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Annual Conference Spotlight: James Leventhal, Plenary Speaker

Monday, August 22, 2016   (0 Comments)
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Annual Conference Spotlight: James Leventhal, Plenary Speaker

By Carrie Snow


Have you ever met one of those people that make you so happy in your chosen profession? They are a rare breed, and once you meet them, your world view about what you do for a living seems to blossom magically. You tend to see new opportunities in your everyday dealings, and you can’t wait to blaze a new trail. I am so pleased to say that our 2016 Plenary Speaker, James Leventhal is one of those individuals. 


Who is this guy? I am so glad you asked. James is currently the Director of Development for the San Jose Museum of Art. Before the SJMA, he was Director of Development for The Exploratorium, and before that The Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco.  He’s also a veteran of fundraising efforts at the Judah L. Magnes Museum and the Fine Arts Museums San Francisco. James holds an MBA in management and museum studies from John F. Kennedy University, Berkeley; an MA in art history and museum studies from The City College, City University of New York; and a BS in studio art and anthropology from New York University. Clearly, this is a man that has used his experience and joy for museums to drive his professional and personal goals.


I was lucky enough to meet James during while planning the UMA/WMA joint conference in 2013. He is simply a person that radiates passion for the museum world and what it can do for the human soul. He whips up as much excitement for the smallest museum’s outreach program as he can for a grandest of black tie gala for the large museum. Why? How? It’s because he loves museums and the power they have to shape our lives and tell our stories. When he joined his current institution, he said, “It is very satisfying to be returning to a pure art environment, and SJMA has such an incredibly strong record of community engagement and an amazing track record of high-quality programs.”


It sounds silly for me to say, but if I ever needed a person to give me a daily wake-up call, I would choose James. A conversation with him reminds you what privilege it is to work in a museum. Five minutes into a conversation with him, his pleasant smile and delight in your institution and your mission will make you want to get back to work. He seems to know how to connect the dots between people and place, communities and stories, so you collectively care about them. He can give you a list of different people to talk to and places to see to get inspiration for your work.  

Whether you are a shy entry level museum staffer/ humble, hardworking volunteer, a mid-level career professional in need of a shot in the arm or a museum veteran that has “seen it all,” James will make you realize you have just begun to tap your capacity to your organization matter to the public. You will leave his session with a desire to go back to your office, and take the world by storm and make museums matter. Of course, please make sure you attend the rest of the conference before you begin storming the castle.


Don't miss out on the chance to hear James speak at the 2016 UMA Annual Conference! Register today!


Carrie Snow, is the Manager of Collections Care at the Church History Museum, and serves at Treasurer for the Utah Museums Association. Prior to the Church History Museum she was the Registrar at the Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace. She received her MA in Museum Studies from John F. Kennedy University.

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