If you missed the public session on Governance because you were still making your way back from the Art Car Parade you can be forgiven. If you missed it because you thought it would be dry and boring, THAT was a mistake. Attended in equal measure by board members of area museums and conference attendees, this session mixed serious commentary and humorous dialogue to produce an interesting exploration of the issues and challenges of governing museums.
Opened by session moderator Kenneth Mattox, MD, and joined by panelists Eddie Allen, Anthony Hall and Judy Nyquist, the remarks were led off by a presentation by Contemporary Arts Museum chair Eddie Allen, whose humorous and insightful presentation on the care and feeding of board members involved a whimsical comparison to his less-well-trained beagle, and brought the essential ideas in a great board/museum relationship into sharp focus. Anthony Hall, chair of Houston Endowment, Inc., spoke next on the critical role of the board in selecting the chief executive, and used as an example his previous involvement on the board of the Museum of Fine Arts Houston and that board’s selection of Dr. Peter Marzio some 28 years ago. He described the tremendous impact of Dr. Marzio’s leadership not only on the MFAH, but on the entire community. Judy Nyquist, board member of the Houston Arts Alliance (among many such positions throughout the arts community), reflected on her extensive involvement in the arts and not-for-profit boards, and shared heart-felt remarks that demonstrated the power of a passionately committed board member.
Dr. Mattox (chair of The Health Museum), demonstrating moderating skills unknown to most surgeons, led the panel through a series of questions on the fundamental importance of a board, the issues that arise when mergers are contemplated, how to handle the ‘over-involved’ board member, the role of board committees, and more. Audience members added questions about selecting board members and the nature of the relationship between the chief executive and the chair of a board.
For my part, it was a privilege to bring together such a distinguished group of local leaders whose roles have a big impact upon our museum community, and to enjoy a great discussion on a topic very important to the future of all of our museums.
–Jon Iszard, President & CEO, The Health Museum; Co-Chair,
AAM 2011 Public Relations & Marketing Subcommittee;
member AAM 2011 Local Host Committee