The Cummer Museum’s Executive Director Hope McMath announced her resignation Tuesday.
McMath, 45, said she worked at the Cummer for almost half her life — 22 years, seven as director— so quitting wasn’t easy.
“It’s been a very challenging, very difficult decision and sad,” she said. “But the right decision at the right time.”
As the museum is about to embark on major fundraising and building projects, including a garden greenhouse and learning center, she’s been reflecting on her own path and journey in this community.
“I’m probably most proud of the work that we’ve done where art and issues of social importance came together,” she said.
Among the topics she’s most proud of addressing, include the issues of social justice, diversity and inclusion, which were reflected in some of the Cummer’s exhibits — most recently in an exhibit called “LIFT: Contemporary Expressions of the African American Experience” inspired by James Weldon Johnson’s Civil Rights Anthem “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” Many pieces tackle modern subjects, like the killing of Jacksonville teenager Jordan Davis.
Her efforts earned her a OneJax Humanitarian award this year. But despite the general support of the community in the Cummer’s direction, she said she has faced resistance.
“We’re in a community that’s trying to change,” she said. “The Cummer is trying to help lead that change and so it is not universally embraced or accepted. But the fact is the majority of people want this and are hungry for it.”
McMath said she’d like to help the museum continue that work, but from more of a distance.
“The museum has taught me to really think about how the arts can impact a community and I’m sort of interested in exploring how that may play out outside the walls of the museum,” McMath said.
While McMath doesn’t know exactly what form that will take, she’s optimistic about the future of the museum — as well as her own future.
The Cummer’s chief curator Holly Keris will step in to lead the museum until a permanent replacement is chosen.
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