THE NATIONAL GALLERY OF ART (NGA) announced a major appointment this week. Sheila McDaniel is joining the museum as administrator, leading teams critical to the museum’s operations: administrative support, architecture and capital improvement, facilities, horticulture, personnel, procurement, and security.

Her appointment is historic. McDaniel is the first Black woman to hold an executive officer post at the National Gallery of Art since its founding, nearly 80 years ago. A museum spokesperson confirmed the distinction.

McDaniel is one of seven equal-ranking executive officers and will manage the largest staff among the group, by far, more than one-third of the museum’s approximately 1,000 employees.

She is in charge of an annual budget of nearly $100 million for operations and facilities and her staff cares for more than 1.3 million square feet of space, encompassing buildings and landscaping at the Washington, D.C., museum located on the National Mall.

McDaniel has been serving as deputy director of finance and operations at the Studio Museum in Harlem since 2004. She departs the Black-run institution in the midst of the construction of a new 80,000 square foot building designed by architect David Adjaye.

At NGA, she officially begins Sept. 14, succeeding Darrell Willson, who retired from the administrator position on July 3.

“The evolving leadership team of the National Gallery of Art is immeasurably strengthened with the appointment of Sheila McDaniel as administrator. Sheila is a leader who combines a down-to-earth manner with a staggering array of capabilities. She has the rare ability to handle the myriad details and strategic implications of museum management while uniting the staff behind her. We are immensely pleased to welcome her to Washington,” Kaywin Feldman, director of the National Gallery of Art, said in a statement. She joined NGA in March 2019.

Her appointment is historic. Sheila McDaniel is the first Black woman to hold an executive officer post at the National Gallery of Art since the museum’s founding, nearly 80 years ago.

In less than two years, demographic representation in the museum’s leadership has been transformed. Feldman is the fifth director and first woman to run the National Gallery of Art. In turn, earlier this year, in March, she named Steven Nelson dean of the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts (CASVA), the museum’s research institute. The appointment made Nelson, who is Black, the first non-white person to join NGA’s executive officer ranks. McDaniel is the second.

She has worked for three decades in nonprofit management, including more than two decades at the executive level. Prior to her tenure at the Studio Museum, McDaniel was associate executive director for operations at the Hetrick-Martin Institute, a New York organization that provides a community of support and vital services for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning youth. In 1985, she was part of the team that opened Harvey Milk High School in the East Village.

Active with arts nonprofits, McDaniel has served as treasurer on the boards of ArtTable and the Bronx Council on the Arts, and as a board member at the Museum Association of New York and the North Star Fund. For four years, she taught financial planning and budget management at Pratt Institute in the Arts and Cultural Management program (2006-09).

McDaniel earned a master’s in public administration from Baruch College and is currently studying toward a doctor of education in adult learning and leadership at Columbia University.

“I have dedicated my entire career to serving communities through art and education. Now, coming to Washington, I will have the honor of working for a community that encompasses all the United States,” McDaniel said in a statement. “The National Gallery of Art is a treasure that belongs to every American, and unlike most other treasure, it becomes more valuable the more it is shared. I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to serve and look forward eagerly to working with Kaywin and her extraordinary team.” CT


IMAGE: Portrait of Sheila McDaniel. | Photo by Erich Camping


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