One of the borough’s most important cultural institutions has a new administrator.
The board of the Bronx Museum of the Arts selected Deborah Cullen-Morales, currently the director and curator at the Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery at Columbia University, to lead the organization beginning the week of Monday, July 9.
The Bedford Park community member fills a vacancy that was created when Holly Block, the previous executive director of the organization from 2006 to 2017, passed.
Cullen-Morales oversaw the expansion of the Columbia gallery, and prior to that worked at the El Museo del Barrio in Manhattan.
“We were looking for a candidate who could immediately lead the Bronx Museum forward and advance our mission for the future,” said Joseph Mizzi, chairman of the Bronx Museum of the Arts board of trustees, adding that the board recognized her for actively engaging with the communities in which she works and for a strong focus on African-American, Caribbean and Latino art.
Cullen-Morales said that she had been visiting the Bronx Museum ever since she moved to New York in the 1980s.
“I am a huge fan and supporter of the Bronx Museum of the Arts,” said Cullen-Morales, adding “It is a crucial institution in our cultural fabric here in New York, and as a Bronx resident it is even more important to me.”
Since her focus in her own artistic career was Caribbean, Latino and African-American arts, Cullen-Morales said that she thought the position would be a good match to her own interests.
“My work has tended to be rooted in community, and often with larger New York City, national and sometimes international impact, but always starting with the immediate community,” she said.
The new executive director said that she still has more to learn about the borough, but she said she already has a lot of familiarity with the museum and its initiatives.
She plans on continuing educational programs and long-standing collaboration with local schools that teach grades K-12 students, and perhaps look to expand such collaboration, said Cullen-Morales.
Free admission to the museum was championed by Block, and it is something that she plans on continuing, said Cullen-Morales.
The museum has plans to repurpose and renovate a former synagogue building that is part of its location at 1040 Grand Concourse, said the new executive director.
Another initiative she plans on being at the forefront of is building an endowment for the museum, which has never had a significant donation-driven cash reserve.
Building an endowment will be useful so that the Bronx Museum of the Arts’ finacial needs don’t have to ”start at zero” every year, she said.
Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. said in a statement that he was delighted that Cullen-Morales would be joining the museum, which he stated brings outstanding arts and education programming to the borough.
“As Deborah is a Bronx resident, I know she will bring her commitment to our borough to her role as the museum’s next leader,” said Diaz. “We all look forward to the great arts initiatives to come.”