Sasha Suda has been named as the next director and CEO of the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA). Suda leaves the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, Ontario, where she has been director and CEO since 2019. She replaces longtime leader Timothy Rub, who shepherded the $500 million Frank Gehry–designed transformation of the PMA but stepped down last summer after apologizing for the museum’s mishandling of harassment complaints made against an assistant director. She is the third woman to hold the post in the museum’s 145-year history, following Jean Sutherland Boggs and Anne d’Harnoncourt.
The Toronto-born Suda, who gained a reputation at the National Gallery of Canada for increasing diversity among staff and among exhibiting artists, and for working to increase engagement between the museum and Indigenous communities arrives at a fraught time for the PMA, which continues to struggle financially following the Covid-19 crisis. Citing low wages unaffordable health care, and precarious hours, among other issues, museum employees unionized in the summer of 2020, but their numbers were reduced by about 20 percent as the pandemic forced layoffs, as it did at many arts institutions nationwide.
“A new director isn’t going to magically resolve the labor issues at the museum,” union leader Adam Rizzo told the Philadelphia Inquirer, expressing a wish that Suda arrive “clear-eyed” to her new post.
“I am passionate about human-centered leadership and really interested in building that strength, so people can see the value of the work they do and the value of their own lived experience—where managers and leaders are holding space for discomfort and very necessary conversations,” Suda told the New York Times. “That’s really what this moment is about for me as a leader,” she noted, “coming into those conversations with a willingness to make space and be there for them and have eyes wide open.”
Suda holds a BA from Princeton University, an MA from Williams College, and a doctorate in medieval manuscripts from New York University. Prior to assuming her role at the National Gallery of Art, Ontario, she was an assistant curator of European Art at the Art Gallery of Ontario from 2011 to 2019, eventually rising to chair of the department of prints and drawings there. Before that, from 2003 and 2011, she worked at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, in the medieval department.