Adam Lerner, visionary director of MCA Denver, stepping down in 2019

Adam Lerner, the acclaimed director of this Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, will step down in June following a decade-long tenure where he built an global reputation for a risk-taking, influential and fiscally savvy leader at a fast paced creative hub.

“My present contract expires in June and the museum is at a very healthy position,” Lerner stated Monday. “I’ve managed to take it in $10 million in debt to really stable financially having a significant endowment. Our construction is humming with energywe’ve slipped our visitations and we all have incredible momentum. ”

The museum’s board hasn’t chosen a replacement, however, Lerner stated he would make himself available to help the staff and board throughout the search process.

Lerner, 52, combined MCA Denver at 2009 because the Mark G. Falcone Director and Chief Animator — the latter name a sign of this lively yet professional tone he’s cultivated there. He won the job after gaining attention as founder of the Laboratory of Art and Ideas in Belmar (aka The Lab) from 2004 to 2009 and, even before that, as the master teacher for contemporary and modern art at the Denver Art Museum and the curator of the Contemporary Museum, Baltimore, based on MCA Denver.

Having a Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University and a Smithsonian fellowship under his belt, Lerner has spent the last ten years combining high- and lowbrow art, showcasing and recruiting groundbreaking local and global artists, also harnessing the youthful energy across him to boost the standing and earnings in MCA Denver.

As of this month, MCA Denver is on track to watch 100,000 traffic in 2018 — more than double its annual attendance a decade ago. Having a relatively small budget of $5.2 million and 23 full-time staff associates, the museum under Lerner has developed exhibitions featuring renowned artists such as Marilyn Minter, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Senga Nengudi. Those exhibitions have been exported to 26 museums around the Earth, the MCA Denver said.

Lerner also functioned with MCA Denver’s board to restructure $10 million in pre-existing debt to market in programs and other programs. By now Lerner steps down in June, MCA Denver will have raised all the funds for its present $17.5 million campaign, which started in 2016, he explained. Midsize firm David Adjaye and Associates, which made the museum’s sleek construction in 1485 Delgany St., is working with an upcoming remodel which will tap those funds.

“The reason I remained in this work provided that is that I have a remarkably supportive board of trustees,” Lerner explained. “They drive me but they also support me, and that’s very rare for a museum to offer such freedom to come up with a posture while being rigorous and giving me feedback about it. ”

Mike Fries, chairman of MCA Denver’therefore plank, praised Lerner’s “unparalleled vision and willingness to accept risks. ”

“Adam has been instrumental not only in making MCA the center of Denver’s cultural community,” Fries stated in a news release, “but additionally in rethinking the role of a traditional art association by establishing groundbreaking programs which are now mimicked around the nation. ”

Lerner’s famous “Mixed Taste” lecture series — which matches wildly and often hilariously incompatible subjects (“Crop Circles and Prenups”) — was accommodated nationwide, and now there ’s an entire chapter at the college-taught 2016 publication “Creating the Visitor-Centered Museum” that research MCA’s experiments and successes.

The museum at 2017 additionally won a $400,000 grant — its largest-ever — in the New York-based Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to train arts professionals from across the nation on MCA Denver’s advanced practices.

“When I see museums using language which ’s a little bit more casual, that occasionally even includes a little bit of irony in this, I’d love to think that MCA Denver opened the space for that,” Lerner stated of this ironic and sometimes self-mocking material the museum puts out — including a dozen big-screen display novels. “You show your confidence more in what you create by showing that you simply just don ’t really have to take yourself seriously. Even if you’re authentic. ”

“MCA Denver has an individuality and a character that puts it at the top tier of modern art spaces from the nation,” stated Vince Kadlubek, co-founder of this Santa Fe-based artwork business Meow Wolf, which can be planning a multimillion-dollar Denver place . “He has such a commitment to childhood and fringe artwork, and that’s refreshing from the art world. He also ’s a trailblazer. ”

Kadlubek stated that he had been “incredibly motivated ” by MCA Denver’s 2014 exhibit “Myopia,” the initial gallery show from Devo leader, visual artist and film composer Mark Mothersbaugh, together with whom Lerner worked closely.

“That was the very first time I’d gone to MCA, and it was incredible that they had been showcasing work by an artist that had been truly modern,” Kadlubek said. “It constructed a ton of enthusiasm and momentum for us to find this weird, freak, otherworldly artwork on the verge of being mainstream. ”

Lerner is too enmeshed in daily operations to think much about what he’ll do next, he explained. But he’s sure it will have a creative component, however broadly defined, also he’s convinced his successor will inherit a tradition which proceeds to balance the avant garde using the available.

“I will remain at Denver and I need to test my hand doing more for the town (and) more to enrich individuals ’s resides,” Lerner explained. “The battle, now that town and (MCA Denver) is so powerful, is ensuring we’re including people who might not be in the forefront of wealth. However, I feel like the next chapter in my profession will be best served not in the professional services of a museum manager. ”

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