(PITTSFIELD, Mass.) — While hailing the seven-month tenure of Maria Mingalone as interim executive director of the Berkshire Museum as a time in which the museum has been “dynamic” and “thriving,” the museum’s trustees named Van W. Shields, most recently director of the Culture and Heritage Museums in Rock Hill, S.C., as executive director, effective September 12, 2011.
“Van Shields is joining us at a very dynamic time for the Berkshire Museum,” said Mary Huth, president of the museum’s board of trustees, in a prepared statement. “Over the past seven months, the museum has moved forward in many critical ways under the leadership of Maria Mingalone. Together with a strong management team, Mingalone has instituted a set of Strategic Initiatives overwhelmingly adopted by the Board of Trustees.”
Mingalone declined to apply for the executive director position.
Functioning unofficially as a kind of chief curator and essentially as deputy director to previous director Stuart Chase, Mingalone was largely responsible for curating the series of popular and successful art and natural history exhibitions staged in recent years, including “Frogs,” “MC Escher: Seeing the Unseen,” which attracted visitors to the museum at a record-setting pace, and this summer’s hit show, “Geckos.”
Mingalone is also responsible for curating a series of exhibitions showcasing regional artists, including works by Henry Klimowicz, Roberto Juarez and Carol Diehl, and is deep into planning for exhibitions in upcoming seasons, including this fall’s Under the Big Top: Festival of Trees among other yet-to-be-announced shows. Mingalone has also overseen the launch of the museum’s new website and the expansion of film programming at the museum’s Little Cinema.
Mingalone’s exhibition, “Armed and Dangerous: Art of the Arsenal,” will open this fall at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art in Tennessee, and she has overseen the loan of the museum’s Calder collection for a tour of museums in Paris, France, and then Helsinki, Finland.
“The Museum is thriving and we are thrilled to have Van come in and continue the momentum,” said Huth. “Van Shields’ experience and accomplishments make him an excellent choice to lead Berkshire Museum towards our goals of increased financial stability, completion of improvements to the facility, and maintaining the fine quality programming and education efforts that are a watchword at the museum.”
“I am looking forward to leading the talented staff of Berkshire Museum in this next phase of the life of this venerable institution,” Shields says. “It’s a great honor to be charged with continuing the traditions of excellence in exhibitions, programming, education, and community engagement that have long been in place at the Museum.”
While at the Culture and Heritage Museums, Shields led the initiative to acquire the McCelvey Center; oversaw the acquisition of property for Historic Brattonville that included historic structures and slave cemetery; and earned accreditation from the American Association of Museums and the Smithsonian Institution Affiliation. Shields also was responsible for the establishment of the Southern Revolutionary War Institute; renovation of an historic building according to the U.S. Green Building Council Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards; creation of a new art-based children’s museum; and the selection of his organization to lead the development of the proposed Carolinas Revolutionary War National Heritage Area for the National Park Service.
Shields secured a pledge of $8 million for facility improvements, capital campaign commitments of more than $14 million, and gifts of more than $7 million for operating funds, all at Culture and Heritage Museums.
From 1990 to 1997, Shields held several positions of increasing responsibility at the Museum of the Moving Image in New York City in development and operations, culminating in his work as vice-director for institutional support.
Shields previously served in the United States Air Force for five years as a public information officer. Shields holds a bachelor of science degree in humanities from the United States Air Force Academy with advanced studies in fine arts and communication at Humboldt State University, University of Northern Colorado, and University of Oklahoma.
Shields and his wife, the accomplished artist Peggy Rivers, plan to reside in the Pittsfield area.
Berkshire Museum is located at 39 South Street on Route 7 in downtown Pittsfield.