The University of Arizona Museum of Art and Archive of Visual Arts

Meet our Staff

DSC_0700W. James Burns, Ph.D., Director

Dr. Burns assumed the directorship of the University of Arizona Museum of Art, now in its 90th year, in September 2014. Most recently he held the position of Executive Director for the Desert Caballeros Western Museum in Wickenburg, Arizona, where he transformed a once small-town historical museum into a nationally recognized center for Western art, history, and culture.

Burns holds a B.A. in History from the University of Arizona, an M.A. in Public History from Arizona State University, and a Ph.D. in Educational Policy Studies from Georgia State University. He is a graduate of the Getty’s Museum Management Institute, and has worked in history, anthropology, and art museums since 1990 at organizations in Arizona, Georgia, Virginia, and Louisiana, including the Museum of Northern Arizona, the Booth Western Art Museum, the Louisiana State Museum, the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation, the Arizona State Museum, and the Atlanta History Center.

Burns’ research interests include the cultural, social, and environmental history of the American West. His M.A. thesis (1994), Gateway to the Colorado Plateau: A Portrait of the Museum of Northern Arizona was an institutional history of MNA. His dissertation, We Must Grow Our Own Artists: Mary-Russell Ferrell Colton, Northern Arizona’s Early Art Educator (2010) was an educational biography focused on the contributions of Mary-Russell Ferrell Colton, cofounder of the Museum of Northern Arizona, to the progressive education movement and the Native American arts and crafts movement.

Burns has served on a number of state and regional museum association boards and currently serves as the Incoming Chair of the Curators’ Committee of the American Alliance of Museums, Board Member-At-Large of the Western Museums Association, a Commissioner on the Arizona Historical Advisory Commission, as a Board member of the American Heritage Center LGBTQ Archives of the Rocky Mountain West at the University of Wyoming in Laramie, as a peer reviewer for the Museum Assessment Program, and as a reviewer for the American Alliance of Museums’ Accreditation Program.

Dr. Burns discovered his passion for working in museums here in Tucson 25 years ago and determined to forge a career as a museum professional. He returned to the UA because the UAMA is so full of promise and possibilities. His vision is for the Museum to be recognized as a leader alongside its world-class peer organizations at the University.


DSC_0050Gina Compitello-Moore, Marketing Manager

Gina received her B.A. in French and Music from Ripon College, her M.A. in French Literature from the University of Oregon, and her M.A. in Arts and Cultural Management from Université Lumière Lyon 2. Her thesis work centered on the intersection of sense of place and cultural heritage. She has worked in a variety of cultural institutions and comes most recently from the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. She is a passionate advocate for the arts and serves on the Marketing Committee for the Tucson Pima Arts Council. Gina and her husband also own a nursery specializing in cactus and succulents.


DSC_0671Chelsea Farrar, Curator of Community Engagement

Chelsea holds an M.A. in Art Education from the University of Arizona. Chelsea began her career in education as a high school art teacher, teaching studio art, AP Art History and technical theater for seven years. After receiving her masters in museum education, she began at the UAMA first as a graduate assistant, implementing her research in arts integration. Chelsea is currently pursuing a Ph.D. from the University of Arizona with an emphasis on museum education and social justice issues.


DSC_0726Jim Kushner, Security Officer

Jim was born in western Pennsylvania in February 1944 and grew up in southern California. He attended California State Polytechnic University earning a B.S. in social science and social work in 1967. After graduation Jim enlisted in the Air Force and served 4 years in Europe and spending a lot of time visiting some of the most famous museums on the continent. For ten years he owned and operated a bakery in California and for a short time also had one in Idaho on the shores of Lake Payette near the border of Idaho and Oregon. After spending the next 14+ years working in a local correctional facility, he had the opportunity to retire. In 2013, Jim came to work at the University of Arizona and as luck would have it,  got the chance to spend time enjoying and learning about the marvelous art collection at the UAMA. The last 20 months that he been here has given me the opportunity to see and enjoy great art every day. Someone once said that when you enjoy what you are doing it is never work only fun. Jim can honestly say that he has fun being here and helping our amazing staff bring this equally amazing collection to the attention of our students and the citizens of our great state.


Photo McClearyJill McCleary, Archivist
Head, Archives and Preservation

Jillian McCleary holds a Master of Arts in Library and Information Science and a Certificate in Museum Studies from the University of Iowa. She began working in cultural institutions in 2001 and has held a variety of positions in museums, libraries, and archives. As a member of the UAMA staff, she oversees the recently formed Archive of Visual Arts and assists with the Museum’s exhibitions. Jillian enjoys working with the extensive collection at the UAMA and loves tracking down answers to difficult research questions.


Olivia Miller, Curator of Exhibitions and Education

Olivia received her B.A. in Studio Art and Art History from the University of Arizona and her M.A. in Art History from the University of Oregon with a focus on the Spanish royal hunting portrait tradition. She is currently a Ph.D. student in art history and is interested in female art patronage and early modern print culture. Prior to her position at UAMA she taught art history for both high school and college levels and worked at multiple non-profit arts organizations in both Oregon and Arizona. She is thrilled to work at UAMA with its superb collection; a resource that she herself utilized as an undergraduate student.


DSC_0703Nathan Saxton, Exhibition Specialist, Senior

Nathan comes to the UAMA with 20 years of art handling and exhibition design experience. Prior to joining the Museum in 2014, he was the owner of Borealis Arts, a full-service framing and art care studio. Nathan is pursuing a B.S. in Optical Sciences and Engineering, in part to study the ways that light damage to art can be minimized without adversely affecting the viewer’s enjoyment of the artwork. “The thing I love most about this institution is that our permanent collection contains very high quality examples of artwork from a wide variety of genres and periods. One week I’m installing a Rothko, and the next week I’m framing a collection of works from the 16th century.”


DSC_0713Kristen Schmidt, Registrar

Kristen grew up in Middlebury, Vermont and graduated from Indiana University-Bloomington with a degree in art history in 1996. She then moved to Tucson for an internship at the Tucson Museum of Art, which led to an assistant registrar’s position. She started as registrar at the UAMA in 2007. She is now pursuing a master’s degree in art history at the UA, focusing on the artwork in the Samuel H. Kress collection.


DSC_0682Angela Telesco, Program Coordinator, Guest Services

Angela received her B.A. in Political Science and Spanish from the University of Arizona. She joined the Museum of Art Staff in September 2014. Prior to her position at the UAMA she worked for 25 years in Research Administration and the Graduate College on the UA campus. Continuing to work at the University in a completely different learning environment is very exciting. She is thrilled to work in a Museum that has such a wonderful collection, education department, and a variety of exhibitions.