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MOCA Jacksonville chooses new director with international experience

February 17, 2017 // by Denise M. Reagan

The Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville scoured the globe to find a respected international curator and scholar to be its next director: Caitlín Doherty. She has engaged with artists, students, and communities around the world throughout a career that spans Scotland, Ireland, Qatar, and the United States.

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Image courtesy of Eat Pomegranate Photography.

“Caitlín possesses a truly creative and inspired intellect along with a practical business mind,” MOCA Board of Trustees Chair Charles Gilman III said. “Her genuine personality enables her to lead at the staff level but also to excite members across our constituencies. That MOCA has successfully attracted such talent speaks to our reputation as a serious contributor in the broader world of contemporary art.”

Doherty said she looks forward to further developing MOCA as a distinct and necessary artistic leader in Jacksonville, as well as on the national and international stage.

“MOCA Jacksonville is a respected and vibrant contemporary art institution with a significant collection and a commitment to the exploration of the world around us through the art, artists, and ideas of our time,” Doherty said. “It is also at a very important point in its development-much wonderful work has already been done at the Museum in areas such as exhibitions and education, and yet there is still the opportunity and desire for future growth and development, and for me that is hugely exciting.”

Doherty's first day at MOCA Jacksonville, a cultural institute of the University of North Florida, is March 20.

MOCA Jacksonville's ambitious curatorial vision and expanded exhibition program has positioned the Museum as a leading cultural contributor, warranting an international search for a new director. The Search Committee, led by MOCA Board member Alison Lee, sought an individual who could build on these achievements and further strengthen the Museum's relationship with UNF.

“Caitlín Doherty's international experience in contemporary art, her university art museum background, and her extensive experience in arts programming make her the ideal director to fulfill the Museum's mission,” Lee said.

“At the beginning of the process, the MOCA Search Committee added its own category to the list of desirable attributes put forth by our executive search firm, Korn Ferry, and it was referred to as the 'X factor,' that rare quality that sets an individual apart,” Gilman said. “Caitlín was the standout candidate who definitively and unanimously checked that box for us.”

Doherty's extensive experience in both worlds of art and academia makes her a strong choice for the director position at MOCA Jacksonville.

“Having worked in three academic institutions in Ireland, Qatar, and the U.S., I value the richness of intellectual resources and expertise found within a university context, as well as how much fun it can be!” Doherty said. “Through MOCA Jacksonville's exciting program of exhibitions and events, as well as its Downtown location, it serves, both physically and conceptually, as a bridge between the university and the community and an important catalyst that brings together the artistic and cultural dialogue taking place within campus, the local community, regionally, and beyond.”

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Image courtesy of Eat Pomegranate Photography.

“We're excited to welcome Caitlín to the UNF family,” said University of North Florida President John Delaney. “She has a passion for working with college students from a wide variety of academic disciplines on creative collaborations. I'm confident there will be some exciting projects with UNF students that go beyond the Art and Design Department.”

Since January 2015, Doherty has been chief curator and deputy director of curatorial affairs at the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University. Broad MSU-housed in the striking Zaha Hadid-designed building-is a 46,000-square-foot museum that serves as both a teaching institution and a cultural hub for the East Lansing region. During her tenure at Broad MSU, Doherty provided leadership and artistic vision, defining the interdisciplinary scope and direction of the institution's exhibitions, collections, education, and public programs, and ensuring that they reflected a commitment to artistic experimentation, excellence, and public access. She curated some of the Broad MSU's most significant international exhibitions, including The Artist as Activist: Mahbubur Rahman and Tayeba Begum Lipi (2016), 2116: Forecast of the Next Century (2016), Gideon Mendel: Drowning World (2016), and Moving Time: Video Art at 50, 1965-2015, which is currently touring China.

“She brings with her a wealth of leadership experience, strategy, and programmatic vision, as well as significant skills in museum and nonprofit management,” MOCA Acting Director and Deputy Director Ben Thompson said. “Caitlín is a great team builder and at other institutions has created a culture of 'cooperative enthusiasm' which helps align all stakeholders toward shared goals. She recognizes the importance of integrating with our community, making the Museum a destination, a warm and welcoming place for all.”

With more than 90,000 visitors a year, MOCA is a 60,000-square-foot Museum located in the historic Western Union Telegraph building in downtown Jacksonville. MOCA serves as a regional think tank where contemporary art education takes flight through locally curated exhibitionsprograms, and educational initiatives that enrich the Northeast Florida community. Self-curated exhibitions explore cutting-edge techniques and trends in contemporary art, providing insights to the past, present, and future. MOCA's Permanent Collection comprises more than 1,000 works from 1960 to the present with a focus on acquiring pieces from the Museum's original exhibitions.

From 2012 to 2015, Doherty served as exhibitions and speaker curator at Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar--a branch campus of VCU School of the Arts in Richmond, Virginia-where she organized major exhibitions of international contemporary art and design, including Confluence: Photographic-based work from the Contemporary Middle East (2014); The Depth of Hope (2014), by Egyptian-Sudanese artist Fathi Hassan; Equilibrium (2012), by Irish sculptor John O'Connor; and The UP Factory (2012), an interdisciplinary exhibition by Amsterdam-based international design company Droog. She also curated VCUQatar's Crossing Boundaries lecture series, featuring renowned contemporary artists, designers, and leaders within the artistic community including Ellen Lupton, Joachim Sauter, Francesco Bonami, Shirin Neshat, Marina Abramović, and Richard Serra.

From 2005 to 2008, Doherty worked as the inaugural director of Lismore Castle Arts, one of Ireland's leading contemporary art galleries, where she oversaw exhibitions featuring artists such as Michael Craig-Martin, Matthew Barney, Richard Long, and Nathalie Djurberg.

She taught art history, design history, and museum and gallery studies at Ireland's Waterford Institute of Technology from 2008 to 2010, and has regularly guest lectured at other institutions including University College London. Also in Ireland, Doherty directed the interdisciplinary arts and cultural initiative Artswave, and acted as visual arts coordinator for Garter Lane Arts Centre.

Born on South Uist, a small island in the Outer Hebrides in Northwest Scotland, Doherty holds master's degrees in art history from the University of Edinburgh and in museum and gallery studies from the University of St. Andrews, both in Scotland.

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