Aug. 1—OLD LYME — Rebekah "Becky" Beaulieu is leaving her job as director of the Florence Griswold Museum in order to become president and CEO of the Taft Museum of Art in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Beaulieu came to Flo Gris in 2018. She took over after the retirement of Jeff Andersen, who had led the museum for 41 years.
"It's very, very bittersweet for me," she said of leaving the Florence Griswold Museum.
Beaulieu said she wasn't actively looking to leave but was contacted by representatives from the Taft, and it turned out to be a great opportunity.
The decision to take the new job, the Wisconsin native said, "really was based on family needs. We (Beaulieu and husband Patrick Ford) have family in the Midwest. We decided that we needed to be closer to them. So it wasn't anything that had anything to do with dissatisfaction at the museum here. We are doing so many wonderful things, and I love the team, which made it that much harder to make this decision."
Deborah Moore, who is president of the Flo Gris board of trustees, spoke enthusiastically about all that Beaulieu has brought to the museum.
"We are a much better place for her having been here," Moore said.
Beaulieu, along with the board and staff, were involved in the development of a five-year strategic plan, which was put into action more than a year ago. The result, Moore said, is "this amazing roadmap for this museum."
Among her other accomplishments, Beaulieu oversaw the establishment of the Flo Gris's Artist-in-Residence program and the completion of its $1 million Robert F. Schumann Artists' Trail. The trail opened in 2019.
"Little did we know COVID was going to come a year later and (the trail) was going to be our central engagement point," she said. "But really, COVID aside, it provided an opportunity for us to really open up our interpretive landscape ... to go beyond the gallery and incorporate the ecological and cultural climate of the area and be able to better engage with our peers in ecology, natural history, land conservation."
And, of course, Beaulieu had to lead the Flo Gris during the pandemic. Moore noted that the museum didn't have to lay off any staff. In addition, no additional draw on the endowment was necessary. When the museum reopened, Moore said, "It just started like a train and started gathering momentum."
Beaulieu said they were able to navigate the pandemic "in such a position of strength. I'm very proud of that."
The strength of the museum
Beaulieu's best memories of her time at Flo Gris are of working with the staff.
"The staff culture is so dynamite, and it's something that every new trustee comments on, that visitors regularly comment on. I think it's been vital to us as we are in a period of looking to grow our institution and considering how we can continue to be the best at what we do. We never want to lose that personal touch," she said.
Beaulieu's last day at Flo Gris will be at some point this month. The museum's board of trustees will have a national search for a new director, Moore said, and will hire a firm to help in that process.
Beaulieu sees a continued bright future for the Florence Griswold Museum.
"The museum is so dynamic. It is so strong. I am one voice of a number in a chorus that are leading the future of the museum. I've been honored to serve in this role the past few years," she said. "But I have no doubt whatsoever that with this staff and this board and this community continuing to support the institution that it's just going to keep flying."