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Orange County Museum of Art director and CEO steps down after six years

Todd Smith, the director and CEO of the Orange County Museum of Art, is stepping down from his position after six years, a tenure during which he led the launch of construction on a new home at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa.

Smith will become the executive director of the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art in Charlotte, North Carolina, an OCMA announcement Friday, July 10, said. Smith’s last day will be Aug. 14.

“Todd has done a wonderful job guiding OCMA through this period of significant change to realize our vision of building a new museum,” OCMA’s board president Craig W. Wells said.

Smith stepped into the role in 2014 after six years as the director of the Tampa Museum of Art in Florida. As OCMA’s director and CEO, Smith was tasked with reviving the museum’s long-held plan – which had been stalled by the Great Recession – to relocate and expand from its former site near Fashion Island in Newport Beach.

A battle over how to sell and redevelop the Fashion Island site became a roadblock again slowing the relocation plan. But in September, Smith led the groundbreaking ceremony for the museum’s new home, a $73 million, 53,000-square-foot, Thom Mayne-designed building to serve as the finishing touch to what Smith had dubbed the “art campus of Orange County.”

By then, the museum had secured $47 million for its new home; Smith said the figure is now up to $52 million. Workers are currently putting structural steel up for the new building, which is slated to open by late 2021, he said.

In 2018, Smith also found a temporary space for the museum at South Coast Plaza Village, called OCMAEXPAND-SANTA ANA. Through the museum’s exhibits, both at its former home in Newport Beach and in current home in Santa Ana, Smith “helped put the museum at the forefront of Pacific Rim artists,” Wells said.

“He saw the future quite accurately,” Wells said, referring to the Pacific Rim region’s growing economy and emerging art scene. “When he presented the idea to the board, we wholly embraced it.”

Sarah Jesse, currently deputy director of OCMA, will serve as the museum’s interim director and CEO while the board searches for Smith’s permanent replacement. The new director and CEO will work with Jesse to help find the museum’s new chief curator as well, Wells said.

“They’re walking into an organization that has an amazing history and an organization that has a bright future, especially on the continuing embrace of the arts in the Pacific Rim region,” Smith said. “That’s where the museum can make its mark locally, as well as internationally.”

Source: Orange County Register

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