The Smart Museum of Art at the University of Chicago today announced the appointment of Jill Sterrett as Deputy Director for Museum Affairs and Strategic Impact.
A vital member of the Museum’s leadership team, this new position will work closely with Alison Gass, the Dana Feitler Director, and senior members of the curatorial, audience engagement, and public practice departments. Sterrett will lead strategic planning efforts that reimagine the Museum’s role as a catalyst for learning in the 21st century, making it a site to better serve students and faculty at the University of Chicago, the surrounding communities, and national and international partners. The position aligns innovative methods of exhibitions and collections management with sound financial oversight and fosters a work culture to support the long-term success and sustainability of the Smart Museum and its vital role within UChicago Arts.
“I am thrilled and honored that the Smart was able to attract such an industry-wide thought leader for this new position. Jill will be joining our team at an exciting moment as we re-envision the role of the Smart in the context of the University, the city, and beyond,” said Alison Gass. “She brings a wealth of strategic and collaborative museum experience and will be a critical partner as we continue to build the Smart into a leading university art museum.”
Sterrett comes to the Smart Museum from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, where she has worked since 1990 as Paper Conservator (1990–2000), Head of Conservation (2000–2002), and Director of Collections (2002–2018). As SFMOMA’s Director of Collections, she oversaw the activities of six allied departments in a museum structure designed to put the voices of living artists at the center of collaborative approaches to art stewardship and research.
“This business of objects has always been about people,” said Sterrett. “I can’t wait to join the Smart at the University of Chicago to engage the issues that make museums relevant in our world.”
Sterrett publishes and teaches on the subjects of contemporary art, museums, and conservation and she is particularly interested in the role of museums in shaping contemporary society. In 2007, she was a Fulbright scholar at the University of Porto in Portugal. She has also worked at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, the Library of Congress, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the National Library of Australia and the National Gallery of Victoria.
Sterrett is president of the board of Voices in Contemporary Art (VoCA), a non-profit organization that generates critical dialogue and interdisciplinary programming to address the production, presentation, and preservation of contemporary art. She also serves on the board of Beta by Design, and non-profit organization focused on interdisciplinary teaching and learning. She is a graduate of Denison University with a B.A. in Chemistry and a B.A. in Art History. She earned her M.A. in Art Conservation from the Cooperstown Graduate Program.
Sterrett comes to the University of Chicago at a time when the Smart Museum is leading efforts within UChicago Arts to create new opportunities for students and faculty, to work in partnership with leading artists and scholars to develop new approaches to teaching with art objects through the recently announced Feitler Center for Academic Inquiry, to develop thought-provoking exhibitions, and to create new models for public practice.
“Research and teaching in the history, meanings, science, and conservation of materials has been growing rapidly at the University of Chicago, including collaborations across the University and with local institutions like the Art Institute of Chicago. Sterrett’s longstanding, pioneering work at the intersection of contemporary art practice, materials, conservation, collections, and research makes for a phenomenal addition at a fertile moment,” said Christine Mehring, Professor of Art History and the College and Chair of the Department of Art History.
Sterrett will begin at the Smart Museum in September 2018.