Institute of Contemporary Art Names Ellen Salpeter as New Director

Miami's cultural renaissance is taking on physical manifestations. The city's museum boom is in full force and last year the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami established itself as one of the city's cultural leaders. Today the museum announced that Ellen Salpeter, the current deputy director of external affairs at the Jewish Museum in New York, will take over the operations of the young institution. She will begin on December 1 

“Art and artists of any persuasion and any medium, whether it’s performing artists, visual artists or poets, have always been in my wheelhouse," Salpeter told the New York Times of her recent appointment.

As she prepares to leave the venerable New York City landmark, Salpeter returns to her roots shaping undiscovered talent. From 1994 to 2001 she was the executive director of the Thread Waxing Space in downtown Manhattan. There she mentored young artists and branded the institution as a force on the downtown scene, hosting indie bands and the like. 

Though the ICA is barely a year old, Salpeter won't have to worry about funding anytime soon. Irma and Norman Braman, billionaire civic activist, are single-handedly funding the construction of the museum's new home. The ICA will also depend solely on private donors for its estimated $5 million annual budget. They plan to cut the red ribbon on the new space in mid-2017.

"Ellen has been dedicated to forging alliances among cultural, civic, and educational institutions for community benefit, and to creating spaces in which meaningful public dialogue on contemporary art can occur," said Irma Braman. "She's a great budgeter, she knows what she's doing, she knows what the job is. And more importantly even, she wants this job." 

The fledgling institution only took shape after the MOCA's board parted ways with its municipal landlord. Director Alex Gartenfield moved the museum to its current location at the Moore Building in the Design District. Construction on the new home, located along Northeast 41st Street in the Design District, is scheduled to break ground later this month. 

Salpeter's appointment is just one part of a new wave of museum leadership in South Florida. MOCA's former chief curator, Bonnie Clearwater, now helms NSU Art Museum in Fort Lauderdale. New museum directors seem to be somewhat of a Miami trend, the Wolfsonian-FIU, Perez Art Museum Miami, and the Frost Museum, all fell under new leadership this year as well.

The new energy is welcomed in a town on the cusp of becoming one of the biggest forced in the international art market. Though Basel capture's the world's eye for several weeks out of the year, establishing landmark institutions is the first step to solidifying Miami's status as a year-round fixture.
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Neil Vazquez is an arts and entertainment writer who works at the intersection of highbrow and lowbrow A Miami native and Northwestern University graduate, he usually can be found sipping overpriced coffee, walking his golden retriever, or doing yoga.
Contact: Neil Vazquez