The Dayton Art Institute uses an innovative dual leadership model to bring vitality back to the organization
Being asked to lead one of the one of the region’s premier fine arts museums with a collection that spans 5,000 years of art history and a reputation for diverse educational programming is quite an honor. But being asked to co-lead it in a new arrangement that the museum has never tried before? Well, that’s a challenge. And native Daytonians Michael Roediger and Jane Black accepted.
Both well-known leaders in the Miami Valley arts community, Roediger and Black agreed to serve as co-leaders of the Dayton Art Institute (DAI) in 2011. Roediger and Black actually approached the Institute with the idea of co-leadership, a new concept to the board of directors. Although definitely a non-traditional leadership model – DAI believes very few, if any, other museums of this size or larger have a similar type of leadership team – the board hoped it would help bring relevance back to the organization. And so far, it has.
In 2012, the museum saw its highest overall attendance in five years, with more than 60,000 people attending special exhibitions, record attendance at the Art Ball, and great support for new events and programs.
Significant repairs and improvements were made to the DAI’s historic facility, and renovations to the museum store and café spaces created a new community gathering space. That momentum continues in 2013, with strong community support for a recent exhibition commemorating the 100th anniversary of the 1913 flood and record revenue for this year’s Art Ball.
So, Dayton Magazine sat down with Roediger and Black to see how the arrangement works for them and what they expect for the future of DAI.
DM: How has the co-leadership initiative gone?
JB: It’s great to have a partner who has strengths that you might not possess. I think we each gain a lot in being able to put both our skill sets together to attack the work we have taken on.
MR: The leadership of The Dayton Art Institute is a huge task. It is nice to have a partner to bounce ideas off of and, as we say, to be able to “divide and conquer.” There is so much work to do to get the museum where it needs to be to thrive. We also put into place a strong leadership team that really keeps the museum moving forward. They are amazing, and I really believe there is room for many faces and leaders at The DAI.
DM: Are you achieving the synergies you hoped for?
JB: Yes … maybe not quite as fast as we hoped, but honestly, it’s a bigger job than we realized.
MR: Absolutely, I wish things could move faster, but it takes time. Jane and I both work at a fast pace with a great deal of energy and enthusiasm. Having a positive outlook helps.
DM: How do you complement each other?
JB: Like peanut butter and chocolate! Both good and strong on their own but better together.
DM: Do you play to each other’s strengths?
MR: Jane and I are all about creating a top-notch museum that helps to create a better quality of life and makes an economic impact in the Dayton region. I think we view serving our gift as an opportunity to make change. Also, we both believe the museum is for everyone and are committed to making it an inclusive and welcoming place for people to gather for incredible art experiences.
JB: It is true. We are committed to serving our community as well.
DM: Are there ways you’ve “learned to disagree” but still make it work?
JB: I think I’m more cautious than Michael, and sometimes advocate for safer paths – I’m learning to be more comfortable with greater risks but still have reservations at times.
MR: I’m much more of a think tank type of leader and like to work things out in meetings with a team of people. I think Jane prefers people to come to a meeting with answers. We have found a nice compromise that allows us to be better prepared but still encourage the free thought and creativity that you can only get with the energy of other people.
DM: How do you keep the community involved besides attending shows and events?
MB: There are a number of ways, including partnerships with other events and organizations in the area, as well as our involvement on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
JB: Our associate board consists of 32 couples from throughout the community. Associate board members serve a four-year term, so there are new community members joining the Board each year. They play a vital role in the planning and implementation of our Art Ball and Oktoberfest.
DM: What can patrons expect this fall?
JB: Our Curator of Collections and Exhibitions, Aimee Marcereau DeGalan, has several exciting art exhibitions planned for the fall. These include an exhibition of recently discovered watercolors from the early 1900s by noted Ohio artist Frank Wilcox, early 20th century photographs of Paris by Eugène Atget, and an exhibition of 12 lithographs by Marc Chagall.
MR: But the centerpiece of our fall exhibitions is “Object of Devotion: Medieval English Alabaster Sculpture from the Victoria and Albert Museum,” which will be on view Oct. 26 – Jan. 5. The exhibition will present 60 beautifully carved alabaster panels and freestanding figures that were displayed in the homes, chapels and churches of both aristocratic and non-aristocratic Christians in the 15th and 16th centuries. It is a dramatic exhibition.
For more about these and the many other events taking place at the museum this fall, visit the DAI website and Facebook page at daytonartinstitute.org and facebook.com/daytonartinstitute.