Telfair Museums hires new executive director/CEO
Benjamin T. Simons comes to Savannah from Academy Art Museum in Easton, Maryland
Contact: Jason Kendall
Senior Writer and Public Relations Manager
SAVANNAH, GA (November 2, 2020) — Telfair Museums has announced the hiring of a new executive director/CEO who will lead its three sites in Savannah starting in 2021.
Benjamin T. Simons, 50, will join the museum on January 4, 2021. Simons has been the executive director of the Academy Art Museum in Easton, Maryland, since 2016 (https://academyartmuseum.org). Before that, he worked for the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., and for more than a decade at the Nantucket Historical Association in Massachusetts. Simons holds a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University, a master’s degree in literature from Yale University, and a master’s degree in the history of art from the University of London’s Courtauld Institute of Art. He is a graduate of the Getty Museum Leadership Institute.
Simons’ hiring, which came after a six-month executive search, was made official by Telfair’s board of trustees during a special meeting Oct. 30. Robert “Bob” Faircloth has served as Telfair’s acting director since the previous director departed in May and will continue in that role for the remainder of 2020.
“While his experience and qualifications are impressive,” said Dale Critz Jr., chairman of Telfair’s board of trustees, “what stood out to all of us during the hiring process was Ben’s passion for art and history, as well as his smart, genial, and outgoing personality. He and his wife, Alison, who is an artist, and their young son enjoyed a wonderful visit with us when Ben came to the museum for his final interview in October, and they’re really looking forward to becoming a part of our team and embracing our lifestyle here in Savannah.”
At the Academy Art Museum, Simons led a $10 million capital campaign, oversaw major renovations, and attracted notable exhibitions that included work by artists such as Mary Cassatt, Richard Diebenkorn, David Driskell, and Andy Warhol.
“I am honored to take the helm at Telfair Museums and to become a member of Savannah’s vibrant and diverse community,” Simons said. “Telfair’s sterling reputation and its unique focus on art, history, and architecture make this a particularly exciting opportunity for me. The current staff and board have done an admirable job of stewarding the organization through the present public health crisis, and I look forward to leading the organization to continued success in the future.”
Telfair hired the firm Phillips Oppenheim to help conduct the search and formed a special search committee led by Critz and Swann Seiler that also included board members Faircloth, Jan Dorman, Josh Keller, Cyreia Sandlin, Vincent West, and community member Don Waters.
About Telfair Museums:
Opened in 1886, Telfair Museums is the oldest public art museum in the South and the first U.S. museum founded by a woman. The museum features a world-class art collection in the heart of Savannah’s National Historic Landmark District and encompasses three sites: the Jepson Center for the Arts, the Owens-Thomas House & Slave Quarters, and the Telfair Academy. Two National Historic Landmarks—the Telfair Academy and the Owens-Thomas House & Slave Quarters—showcase the complicated history of 18th- and 19th-century Americans, free and enslaved, who lived and toiled in Savannah. The Jepson Center houses the museum’s more than 7,000-work permanent collection, including important works of American Impressionism and the Ashcan School; the largest collection of Kahlil Gibran’s visual art in the United States; seminal 20th-century photography by Walker Evans, Helen Levitt, and Bruce Davidson; and essential works by contemporary artists in the museum’s Kirk Varnedoe Collection. For more information on Telfair Museums, visit telfair.org.