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O’Keeffe Museum names Hartley as its director

May 14, 2019

Cody Hartley, who came to the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum six years ago as director of curatorial affairs, has been appointed as the museum’s new director.

The museum’s board of trustees made the announcement Monday. Hartley had served as acting director since the previous director, Robert Kret, left at the end of January after holding the position for 10 years.

“Serving as the acting director for last few months has been very rewarding and enjoyable but being able to take that ‘acting’ part out will be a welcome change,” Hartley said.

Since he was first hired in 2013, his responsibilities have included overseeing the fellows program, the education department, Georgia O’Keeffe’s historic properties in Rio Arriba County and the Georgia O’Keeffe Research Center.

“He’s so smart and inspiring and thoughtful,” said Cyndi Conn, executive director of Creative Santa Fe and a friend of Hartley’s. “I really think that he can help protect the legacy and all of the tradition that the O’Keeffe represents while still pushing the museum into the future.”

Hartley, 44, earned a Ph.D. in American art from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2005.

“My dissertation was about Santa Fe, looking at the ways Santa Fe used art and culture to put itself on the map in the early 20th century,” he said. “It was about the history of the museum system and the individuals who really decided that Santa Fe could be a cultural destination.”

While still a doctoral candidate, Hartley worked as a curatorial assistant at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. After leaving the museum in 2005, he served as an administrator at The Arts Fund, then in curatorial roles at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Mass., and at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. In 2011, he became the MFA’s Director of Gifts of Art. The change to an administrative position proved to be a welcome shift .

“I found that I loved the work,” he said. “I loved working with curators from across the institution. I loved working with collectors who would make significant gifts to the museum. And I really loved being closer to the administration. I loved being in the room and seeing how decisions were made. That was my real first taste of museum management and leadership.”

Hartley became the O’Keeffe Museum’s Senior Director of Collections and Interpretation in 2016. He is the fourth director since the museum opened in 1997.

“I look forward to seeing where his leadership takes the museum, knowing he will be a positive force for culture statewide,” said Department of Cultural Affairs Secretary Debra Garcia y Griego. “He has an inspired understanding of the power of culture in the life of a community,” she said.

Hartley hopes to expand the museum’s engagement with the local community and the broader New Mexico region during his tenure as director.

“I want our friends and neighbors to really think of the O’Keeffe as a beloved institution, as part of the community, as a good neighbor that does the kind programming and offers the kinds of community activities that really benefit their children and benefit themselves,” he said.

The O’Keeffe Museum had a reputation, as many art museums do, for being aloof. Hartley said he had that sense when he first arrived in Santa Fe.

“I think art museums across the country have been struggling to figure out how to remain relevant and engage more than just the elite tier of folks that tend to support art museums,” he said. “We’ve made great strides to try and change that here, but there’s a lot more we could do. I want us to be more than an art museum. Throughout my career, I’ve tried to make art as accessible as possible.”