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Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art Names Judith M. Koke Education Director

After an extensive international search spanning many months, a new Director of Education and Interpretive Programs has been named by The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Judith M. Koke comes to Kansas City from the Art Gallery of Ontario, where she has been Deputy Director of Education and Public Programming since 2007.

“It was clear when she came to talk with us that she was the person for whom we had been searching,” said Julián Zugazagoitia, Director & CEO of the Nelson-Atkins. “She has enormous experience with education strategies and achieving museum visitor satisfaction. Judith was the unanimous choice.”

While in Ontario, Koke developed and implemented a pan-institutional program of visitor research, leading a cultural change to support data-driven, visitor-centered decision making. Koke’s hiring signals a deep commitment on the part of the Nelson-Atkins to give priority to community engagement.

“In the past, the Nelson-Atkins has been more of a teaching institution, and we want to become more of a learning institution,” said Koke. “This is a shift in philosophy that embraces the idea that different people have different ways of learning, different ways of approaching art, and we want to embrace and build on those diverse methods of learning.”

Koke served as instructor for the University of Toronto’s “Museum Interpretation and Meaning- making” class in 2010 and 2011, and was a senior research associate for the Institute for Learning Innovation, where she did a nationwide study of all IMLS-funded youth programs. She was also the evaluator at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science and managed visitor studies and evaluation.
“With the addition of Judith’s leadership to our education staff, we expect the Nelson-Atkins to have an even deeper impact in our community,” said Zugazagoitia. “She will enable us to reach out in a more concerted way to make art, and the Museum, more relevant in people’s lives.”

Koke will lead the Museum’s education department, shape innovative experiences for students and patrons of all ages, and engage teams within the Museum to design exciting interpretive experiences and public programs for visitors. She will be part of the senior staff and a part of the strategic planning process on which the Museum is embarking.

The Nelson-Atkins in Kansas City is recognized nationally and internationally as one of America’s finest art museums. The Nelson-Atkins serves the community by providing access and insight into its renowned collection of more than 33,500 art objects and is best known for its Asian art, European and American paintings, photography, modern sculpture, and new American Indian and Egyptian galleries. Housing a major art research library and the Ford Learning Center, the Museum is a key educational resource for the region. The institution-wide transformation of the Nelson- Atkins has included the 165,000-square-foot Bloch Building expansion and renovation of the original 1933 Nelson-Atkins Building.

The Nelson-Atkins is located at 45th and Oak Streets, Kansas City, MO. Hours are Wednesday, 10 a.m.–4 p.m.; Thursday/Friday, 10 a.m.–9 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.–5 p.m.; Sunday, Noon–5 p.m. Admission to the Museum is free to everyone. For Museum information, phone 816.751.1ART (1278) or visit

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