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Kristy Edmunds is to replace the museum’s longtime leader, Joseph C. Thompson, in October.

Kristy Edmunds, an experienced leader in the performing and multidisciplinary arts, in October will become the new director of the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, known as Mass MoCA. Edmunds, currently the executive and artistic director of the University of California, Los Angeles’s Center for the Art of Performance, will replace Joseph C. Thompson, who helped found the museum and led it for more than 32 years.
“This is a place that resonates with me,” Edmunds said in a telephone interview, citing “the way they create a pipeline for helping artists to help them dream the culture forward.”
Edmunds said she would prioritize issues of equity and inclusion. “It’s predominantly white in that area of the world,” she said. “But the diversity of voices in Mass MoCA’s programming is significant and it will grow.”
While New England will be a shift from Southern California for Edmunds, the annual operating budgets of each institution are similar — Mass MOCA’s annual operating budget was recently reduced to $10.5 million from $12 million because of the pandemic. The University of California center has annual costs of $8 million to $10 million.
And Edmunds said she doesn’t mind the change in climate. “I lived in Minneapolis as a child,” she said, “and I’ve always been yearning to go back to the snow.”
At the University of California, Los Angeles, Edmunds has presented dance, theater, and music as well as cross-disciplinary and experimental projects that include visual and digital art. She said she would continue to serve as an artistic adviser, so that she can see through to completion a capital campaign for renovations and the opening of the university’s Nimoy Theater (in honor of the actor Leonard Nimoy), scheduled for next fall.
She previously served as the artistic director of the Melbourne International Arts Festival and the head of the School of Performing Arts and deputy dean at the Victorian College of the Arts at the University of Melbourne. She was also the founding executive and artistic director of the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art and the Time-Based Art Festival (TBA) in Portland, Ore. And she has served as the inaugural consulting artistic director for the Park Avenue Armory in New York.
In a statement, Timur Galen, the chair of Mass MoCA, commended Edmunds’s range of multidisciplinary projects “in different venues and environments around the world,” as well as “her evident care and commitment to artists, her staff and colleagues.”
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