The High Museum of Art announced today that Randall Suffolk, a longtime museum leader credited with transforming the Philbrook Museum of Art in Tulsa, Okla., is its new director.
The announcement came after a nine-month search and two days before the retirement of Michael E. Shapiro, who joined the High in 1995 and has led the museum since March 2000.
Suffolk, 47, begins work Nov. 2, although he and his wife have been to Atlanta to house hunt. High COO Philip Verre, who has been at the museum for 15 years, will serve as acting director until Suffolk’s arrival.
Suffolk, who goes by Rand, has led the Philbrook since 2007. During that time he reorganized its curatorial and educational departments to emphasize more family-friendly programming, leading to a 63 percent increase in attendance during his tenure.
He grew the operating budget by 40 percent, added 2,800 works to the permanent collection and spearheaded planning for Philbrook Downtown, a 30,000-sq. ft. satellite facility that opened in 2013. The space has galleries dedicated to modern and contemporary art and is the home of the Eugene B. Adkins Study Center for Native American and Southwestern Art, founded under Suffolk’s leadership.
Charles Abney, chair of the High Museum’s board, said in a statement that Suffolk, chosen after an international search, is a “visionary director who understands how to create dynamic connections between museums and the audiences they serve.”
Suffolk has 20 years of experience as a museum professional. Before joining the Philbrook, he spent eight years as director of the Hyde Collection Art Museum in Glens Falls, N.Y. He’d also been a deputy director and curator there. He has a master’s degree in art history from Bryn Mawr College, a master’s degree in higher education administration from Columbia University and a bachelor of arts degree from Connecticut College.
Suffolk grew up outside Akron, Ohio, but moved with his family to Rome, Italy, when he was 15. “I’m not sure I’d be half the person I am today if my father had not given me that opportunity,” he says. Living in Rome for four years opened his eyes to art, culture and history.