Weisman Art Museum hires Mexican cultural leader as its new leader

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Alejandra Peña-Gutiérrez led the Museo de Arte de Ponce in Puerto Rico through the deadly, category five Hurricane Maria in 2017, then a major earthquake in early 2020.

A native of Mexico City, she now will become the first person of color to become executive director the Weisman Art Museum at the University of Minnesota.

The museum has been without an official executive director for 15 months, following the retirement of Lyndel King after a nearly 40-year run.

Karen Hanson, the former university provost who served as WAM's interim director, said she felt inspired by Peña-Gutiérrez's leadership following the hurricane, which won her museum a U.S. National Medal for Museum and Library Service for its contributions to its community.

"She brings a strong international lens to the Weisman," said Hanson, "but her work in Mexico and in Puerto Rico, particularly after Hurricane Maria, also makes plain that she will be intensely sensitive to the interests and needs of our various local communities and the many ways in which an art museum can serve both the campus and the broader public."

Peña-Gutiérrez begins her new role at WAM on Nov. 29.

Before moving to Puerto Rico, she worked in a variety of arts and culture venues in Mexico, serving as deputy director of artistic heritage at the National Institute of Fine Arts in Mexico City. She also held multiple positions at the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Design, Cinema and Television Center in Mexico City.

She holds a master's degree in art history and a bachelor's in architecture from Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, and is fluent in four languages. She lived in the United States twice as a child — her father, a biochemist, brought the family there for sabbaticals in Rochester, N.Y., when she was 5, and Indiana University when she was 10. Her mother was an administrator and worked at a feminist magazine, and then at El Colegio de Mexico at the Research Center for Women Studies.

At the Museo de Arte de Ponce, Peña-Gutiérrez oversaw the 2018 major exhibition "Small Treasures," which was postponed because of the hurricane, and included 10 works sent from the Frick Collection in New York.

The Weisman started its search for a new executive director early in 2020, but paused it because of the pandemic, then relaunched in 2021. The museum has been closed for renovations since May, and was supposed to reopen this September but will likely remain closed until at least December.

@AliciaEler • 612-673-4437

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