The question of who should steer the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Art through the coronavirus pandemic and toward a new chapter in its 50-year history of championing queer art was answered Monday when the board announced it had selected the nonprofit executive Alyssa Nitchun to become its next director.
Ms. Nitchun will be the first queer woman to lead the museum. When she starts in February, her first mission will be to expand the institution’s reputation abroad and help secure its financial future.
“The Leslie-Lohman has done a tremendous job staying afloat during the pandemic, but there are new opportunities that I can bring with my Rolodex,” she said. “My dream is that we can scale up, welcoming a whole new group of artists and audiences.”
The leadership change comes after the L.G.B.T.Q. art museum’s former director, Gonzalo Casals, announced in March that he was leaving to become the Cultural Affairs Commissioner of New York City. Upon leaving, he tapped the former Queens Museum director Laura Raicovich as his temporary replacement, and over the last eight months, she has helped navigate the institution through the uncertain economy of the pandemic by keeping the galleries closed, filling a $1.3 million budget gap and programming with other nonprofits.
Now, Ms. Raicovich finds herself ready to hand over the reins.
“Alyssa is a consummate New Yorker who loves everything that is fabulous and weird,” Ms. Raicovich said. “I think she has the energy of a thousand strong women and she’s going to take the museum to the next level.”
Ms. Nitchun, 43, joins the Leslie-Lohman Museum after spending nearly seven years at Creative Time, a nonprofit known for producing large-scale public artworks. There, she briefly served as acting executive director after working in development and external affairs.
Her arrival at the queer arts center comes at a time when many directors of culture organizations are leaving their positions. In recent months, executives have announced their resignations at the Tenement Museum, Socrates Sculpture Park, SculptureCenter, the Museum of Art and Design, Asia Society, the Rubin Museum of Art and others.
As director, Ms. Nitchun will have the task of helping to rebuild the Leslie-Lohman Museum after Covid-19 budget woes forced the museum to reduce its work force by more than a third.
“The museum possesses a reputation and gravitas that deserves to be extended nationally and internationally,” said Ms. Nitchun, who added that she will be “passionately focused” on expanding the Leslie-Lohman’s ability to serve as a “sanctuary, catalyst and provocateur.”