Cornell names Jessica Martinez as the next director of the Johnson Museum of Art.

Courtesy of Cornell University

Cornell names Jessica Martinez as the next director of the Johnson Museum of Art.

February 7, 2019

Cornell Names Jessica Martinez the Next Director of the Johnson Museum of Art

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Cornell has named Jessica Martinez, the current director of Academic and Public Programs at Harvard University, as the new director of the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art.

Johnson Museum’s former director Stephanie Wiles left for Yale in July. After her departure, the role has been temporarily filled by Peter Gould and Ellen Avril, who also serves the museum’s chief curator and curator of Asian art.

The director of the Museum is in charge of overseeing all museum operations. Martinez will be responsible for fundraising, personnel-management, acquisition of objects and conservation efforts, for example. She will also work to engage students through exhibition-planning and program development.

Avril said Martinez’s “enthusiasm and energy” contributed to her appointment as director.

“Her commitment to the Johnson’s mission of providing great experiences with art to the campus and the community, her ability to connect with people and her creative ideas for engaging students with the museum really impressed the search committee,” Avril told The Sun in an email.

In her role at Harvard, Martinez worked to engage undergraduate students by creating the Art Study Center, which made artifacts in storage more accessible to the Harvard community. She also helped faculty incorporate museum pieces and artifacts into their curriculum, according to an article in The Harvard Crimson.

In a Cornell press release, Martinez expressed a similar interest in making the Johnson “a place where people can test ideas.”

“Nearly 400 classes are already visiting the Johnson Museum each academic year, and that constant flow of opportunity with new students, fresh eyes and bold questions is exciting to me,” she said in the same press release.

Courses from over 50 Cornell departments hold classes in the museum as part of their curriculum and each year, the Johnson hosts students from nearby elementary schools as part of the Kids Discover the Trail program, a series of field trips to local educational sites, including the Sciencenter and the Cornell Botanic Gardens.

Martinez earned her B.A. in fine arts and Ph.D. in history of art and architecture from Harvard University. She then worked at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art before returning to Harvard to serve as the Research Curator of African Art Initiatives, in addition to her role as Director of Academic and Public Programs.

With this experience in her resume, Avril said Martinez will help enrich Johnson Museum’s African collection.

“Jessica’s area of expertise will bring greater visibility to our important African collection and her depth of experience as a museum educator will carry our already rich and robust educational programs forward,” Avril said.

Martinez is only the fourth director since the museum’s founding in 1973 and will officially start her term on July 15. Avril said she believes the Johnson Museum has a “bright future ahead” under Martinez’s leadership.