Frist Art Museum Board of Trustees Appoints Dr. Seth Feman as New Executive Director and CEO

Seth Feman. Photo by Echard Wheeler

The Frist Art Museum Board of Trustees has announced Nashville native Seth Feman, PhD, as the new Executive Director and CEO. As a scholar, educator and curator with a decade in multiple leadership roles at the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, Va., Dr. Feman returns to Nashville to lead the Frist in its next chapter of growth and community service. . Her appointment follows the retirement of Dr. Susan H. Edwards, who had served as Frist’s Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer since 2004.

“After an extensive international search managed by Trustee and Chair of the Human Resources Committee, Deborah Story, the Board of Trustees is delighted to announce that Dr. Seth Feman has been unanimously appointed as the new Director of Frist Art Museum,” said the Frist Art Museum Board of Trustees Chairman and President Billy Frist. “Seth brings a wealth of experience, expertise and compassion to further the execution of our founding vision and mission. Growing up in Nashville, he has an invaluable understanding of our community and our institution’s role in it. We are very grateful for all the work that Deborah and the search committee have put into this process, and we know that Seth will step into the field fully equipped to build on our existing strengths.

In his role as Associate Director for Art and Interpretation and Curator of Photography at the Chrysler Art Museum, Dr. Feman led the curatorial, education and registration departments to develop dynamic exhibitions, creative experiences transformative learning and engaging programming. He joined the Chrysler in 2012 to support the museum’s renovation and relocation by developing and implementing a new collection interpretation and display strategy. After several years in the service of education, he was appointed Curator of Exhibitions and Photography, during which time he oversaw the exhibition program and revived the photography program by significantly expanding the photography collection.

“I am thrilled to join the incredible team at the Frist Art Museum, and look forward to collaborating with the talented and mission-driven staff, the dedicated Board of Trustees, and the supportive community of Nashville. Together, we will continue to ensure that the Frist is a dynamic source of inspiration and a meaningful connection for people across the region and beyond,” said Dr Feman. “As a native of Nashville with a deep appreciation for the city’s culture and ambition, I have long admired the way the Frist has developed its exhibits and programs to allow visitors to experience a diversity of cultures. from all over the world and working with local artists. Over the years I have had the great good fortune of collaborating with the excellent staff at Frist in planning traveling exhibitions, and I am constantly inspired by the collegiality “, the creativity and the drive of the team. This opportunity is the realization of a long-held dream. I am deeply honored and thrilled to return home to serve a community and a state that I love.”

Early audiences may recognize Dr. Feman as co-curator of Alma W. Thomas: All is Beautiful, an exhibition co-curated by the Chrysler Museum of Art and the Columbus Museum, Georgia, which will be on view at Frist’s Upper-Level Galleries from February 25 to June 5, 2022. Dr. Feman and co-curator Jonathan Frederick Walz of the Columbus Museum will lead the exhibition’s opening events and programme. He also worked closely with Frist staff to plan the presentation of Chaos and Awe: Painting for the 21st Century at the Chrysler Museum of Art in 2018.

Dr. Feman will assume executive leadership in mid-April at the start of Frist’s twenty-first year of operation. In the interim, Anne Henderson, Director of Education and Engagement at Frist, will serve as Acting Director.

“The search committee, with professional assistance from executive search firm Koya Partners, has worked intensively to recruit top talent to serve as Frist’s new director,” said Deborah Story. “We considered many talented individuals and ultimately chose Seth Feman, who we believe is right to lead the Frist, and is excited to return to make a positive impact in his hometown.” Members of the Frist Art Museum Board of Trustees Research Committee are Pete Bird, Billy Frist, Frank Garrison, Jamaal Sheats, John Smithwick, Deborah Story, Julie Walker, and Gail Carr Williams.

Dr. Edwards, director of Frist since 2004, retired on February 22. During Dr. Edwards’ tenure, the Frist received accreditation from the American Alliance of Museums and presented more than 225 popular and critically acclaimed exhibits. “Susan Edwards has elevated the museum in ways we could only imagine when we first started,” said Billy Frist. “She firmly placed the museum on the international stage. Not only did she make the presentation of the visual arts and the discourse around them diverse and accessible during her time at the museum, but she also changed lives and Nashville in the process.

“Susan Edwards has built an incredible team and her long-standing leadership has ensured their success,” said Dr. Feman. “Like the Frist, the Chrysler has grown from a beloved regional arts center into a thriving, vibrant and internationally recognized cultural hub. I look forward to hearing from staff, volunteers and guests to learn more on their ideas, experiences and aspirations. Through the efforts of this team, the Frist has done an extraordinary job of engaging the public, and they have produced a thoughtful plan for diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility to ensure broader meaningful interactions with the many communities the museum serves. In addition to learning from key stakeholders, I am also looking forward to meeting people who are not yet connected to Frist. One of my main priorities is to ensure that the museum is a space where everyone is welcome to connect with art and each other Amplify Frist’s efforts to improve access, representation and commitment are goals that will be a priority for me.

Over the past nine years, Dr. Feman has successfully expanded Chrysler’s community of supporters by developing a skilled professional staff and insisting that the institution’s national reputation be built on exemplary local commitment. Through a series of roles at the museum, he guided the Chrysler through a successful renovation and reinstallation; produced a strong program of internally generated traveling exhibitions; developed a range of new programs that draw on an extensive network of community partnerships; and secured funding for the next stage of the museum’s growth.

In his most recent role as Deputy Director of Art and Interpretation and Curator of Photography, he established and implemented the institution’s strategic priorities; oversaw an annual operating budget of $9 million; managed several board committees and donor groups; and coordinated the work of curatorial, conservation, education, library, registration and exhibition teams with a staff of over 100. Since 2019, he has helped lead the organization through the American Alliance of Museums reaccreditation process; drafted and launched a new strategic plan that prioritizes access, inclusion and retention of diverse employees and visitors; and supported a feasibility study and fundraising efforts that achieved the museum’s institutional goals. With a track record of sound budget management and agile budget administration, Dr. Feman’s teams have thrived, even during the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As a leader, I believe my role is to articulate core principles and shared priorities, establish large-scale cooperation, and empower teams to achieve ambitious goals while addressing the practical operations of the organization and preparing for its long-term growth,” says Dr. Feman. “These qualities are deeply rooted in my core belief that art has the ability to transform individuals and communities by stimulating critical reflection, creative thinking, interdisciplinary perspectives, and cross-cultural appreciation and respect.”

Dr. Feman’s Fellowship in American Art and Photography has received support from the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Getty Foundation, the Terra Foundation for American Art, the Henry Luce Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts and has given rise to numerous essays, articles, and editions. He taught at the College of William and Mary and Lewis and Clark College and worked as an educator at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. He received his BA in Art History from Vassar College and his MA and PhD in American Studies from the College of William and Mary. He graduated from high school in 1997 at Nashville University School.

Thank you supporters

The Frist Art Museum is supported in part by the Frist Foundation, the Metro Nashville Arts Commission, the Tennessee Arts Commission, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

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Mildred D. Field