Headshot Nina
Updates

Mon, Nov 26, 2018

Nina Simon

Nina Simon - Executive Director

Nina Simon on the MAH's planned executive transition in 2019

In mid-2019, Nina Simon will transition out of her role as executive director of the MAH to focus full-time on a new nonprofit initiative to share the MAH’s innovative community model with organizations around the world. The board, led by president Laura Best LaPorte, will work closely with Nina and senior staff to recruit a new executive director to lead this incredible institution after Nina’s departure. This is Nina’s statement about the planned transition.

It has been my privilege to lead this amazing organization as executive director since 2011. With our wonderful staff, trustees, and partners, we transformed the MAH from a quiet museum to a vibrant community hub and an internationally-recognized innovator. We invited diverse community members to contribute their creativity to the reinvention of the museum. Together, we’ve made the MAH bold, generous, and a little weird: just like Santa Cruz County.

Together, we’ve made the MAH bold, generous, and a little weird: just like Santa Cruz County.

At the MAH, we use art and history to build a stronger, more connected community every day, in ways big and small. During my time here, we built a creative town plaza in Abbott Square. Launched pop up museums across the County. Transformed an abandoned cemetery into a treasured historic site. Designed exhibitions that use art to spark social action. Lit up downtown with festivals of fire and light, bonsai trees and Oaxacan dancers.

I’m proud of the work we’ve done to make the MAH strong and inclusive. We dramatically increased and diversified our visitation, membership, volunteer corps, and community partners. We took the organization from financial struggle to strength. And we attracted recognition on the global stage, from the Wall Street Journal to NPR. These successes belong to our whole team, including you - our community of partners and supporters.

Running the MAH is truly a team effort. Thanks to you, the MAH is in its strongest position ever, with healthy finances, energized members, creative volunteers, committed trustees, and brilliant staff. I’m grateful to work closely every day with our “copilots” leadership team--Stacey Marie Garcia, Jonathan Hicken, and Lis DuBois--to manage the museum and strengthen our creative community. The MAH’s collaborative values will continue to inform this transition. I look forward to working with our board and staff to recruit a new director who can use our strengths to sustain the MAH and deepen its impact.

While a new leader takes the MAH forward, I’ll dive into a different challenge: sharing the MAH’s innovative approach with the world. I am shifting my focus to OF/BY/FOR ALL, a new global nonprofit initiative to help public-serving organizations become fully of, by, and for their communities. The MAH has been incubating this project under my leadership for a year. It launched publicly in May 2018, and we have already engaged over 1,000 professionals from museums, libraries, parks, and performing arts centers in 40 countries. OF/BY/FOR ALL is growing quickly, and we see that it will soon be ready to complete its incubation at the MAH. It’s time to start planning for that project and the MAH to have focused, separate leadership.

I am shifting my focus to OF/BY/FOR ALL, a new global nonprofit initiative to help public-serving organizations become fully of, by, and for their communities.

I am excited for the MAH and for my own next steps. But this was not an easy decision to make. I love the MAH, and I love every single person who is a part of it. You who believed in the MAH believed in me too. Every time you volunteered, joined the team, shared your creativity, or made a donation, I felt the love and support behind your gift.

I have often thought on my job here is as a spacemaker. I create and hold space for our community to flourish in all its creative and cultural diversity. One of my favorite things to do is to wander into the MAH on a day off and see hundreds of people enjoying a festival, making art, sharing stories, singing along. Sometimes, people come up and thank me on those days. And all I can say is – thank you. All I do is make the space. And then you – our beautiful, brave community – fill it with joy and connection. I hope you will continue to do so for many generations to come.

Nina