Detroit Institute of Arts

Vice President, Learning and Audience Engagement, Detroit, MI


Founded in 1885, the Detroit Institute of Arts moved to its current site on Detroit's Woodward Avenue in 1927. The museum covers 658,000 square feet that include more than 100 galleries, a 1,150-seat auditorium, a 380-seat lecture/recital hall, an art reference library, and a state-of-the-art conservation services laboratory.

The DIA's collection is among the top five in the United States, with more than 65,000 works. Among its notable acquisitions are Mexican artist Diego Rivera's Detroit Industry fresco cycle, which Rivera considered his most successful work, and Vincent van Gogh's Self-Portrait the first Van Gogh painting to enter a U.S. museum collection. Each year, more than 70,000 students visit the DIA on a field trip. Additionally, the museum provides professional development to more than 1,500 educators each year. For students and educators, the museum serves as a critical resource to build connections between the world's history and today's educational outcomes helping individuals find personal meaning in the artwork they experience and developing creative and critical thinking skills.

A hallmark of the DIA is the diversity of the collection. In addition to outstanding American, European, modern and contemporary, and graphic art, the museum holds significant works of African, Asian, Native American, Oceanic, Islamic, and ancient art. In 2000, the DIA was the first museum in the country to establish a center for African American art as a curatorial department. Furthermore, the museum provides its visitors with the unique opportunity to learn the history of African American art with galleries dedicated solely to this area of the collection.

Over the past several years, the DIA has been working to advance in the areas of talent and culture, focusing on people operations, team member learning and development, workplace culture, and diversity and inclusion.

In the fall of 2019, the DIA was awarded a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) in the area of diversity. As part of the grant, the museum proposed a three-year Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access (IDEA) journey. This work will guide the DIA in becoming a museum of relevance where a diverse team serves a diverse audience. The ultimate vision is to create a culture of belonging that is felt with its visitors and all stakeholders. In the fall of 2019, the DIA selected The Kaleidoscope Group as its consultative partner for the foundational IDEA work. Through this foundational work, the DIA team will increase internal capabilities to lead this work far into the future. As the DIA moves forward on this transformative journey, it will incorporate the IDEA lens in all museum work.


Under the guidance of the Director and reporting to the Deputy Director, Art, Education & Programs, the Vice President for Learning and Audience Engagement will provide an innovative and inclusive vision for visitor-centered learning strategies for the museum. The Vice President will lead the teams responsible for studio/artmaking, audiovisual support, interpretation, programs for students at K-12 schools and institutions of higher education, and public programs while collaborating and coordinating with curatorial, exhibitions, and administrative departments across the museum to meet the DIA's strategic goals.

The Vice President will develop extensive programs and partnerships that serve community organizations, families, schools, and senior citizens in accordance with the museum's agreements with the respective Art Institute Authorities for Macomb, Oakland, and Wayne Counties. The Vice President will nurture innovation, leverage emerging technologies, and expand upon the DIA's domestic and international reputation as a leader in museum education and programs.


The Vice President for Learning and Audience Engagement (LAE) will be a highly creative and visionary leader with a clear understanding of and ability to articulate the importance of the arts in education who will have the following priorities.

  • Lead and provide guidance and direction to departments that:

o Sustain and build educational programs (field trips, teacher profes sional development) to further critical thinking skills and creativity in keeping with the curricular goals of K-12 schools;

o Craft visitor-centered interpretation for collection installations and special exhibitions in collaboration with curators;
o Nurture and create enduring, fruitful partnerships with organizations in Macomb, Oakland, and Wayne counties to foster connections to the DIA's collections and programs;
o Present high-quality, varied enrichment programs (films, lectures, and performances) for seniors, families, and general audiences that reflect and attract the diverse communities of Macomb, Oakland, and Wayne counties and beyond;
o Offer hands-on artmaking experiences for families, seniors, and special needs communities;
o Collaborate with evaluation staff for formative and summative assessments of programs.

  • Recruit, mentor, develop, and successfully lead a team to achieve the strategic objectives and the present and future needs of the division; create a collaborative work environment by using a performance support process including goal setting, prioritization, feedback, and development.
  • Prepare regular reports for the DIA Board of Directors; build relationships with members, helping them understand and engage with key issues in LAE and the field more broadly; act as staff liaison to the Education Committee and work with the Committee's Chair to shape and leverage members' participation, expertise, and support for LAE initiatives.
  • Collaborate with the Development department to support fundraising and philanthropic opportunities; assist in proposal preparation, manage major gifts and grants, participate in major gift solicitations, and maintain positive relationships with donors, foundations, and other philanthropic contributors.
  • Fulfill the arts service agreements with Macomb, Oakland, and Wayne counties by aligning programs and resources to achieve significant annual participation and investment goals. Report outcomes to county elected officials and the arts authorities and maintain excellent relations with the DIA's public stakeholders.
  • Propose and manage the annual budget to support the division's work in alignment with the DIA's strategic goals; steward several funds restricted to LAE programs to support their intended purpose.
  • Create effective communications within the division and collaborations with other institutional divisions; present at conferences and symposia and raise awareness of the DIA's innovations and accomplishments in the field.


The ideal candidate must be a strategic thinker with the ability to plan and execute goals and objectives across multiple departments and must have or be the following.

  • Demonstrated knowledge of and/or achievement in visual thinking strategies, constructivist learning theory, or adult learning theory.
  • Ten years of experience, including 10 years working in a museum, school, or university setting and five years managing people and programs. Budget management experience required.
  • A compelling spokesperson adept at inspiring widely divergent audiences, with exemplary written, verbal, and listening communication skills and a demonstrated ability to communicate clearly and professionally.
  • Master's degree in education, fine arts, or art history required; additional years of experience may be substituted for degree requirement.
  • Additionally, the Vice President, Learning and Audience Engagement must also be or have:
  • A demonstrated high level of emotional intelligence; excellent leadership skills and the ability to lead diverse teams to meet museum strategic goals; demonstrated competencies in IDEA: Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access, along with a commitment to engaging new and diverse audiences;
  • Able to establish and maintain professional, productive, and courteous interactions that promote positive teamwork, all of which encompass going beyond giving and receiving instructions and include but are not limited to (a) performing work activities requiring interacting or speaking with others and (b) responding appropriately to constructive feedback or suggestions for improvement from a supervisor;
  • Excellent interpersonal and customer services skills and the ability to establish and maintain effective relationships, along with the ability to collaborate with diverse departments and employees;
  • Able to work well under pressure, handle multiple priorities, and meet deadlines; must have the ability to work independently with minimal supervision;
  • Sound business judgment, with the ability to exercise professional conduct, understand and follow business ethics and standards, and maintain a high level of confidentiality in all duties;
  • An engaged listener with the ability to build consensus both within the DIA and beyond;
  • Demonstrated experience managing complex budgets and major grants;
  • Strong project management skills and excellent negotiation skills, with the ability to successfully manage conflict;
  • The ability to work a non-traditional schedule including evenings, weekends, and overnight travel as needed.

This job description describes the general nature of the duties and requirements of this job. It is not intended to be an exhaustive list or to limit the supervisor's ability to modify work assignments as appropriate.

The DIA is an equal opportunity employer.

Please send applications and nominations to Mark Tarnacki at DIAVPLAE@PhillipsOppenheim.com.