John Weber, Dayton Director of Skidmore College’s Francis Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery, will leave Saratoga Springs at the end of November to become the founding director of a new museum at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
According to a UCSC announcement released on Sept. 4, Weber’s responsibilities will include creating an extensive fundraising campaign for the institute, directing its architectural program, and leading its programming and educational outreach.
Weber considers the job “an irresistible, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
He is leaving behind quite a legacy.
Since he began working at Skidmore in November, 2004, Weber has led the Tang to become one of the top college museums in the country. Beau Breslin, Dean of Faculty at Skidmore College, says “he’s brought great credibility, visibility, as well as fundraising. The endowment has tripled in 8 years. Most importantly, the public profile has changed. People in the art field now pay attention to the museum.”
In addition, he has helped the Tang live up to its title as a “teaching museum.”
“The Tang really pioneered that model of a museum that works across the curriculum and is really part of the teaching effort.”
And Weber adds, “Now people in higher education and the art world know what a ‘teaching museum’ is, and that vocabulary is common in the field.”
The Tang’s role as a teaching museum extends beyond Skidmore. “The Tang is very much part of the Capital District community. One of the things I’m proud of is we serve four to five thousand school kids across the community,” says Weber.
The new project in Santa Cruz is one institution influenced by the Tang’s example. According to the UCSC press release, one of the institute’s goals is to “create targeted curatorial projects linked to the university curriculum.”
“At Santa Cruz they’ve been looking at the Tang for a long time,” Weber says. “There will be more of an emphasis on the sciences, but many aspects of what the institute will do will be similar. A lot of overlap with curriculum. For me this is a natural thing to do coming from the Tang.”
Weber’s ability to integrate curriculum into the museum makes the position he leaves behind at the Tang very difficult to fill according to Breslin, who will lead the search for new candidates. “Usually the museum is the centerpiece. You need someone who understands that the museum is an extension of the classroom, an extension of the lab. John understood that. Not all directors understand that piece of it.”
As he prepares to head to Santa Cruz, Weber reflects on some of the things he will be sad to leave behind: "so many wonderful colleagues here. Skidmore and the community. A few times I won at the track (but not the times I lost). I’ll miss the glorious autumn in Saratoga Springs. It’s a tough place to leave.”
ON THE WIRE