as well as entertain people of all ages, and added to the art collection in significant ways. 

Most recently, Kristin has guided the Board of Trustees and museum staff to identify new approaches that have significantly increased audience engagement and support.  Through a shared strategic vision The Rockwell is poised to become a premier leader in displaying art about the American experience in Upstate New York by placing the core collections of Western and Native American art into the larger interpretive context of American art. 

Upon the completion of an institutional rebranding, under Kristin’s leadership, The Rockwell began a comprehensive reinterpretation project of the permanent collection and has devised a multi-tier events plan to commemorate the 40th anniversary.  

Kristin has implemented five, 3-year Board-adopted strategic plans; overseen the development and administration of key financial and governance policies; and developed meaningful educational programs and services for people of all ages and interests.   

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Kristin helps prepare corn for hundred of students with the help of Rockwell volunteers at the 2015 Garden of Fire festival and picnic

Below are a few recent accomplishments that The Rockwell has achieved under Kristin’s leadership: 

  • Museum attendance has more than doubled from 23,700 to over 47,400 annual visitors.
  • The Rockwell was named a Smithsonian Affiliate – the only Smithsonian conduit to Upstate NY and one of only some 200 across the nation.
  • Financial support from major benefactors consistently grows each year, supporting the over 14,000 students and families who participate in our arts in education programming
  • Customer satisfaction to The Rockwell continues to grow, and is currently at an unprecedented 9.5 out of 10 satisfaction rating. 

Of serendipitous timing, The Museum Association of New York presented Kristin Swain an Award of Merit at the annual conference this spring. Staff of The Rockwell nominated Kristin for the Anne Ackerson Innovation in Leadership Award for which she is the sole recipient.   Kristin was honored during an award ceremony for “Reinventing The Rockwell: 40 Years of Unwavering Dedication.”  This award recognizes board and staff leaders through creatively and effectively bringing their organization and its people through significant challenges and opportunities. 

In 2008, Kristin was honored in NYC, receiving an award for outstanding leadership and advocacy of the arts from NYS Arts, a non-profit service association for community-based arts and cultural organizations.   Throughout her time at The Rockwell, Kristin has served on regional, state and national arts and cultural boards including The Clemens Performing Arts Center, Corning Community College Development Foundation, Inc., Museum Association of New York, Finger Lakes Land Trust, the Museums West Consortium, United Way of the Southern Tier and the ARTS of the Southern Finger Lakes.  She is also a director of Elmira Savings Bank. 

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