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Miller named as first woman to be permanent director of UA Art Museum

Miller named as first woman to be permanent director of UA Art Museum

University of Arizona plans new 'state-of-the-art' facility 'to fully realize the transformative impact of the museum'

  • UA Museum of Art Director Olivia Miller
    UAUA Museum of Art Director Olivia Miller
  • 'Woman-Ochre,' by Willem de Kooning
    UA'Woman-Ochre,' by Willem de Kooning

Olivia Miller, a University of Arizona Museum of Art staffer for more than a decade, was announced as the new permanent director of the museum Friday. She served as interim director for the past 10 months — among a succession of temporary heads over the past six years.

The appointment of Miller, the first woman to be the permanent director of the UA art collection, is effective immediately, university representatives said.

"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."

Describing the museum as at an "exciting time of renewal," Miller said she'll "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."

The university is planning what officials call a "new state-of-the-art facility in which to fully realize the transformative impact of the museum."

In 2021, Miller curated the museum's largest exhibition in more than a decade, "The Art of Food," which is being shown at six other venues through 2025.

She also oversaw the restoration and return of "Woman-Ochre," the world-famous 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 is a UA alumna (a 2005 bachelor's degree in art history and studio art) who earned a 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 organized more than 30 exhibitions during her time at the museum.

"Olivia has done outstanding work as interim director, and I am delighted that she will be taking on this role permanently," said Andy Schulz, UA vice president for the arts. "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."

The UA Museum of Art has not had a permanent director since the departure of James Burns in 2017. He was followed by a succession of interim directors: Meg Hagyard, Jill McCleary and then Miller.

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. Set to open October 14, this solo exhibition will feature works by Winslow-based artist Marlowe Katoney (Diné), a graduate of the UA School of Art.

The UA's art collection spans works from eight centuries. Other than the renowned de Kooning, the museum holds 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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, james burns, museum of art, olivia miller, ua

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