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Laguna Museum’s Incoming Director Draws Praise : Art: Naomi Vine brings sophistication and savvy to the position, the selection committee says. She is to begin March 1.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Laguna Art Museum picked a new director Tuesday who board members say has both the arts background and the financial skills for the museum to thrive in the ‘90s.

Board President Teri Kennady said Naomi Vine “has the skills, the talents, the savvy, the sophistication, the knowledge, to be the leader who will take us into the future.”

The appointment, ratified unanimously, is effective March 1. A three-year contract is to be executed by late next week. Vine’s salary was not disclosed (the previous director was paid $88,000).

Vine, 45, has never been a museum director but has held key positions in arts organizations for at least 15 years and currently is managing the Parsons Dance Company in New York. A museum director who worked with Vine on a $5-million capital campaign in New Hampshire called her “absolutely top-notch, extremely bright, so enthusiastic and well-spoken. Everyone liked her. I and others have targeted her for a museum directorship for some time.”

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Reached at her home in Manhattan, Vine said the job represents “a very significant opportunity. The museum has a wonderful reputation nationally and regionally. I think it will be a very rewarding place to work, to help build that reputation and promote public awareness of the California arts.”

The museum, specializing in historical and contemporary California art, is one of Orange County’s oldest and best-known cultural organizations, with an annual budget of $1.6 million. Overshadowed by the Newport Harbor Art Museum in Newport Beach in the early and mid-1980s, the 77-year-old Laguna acquired increased prestige under Charles Desmarais, director from 1988 until last March. But he was dismissed by board members who said he paid too much attention to organizing exhibitions and not enough to administration.

Vine was the first choice of the museum’s seven-member search committee, which proceeded without a search firm, relying largely on personal contacts on the boards of such institutions as the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

In view of probable federal cutbacks in arts funding and a current climate of belt-tightening among private donors, the committee was looking for a combination of academic degrees in art history, a strong background in curatorial and educational programming, and strong business and fund-raising skills, according to board member Tim Pearson.

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A Seattle native, Vine graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Washington in 1971 and earned her master’s degree at the University of Chicago in 1974. After teaching art history for a year, she was a curatorial assistant at the Art Institute of Chicago and was director of education at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago from 1980 to 1986.

After serving as director of collections and programs and chief curator at the Dayton Art Institute in Ohio from 1986 to 1988, she spent four years as associate director for programs and curatorial affairs at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta. Meanwhile, she worked on her doctoral degree in art history, awarded from the University of Chicago in 1989.

She completed the summer course of the Museum Management Institute at UC Berkeley and earned an MBA in 1992 from Emory University in Atlanta. In 1992 and ’93, as a senior staff member at C.W. Shaver and Co., management and fund-raising consultants for nonprofit organizations, she worked on major capital campaigns.


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