Phillips Oppenheim

Executive Director, Santa Fe, NM


The Holt-Smithson Foundation exists to continue the creative and investigative spirit of artists Nancy Holt and Robert Smithson, who, over the course of their careers, developed innovative methods of exploring our relationship with the planet, and routinely expanded the limits of artistic practice. Through public service, the Foundation will engage in programs that increase awareness of both artists' creative legacies, continuing the transformation they brought to the world of art and ideas.


The Holt-Smithson Foundation seeks an Executive Director to carry out the mission of an exciting new artist-endowed, nonprofit organization, established in the memory of artists Nancy Holt (1938-2014) and Robert Smithson (1938-1973).

As the primary beneficiary of the artists' estate, the Foundation will inherit from the Holt-Smithson Trust works, property and related assets in the estate, at which time it will begin operating as a fully-endowed foundation, with an estimated $1 million annual operating budget. The current Holt-Smithson Foundation Board of Directors is composed of a group of friends and associates of Nancy Holt's that were designated by her as trustees and advisors before she passed away. The Foundation's office will be located initially in Santa Fe, New Mexico, although the Executive Director may not need to relocate there.


Like Nancy Holt and Robert Smithson, each of whom had one foot in the New York art world of their time, and another in the landscapes of the American West, the Foundation will manage the artists' legacies, and strive to expand the discourse of contemporary art. Similarly, the Executive Director of the Foundation must understand the conventions of the contemporary art world and its institutions, and be prepared to engage and respond to the pressing conditions of our changing times, challenging outmoded systems and ideas. The Foundation Trustees are sensitive to the fact that the artists lived their values and seek a representative in its executive who understands and ideally embodies this authenticity.

Reporting to the Board of Trustees, the Executive Director will provide vision, leadership, and management of the Foundation's overall operations and activities. The Executive Director will work closely with the Board, which will establish priorities, define areas of programmatic interest, and develop the policies and procedures of the Foundation.


  • Get to know the Foundation's Board members, understanding their interests, priorities, and level of desired involvement in the Foundation; nurture personal and collegial relationships and collaboration to advance the goals of the Foundation;
  • Study and catalogue the assets of the Foundation with an eye toward initiating the archives, scholarship, publications, collaborations, and programs necessary to accurately position the artists and their contributions to the field;
  • Assist the Board in developing a plan for preserving and expanding both artists' legacies, especially that of Nancy Holt; engage the academic community and broader public in pursuits which maintains the relevance of the artists' work;
  • Lay the groundwork for a grantmaking program in areas of the Foundation's field of interest; assist in the development of grantmaking procedures and guidelines;
  • Establish best practices in all areas of operation as an artist-endowed private foundation to ensure the Foundation's sustainability and success within its projected lifespan; identify, recommend, and coordinate resources to move the Foundation's vision and mission forward; determine staffing needs; establish the parameters of staff responsibilities and authority;
  • Initiate and leverage opportunities to connect the Foundation and its efforts to the international cultural arena through contact with museum directors, curators, scholars and art dealers worldwide; alongside the Board of Trustees, provide public leadership on critical issues related to the Foundation's program interests;
  • In collaboration with the Board, identify a permanent home for the Foundation that will support its strategic objectives.


In addition to the above, the Executive Director will initiate and manage on an ongoing basis:

  • In concert with the Foundation's legal counsel and accounting/business advisor, oversee compliance with all local, state and federal requirements, assuring that the Foundation maintains its tax exempt status and good standing as a charitable organization; continually assess the efficiency of management systems, both financial and programmatic;
  • Direct the conservation and documentation of extant artworks created by Holt and Smithson owned by the Foundation; coordinate and collaborate with international private and public entities, which own works of Land Art and other forms of public sculpture created by Holt and Smithson, with an eye towards the preservation, maintenance of visibility, and public accessibility of these works into the future;
  • Oversee the management of the Foundation's properties and real estate, including the Foundation office and study center in New Mexico;
  • Take a leadership role in the implementation of Board philosophy and policies; institute benchmarks for assessing effectiveness of all Foundation activities; keep the Board apprised of the activities and financial position of the Foundation; make sound policy decisions;
  • Develop a means for continued Board education in the areas of the Foundation's grantmaking, the mechanics of foundation governance, and issues affecting the philanthropic community at large.


The Director should have the following experience and qualifications:

  • Demonstrable knowledge of and appreciation for the life and work of Nancy Holt and Robert Smithson; evident commitment to the core values and philanthropic interests of the artists and the Foundation;
  • Respect within the arts arena supported by a highly credible command of art history; M.A. degree or Ph.D. in art history, arts administration, or related field preferred;
  • Direct relationships with significant curators, scholars, museum directors, and art dealers whose work and institutions may be critical to the implementation of the Foundation's mission;
  • Demonstrated experience as a thoughtful risk-taker with a successful record realizing a vision; strict adherence to professional ethics and confidentiality; strong analytical skills and knowledge of current issues;
  • A proven facilitator, with experience successfully managing people, operations, and the fiscal affairs of a private, nonprofit, or government entity; experience working with philanthropic and institutional boards a plus;
  • Strong oral and written communications skills, with the ability to address issues with diplomacy; capable of public leadership and vision as a foundation representative.

Please send applications and nominations to Sarah James and Becky Klein at

Top of Page