TUCSON, Ariz. – Olivia Miller has been appointed the director of the University of Arizona Museum of Art (UAMA), effective immediately. Miller becomes the first woman to serve as the institution’s director.
Miller, a University of Arizona alumna (BA ’05, Art History and Studio Art), earned her master’s in art history from the University of Oregon. She joined the museum as Curator of Education in 2012, overseeing the docent and education programs before becoming Curator of Exhibitions in 2014. She has curated more than 30 exhibitions during her tenure, overseeing the restoration and return of the UAMA’s stolen Willem de Kooning painting, Woman-Ochre.
She served as interim director for the past 10 months.
“Olivia has done outstanding work as interim director, and I am delighted that she will be taking on this role permanently,” said Andy Schulz, vice president for the arts at the University of Arizona. “Olivia understands the critical role that university art museums play as vibrant hubs for teaching and learning, research and innovation, and community engagement in and through the visual arts. I look forward to partnering with Olivia to elevate the UAMA on campus, in our community, and nationally as a model for others to follow. A key initiative will be partnering with the university and visionary donors to build a new state-of-the-art facility in which to fully realize the transformative impact of the museum.”
“I am thrilled and honored to take on this new role at UAMA and continue to work with its incredible staff and collection,” said Miller. “University art museums are special institutions and the University of Arizona is a dynamic campus with endless possibilities for interdisciplinary collaborations.
“At this exciting time of renewal both here at UAMA and in the field at large, we will embark on a new strategic plan to build upon the museum’s strengths while creating new approaches that center university and community impact, shape our collections to reflect diverse creative experiences, and enact positive social change.”
In 2021, Miller curated the UAMA’s largest exhibition in over a decade, The Art of Food: From the Collections of Jordan D. Schnitzer and His Family Foundation. The exhibition was accompanied by a bilingual catalogue, and is travelling to six venues through 2025.
This past fall, Miller presided over Restored: The Return of Woman-Ochre, which traces the incredible story of the Willem de Kooning painting stolen from the university in 1985, recovered in 2017, restored by the J. Paul Getty Museum, and returned to Tucson in 2022.
Miller’s future projects include Pulse: Weavings and Paintings by Marlowe Katoney, co-curated with Dr. Anya Montiel, curator and historian of Native American art. Opening on Oct. 14, this solo exhibition will feature works by Winslow-based artist Marlowe Katoney (Diné), who is a graduate of the School of Art (BFA ’05, 2D Design). The exhibition is made possible through support from the Terra Foundation for American Art.
For over four decades, UAMA has been accredited by the American Alliance of Museum (AAM), the highest national recognition afforded the nation’s museums. Less than four percent of all museums in the United States are accredited, an accomplishment of the highest quality educational programming, exhibitions, and collections.
In the most recent review in 2021, the AAM singled out “Mapping Q” for commendation. “Mapping Q” is a series of art workshops for Arizona LGBTQIA+ youth 14-24, who explore topics of art-making, self-care and harm reduction. UAMA also collaborates with ArtWorks, an outreach program housed in the Sonoran Center for Excellence in Disabilities, which promotes community and mutual learning through creative and expressive arts interactions between adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities and University of Arizona students.
The museum engages the campus and community through collaborations with faculty and courses, K-12 field trips, internships, community days, lectures, workshops and monthly virtual art trivia happy hours. For The Art of Food, UAMA offered field trips to local gardens, created curriculum designed for grades 3-5 to integrate visual arts with social studies and English language arts learning, and created a digital exhibition guide, Community Food Stories, highlighting local voices and interdisciplinary experts.
The UAMA permanent collection is one of the finest in the country and includes masterpieces that span eight centuries and innumerable artistic styles. Highlights include the Altarpiece from Ciudad Rodrigo, Edward Hopper’s The City, Jackson Pollock’s Number 20, Mark Rothko’s Green on Blue (Earth-Green and White), Red Canna by Georgia O’Keeffe and Jaune Quick-to-See Smith’s Spam.
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