Close-Up: Museum of Northwest Art Director Joanna Sikes Reaches Out to New Audiences
Joanna Sikes, MoNA's executive director, standing next to two paintings by the artist Max Benjamin, as MoNA prepares to install the new winter exhibition, Max Benjamin: A Road Well Traveled

Close-Up: Museum of Northwest Art Director Joanna Sikes Reaches Out to New Audiences

by Matthew Kangas

For the Museum of Northwest Art’s 40th anniversary, executive director Joanna Sikes has shifted its focus away from in-house programming to encompass o -site outreach to diverse communities. “Our new format is half exhibitions and half outreach, but all connected together and growing out of our permanent collection,” said Sikes.

Formerly director of special projects for Dale Chihuly, Sikes has adopted a nonhierarchical approach with her dedicated sta at MoNA since she arrived in 2018. “If you have an idea, bring it to the group,” she said of her approach. “So we will sit together to see if curatorial, development and education departments can all share in making it happen.” With Sikes’ proven leadership ability to attract young arts professionals of all genders and ethnicities, the museum has been reinvigorated.

Starting anew after recovering from a substantial deficit at MoNA, Sikes foresees other dreams and challenges for the anniversary, such as an education studio, an accessible visible-storage collection site nearby, and an acquisitions fund less dependent upon donations of artworks from collectors. “With our collections committee of 12, we want to purchase artworks from Indigenous artists to bolster the classic regional objects we are already caring for,” she said.

Finally, projecting beyond the anniversary year, Sikes has worked with her board to assess the current building to “determine what type of facility we are going to need to assure a strong future. We want to work with existing communities to answer the question, ‘What is our legacy?’ ” Surrounded by tribal lands, in the heart of the fertile Skagit Valley, the La Conner museum is in a prime location to undertake such an ambitious cultural project.

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