Kalamazoo Institute of Arts – Kalamazoo, Michigan

Kalamazoo Institute of Arts
Chief Curator

Kalamazoo Institute of Arts

The Challenge

Kalamazoo Institute of Arts (KIA) unites a visual arts museum with a respected community art school. KIA is the leading cultural institution in a city known for its support for a large and varied group of arts and educational organizations. The deeply committed Board of Directors faced the challenge of replacing their Director, who was retiring after a 24-year tenure during which the KIA had grown in community visibility and national stature.

The new Director would need to be both an accomplished and knowledgeable art expert and have the administrative and interpersonal skills to run a complex institution with close ties to a diverse community and region. KIA’s operating budget is $3.5 million.

Once the new Director went to work, the need for an accomplished right-hand administrative and creative partner became clear and KIA returned to us to meet the challenge of bringing a stellar Chief Curator on board.

The Director Solution

ORI advertised the Director position widely and sent out a broadcast letter targeting senior professionals in the field. With intensive recruitment and generous recommendations from colleagues who knew and respected KIA, we were able to present the Search Committee with four highly qualified candidates. This Search Committee employed a rigorous interview process and in the end, the successful candidate was Belinda Tate.

For 15 years, Belinda had been Director and Chief Curator of the Diggs Gallery at Winston‑Salem (NC) State University. The Diggs is one of the nation’s premiere African American art museums and under Belinda’s leadership had significantly grown its collection as well as student and community engagement. Belinda received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Yale University and did further studies at Yale in Conservation and Connoisseurship. She obtained her Master of Arts in Liberal Studies from Wake Forest University.

Belinda began her tenure at KIA in September 2014 and quickly confirmed the Board’s confidence in her with ambitious and community-connected programming and exhibits.

The Chief Curator Search

In 2018 KIA turned to us to find a Chief Curator to be Belinda’s creative and administrative partner in achieving her vision for KIA. After an extensive search that uncovered talent and interest from every corner of the country and from diverse organizations, the difficult choice was made. Rehema Barber began at KIA in March 2019, arriving from her position as Director and Chief Curator of the Tarble Arts Center at Eastern Illinois University. Her experience included University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign’s School of Art + Design, University of Memphis, Memphis College of Art, Power House Memphis, and The Amistad Center at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art. Rehema’s passion for accessible and innovative arts programming and scholarship and her wide and deep reservoir of connections among significant and emerging artists distinguished her candidacy and prepared her for an active role in KIA’s present and future growth.

With Belinda and Rehema now in place as the power team leading an exceptionally talented and dedicated staff, imaginative and ambitious plans are in the works for expanding KIA’s footprint and national presence in the collection and interpretation of contemporary art in particular.