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Steven High Selected as Director of The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art

Telfair Museums announced that its executive director Steven High has been selected as the new director of The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, Florida. High is expected to begin his new assignment on June 1 of this year.

“What an honor it is for Steven to have been chosen to lead The Ringling Museum,” said Cathy Solomons, the Telfair’s board chairman. “For the past four years, Steven has taken the Telfair to a new level of excellence and prominence, and we will miss his vision and leadership, but wish him well in this exciting new opportunity.”

High came to Savannah in 2007 shortly after the Telfair opened the Moshe Safdie designed Jepson Center for the Arts and quickly positioned the Telfair to appeal to broader audiences and to cultivate new members. His tenure at Telfair Museums is marked by numerous accomplishments. High and his staff have built community ownership of the museum through the delivery of exhibitions and programs that are inclusive, innovative, and entertaining. The museum has also developed strong partnerships with local companies, schools, civic and cultural organizations. In 2008, High led a five year strategic plan that resulted in reinforcing the diversity and the synergy of the Telfair’s three sites (Telfair Academy, Owens-Thomas House, Jepson Center). Telfair Museums ended 2010 with the highest attendance in the museums history at 180,000 visitors.

“I have enjoyed working at the Telfair and love being part of the Savannah community. But when the opportunity at the Ringling was presented to me – from a professional point of view – I knew it was one I could not overlook” said High. “The Telfair is on a strong and steady course and the museum is ready to embark on a new and significant chapter in its history.”

The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art has a diverse collection comprised of nearly 15,000 objects of European, American and Asian art, including works by Rubens, Velázquez, El Greco, Gainsborough and more. Opened in 1931 and bequeathed to the state of Florida in 1936, the Ringling Museum of Art is the legacy of John Ringling, the circus king who along with his brothers transformed the circus into a national phenomenon. The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Florida State University, is one of the largest museum/university complexes in the nation and is also home to the Ca’ d’Zan mansion, Circus Museum and Historic Asolo Theater.

“In Steven, The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art is gaining a well respected and proven leader that has earned the admiration of his staff, the communities in which he has lived and worked, as well as the museum and business communities at large, ” said Sally McRorie, Dean, College of Visual Arts, Theatre & Dance at Florida State University. “We are excited that he is joining the Ringling Museum and look forward to collaborating on ways we can further solidify the Ringling’s standing as one of the country’s greatest cultural jewels and a top destination for visitors to experience the very best in visual and performing arts. We also will build together great academic partnerships that will enhance the visitor’s experience while providing unique programs to prepare the very best museum professionals.”

Steven High will also join Florida State University’s Department of Art History faculty within the College of Visual Arts, Theater & Dance.

“His training and scholarship in art history combined with his practical experience in museum leadership will be critically important in our preparation of students in museum studies, art history, arts administration, and related disciplines,” said Dean McRorie.

The Ringling’s board chairman Senator John McKay said, “Steven is highly respected in the world of museum management and what he and his staff have accomplished at the Telfair is remarkable. Under his leadership, we look forward to continuing to grow the programming and visibility of the Ringling Museum.

A search committee has been formed and will be responsible for finding High’s replacement. Specific plans for the transition will be announced in the coming weeks.

Telfair Museums, the oldest public art museum in the South, maintains a permanent collection of approximately 4,000 works of art from America and Europe, dating primarily from the 18th-21st centuries. The Telfair consists of three architecturally-significant buildings consisting of the Telfair Academy and the Owens-Thomas House—two circa 1820 National Historic Landmark buildings—and the contemporary Jepson Center which opened in 2006.

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