(Photo above: All eyes will soon be on Van Shields. to see what new course the Berkshire Museum will take.)
From our News Desk: Today the Trustees of Berkshire Museum announced the appointment of Van W. Shields as its new executive director, effective September 12, 2011.
Shields has an inspiring record as a successful fundraiser. For years he has been the head of the Culture and Heritage Museums in Rock Hill, South Carolina. In a remarkable feat for such a modest community, he was instrumental in securing pledges of $8 million for facility improvements, capital campaign commitments of more than $14 million, and gifts of more than $7 million for operating funds. Rock Hill is located about 25 miles south of Charlotte with a population of 71,000 and is considered part of the Charlotte metropolitan area.
Another good fit comes with his expertise in historic cinema. The Berkshire Museum’s Little Cinema will certainly benefit from his experience. Back in the 90’s he rose through the ranks at the Museum of the Moving Image in New York City. His work encompassed both development and operations, finally culminating in his role as vice-director for institutional support.
He previously served in the United States Air Force for five years as a public information officer.
But his most significant tenure has been with the Culture and Heritage Museums in Rock Hill, South Carolina, where he has been director and CEO since 1997. Shields amassed a long list of significant accomplishments in his fourteen-year tenure at Culture and Heritage Museums, including leading the complex initiative that merged four museums into a cultural institution system.
“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.” – Mary Huth, president of the Board of Trustees.
Van Shields is also a master of the safe, reveal-nothing PR quote: “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.” Museums do like their secrecy.Van W. Shields is a seasoned executive with years of experience at the helm of consistently award-winning institutions, in New York and South Carolina. 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 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.
“Rarely does someone in my field have the opportunity to work with dedicated stakeholders wholly committed to stewardship and institutional advancement,” Shields says. “It is clearly evident the Trustees, staff, volunteers and community partners want Berkshire Museum to thrive and continue to play a lead role in distinguishing the Berkshires as a vibrant cultural community. With this level of broad support as a foundation, it is truly a privilege to take the helm and help further the Berkshire Museum’s extraordinary promise.”
Shields and his wife, the accomplished artist Peggy Rivers, plan to reside in the Pittsfield area.
“Van Shields is joining us at a very dynamic time for the Berkshire Museum. Over the past seven months the Museum has moved forward in many critical ways under the leadership of Maria Mingalone, Interim Executive Director,” says Huth. “Together with a strong management team, Mingalone has instituted a set of Strategic Initiatives overwhelmingly adopted by the Board of Trustees. The Museum also is preparing to launch a much-needed new website by the end of the coming month. Following a successful run of the exhibition M.C. Escher: Seeing the Unseen, another of the Museum’s exhibitions, Armed and Dangerous: Art of the Arsenal, will open this fall at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art in Tennessee, and Calder materials will be on tour in Paris, France, and then Helsinki, Finland. The Museum is thriving, and we are thrilled to have Van come in and continue the momentum.”
“The Trustees engaged in an extensive nationwide search for a new executive director, and Van Shields’ qualifications were exceptional,” says Michael Christopher, chairman of the Board of Trustees. “His experience leading an institution that encompasses a range of disciplines, including history, art, and science, is especially valuable in light of the mission of our Museum. We are delighted to welcome Van to the Museum and to the community.”
Berkshire Museum is located at 39 South Street on Route 7 in Downtown Pittsfield. Berkshire Museum is the first public museum in Berkshire County, established by Zenas Crane in 1903 as a museum of Art and Natural History. Geckos: Tails to Toepads is on view through October 30. Collectors’ Choice: Selections from the Jane and Jay Braus Collection is on view through October 16. Roberto Juarez: Mural Paintings, 2000-2010 is on view through September 25. Feigenbaum Hall of Innovation, Aquarium & Touch Tank, Alexander Calder Gallery, and other exhibits are ongoing.