Mr. Rodriguez was recruited to the Bronx Museum of the Arts by Holly Block, the museum’s longtime executive director, from the Frost Art Museum in Miami in 2017. As deputy director, he oversaw all daily museum operations, including managing staff and developing exhibitions. “My very first day on the job was a full board meeting where I learned that Holly was stepping down,” Mr. Rodriguez said. Ms. Block died in October 2017, and he stepped into the de facto role of leader after that, but the top job ultimately went to Deborah Cullen-Morales, an outside hire. She left after 18 months, and Mr. Rodriguez — again — took the helm as interim director.
“It’s been a tumultuous few years with the passing of Holly, the pandemic, financial stresses,” he said in an interview on Wednesday. “Really my main goal right now is to stabilize the ship and make sure that everyone is steering in the same direction.”
Mr. Rodriguez recalled his childhood as an immigrant in Miami after his family fled the revolution in the late 1970s. “The museum is situated in a community very much like the one I grew up in,” he said. He described seeing Picasso’s “Guernica” at age 12 in Madrid’s Prado museum, an experience that was “absolutely transformative.” He has been driven professionally to engage students who had very little exposure to museums in his role as chief curator at the Frost, part of Florida International University, where he received his undergraduate and masters degrees in art history, and now in the Bronx.
Currently on view there are exhibitions by Sanford Biggers, of mixed-media works informed by the African-American history of quilt-making, and by José Parlá, of abstract paintings referencing distressed walls in urban landscapes. Mr. Rodriguez is holding off announcing new exhibitions for the museum’s upcoming 50th anniversary year. “We have plans, of course, but it’s pandemic-pending,” he said.
Mr. Rodriguez has overseen a $20 million capital campaign for a long-planned renovation and expansion of the museum’s original building, a former synagogue, and the 2006 addition by Arquitectonica. He hopes to select an architect in the next six months and break ground within two years. “It will create a new entrance, more outward-facing to the community,” he said, and add some galleries.