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T. Barton Thurber Named New Director Of Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center

T. Barton Thurber, Associate Director for Collections and Exhibitions at the Princeton University Art Museum, has been named Anne Hendricks Bass Director of the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center and Lecturer of Art at Vassar College, President Elizabeth Bradley announced. Thurber will succeed James Mundy, who is retiring after directing the Art Center for 28 years. He will assume his new position August 5.

T. Barton Thurber will assume the directorship of the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center in August.Photo: Kasey Ivan

President Bradley said she was thrilled to welcome Thurber to Vassar. “Bart brings a breadth of knowledge and expertise to The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center and we are delighted to welcome him to our Vassar community. While we are saddened to say good-bye to the incomparable James Mundy, he leaves us with a legacy that has transformed the Loeb into one of the finest college art museums in the country. We look forward to his continued presence as Director Emeritus.”

Thurber said he was particularly impressed with Bradley’s vision of collaboration with the greater Poughkeepsie area, and was excited to find more ways academic museums could take part in such initiatives. “The energy and enthusiasm for the arts is obviously an integral part of Vassar’s dynamic liberal arts program, and I’m eager to see how the Loeb can continue to build and promote it. I’ve talked to the President and her staff about the ongoing revitalization of the arts in downtown Poughkeepsie, and I want to explore ways we can support greater civic engagement.”

Even before first visiting the Loeb in December, Thurber said he was already aware of the breadth and depth of its impressive holdings. “I was familiar with the reputation and accomplishments of the highly professional staff, which is clearly evident in the range and quality of its collections, exhibitions, and campus activities. When I later had an opportunity to tour the facility and meet everyone, what came through was their deep commitment to bringing someone on board who would continue to foster both scholarship and accessibility.”

During his six-and-a-half-year tenure at Princeton, Thurber oversaw, guided, and supported all curatorial, collections, and special projects, including exhibition planning and implementation, conservation, and campus art. Among these was the commission of a temporary outdoor installation by the African American artist and MacArthur Fellow Titus Kaphar, who created the visual centerpiece for a campus-wide initiative in 2017 to respond to the University’s historical ties to slavery. Thurber also has led a team carrying out a multi-year, innovative, $300,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation focused on researching and cataloguing African, Native American, and Latin American art. The effort is aimed at increasing awareness of, and providing access to, understudied collections for the benefit of faculty, students, scholars, and other visitors and users.

Thurber earned undergraduate degrees in art and architecture from the Rhode Island School of Design. He undertook postgraduate studies at the Universita’ IUAV in Venice, Italy, and received his PhD in art and architectural history from Harvard University. He later held postdoctoral positions at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, and at Villa I Tatti, the Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies in Florence, Italy, before joining the National Gallery of Art as a Research Associate at the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts. In 1998, after teaching at the University of Maryland, Harvard University, George Washington University, and George Mason University, Thurber was named Curator of European Art at the Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College. He eventually joined the staff of the Princeton University Art Museum in late 2012.

Thurber was chosen following a nationwide search by a committee of Vassar faculty and staff, chaired by Dean of Strategic Planning and Academic Resources Marianne Begemann. “Among a deep and wonderful pool of candidates, Bart touched all the bases,” Begemann said. “He clearly and expertly met our many expectations as leader of such an important institution as the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, and he brings a true spirit of collegiality to his work. On behalf of the entire search committee, I warmly welcome Bart to the Vassar community.”