The Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art announced earlier this month that Kathryn Haigh of Fishers will be its new president and CEO.
Haigh succeeds retiring CEO John Vanausdall, who has led the Indianapolis museum for more than 26 years.
Haigh has nearly three decades of experience in the field, including exhibition management, community outreach and museum operations. She also chairs the Fishers Art and Culture Commission, which she’s sat on for three years.
In the announcement, Haigh said she plans to collaborate with the community at large to create new engagement opportunities.
“I am excited about the opportunity to lead the Eiteljorg at this particular time in our country’s history,” Haigh said. “We are experiencing a period of cultural transformation in Indianapolis with many new leaders at key institutions, and I can’t wait to see what we can do together to promote culture and become a community resource for all.”
Haigh most recently has been interim director and chief operating officer at the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields. In that role, she has prioritized collecting and exhibiting art from marginalized groups and worked to connect with underserved communities.
Haigh said working for a smaller museum was appealing, because she felt she could have a bigger impact. She added that the strategic plan the Eiteljorg board had drafted aligned closely with her values and interests.
“Meeting the committee sealed it for me,” she said. “This is the most engaged, passionate group of people you’ll ever meet on a board. Then I went over to see the museum. I saw their new Native American gallery installation and I was blown away. I’ve seen a lot of installations in other museums and this one was the best.”
Haigh said she will build on the great programs in place and expand them. She said she’d like to invite a broader audience and raise the national profile of the museum. And, always, engage the community to find out what it wants from the institution.
“Through those conversations, you develop such a rich, deeper connection with your community,” she said. “That’s how museums continue to exist.”
Eiteljorg Board of Directors Chair Pat Anker said Vanausdall announced his plan to retire last August, and the board’s challenge was to find a high-quality replacement.
“Kathryn Haigh clearly is that someone,” Anker stated. “Her career has been one of rich artistic as well as deep operating experience. We searched for – and found – someone with exemplary credentials in leadership, fundraising, DEAI, strategic planning and community outreach. In addition, Kathryn brings a tremendous exhibition-development background.”
L.G. Edwards, an Eiteljorg Board member and former board chair, headed up the search committee. More than 200 people applied for the position, and Edwards said Haigh stood out as the top choice.
“As part of a purposeful and inclusive search process, a particular effort was made to ensure the voices and networks of Native American and First Nations communities were included, both in order to support the development of the position description, and in our outreach to potential candidates and those with networks that might include potential candidates,” Edwards said.
Haigh graduated from the University of Cincinnati with a degree in art history. She served as chief registrar, first at the Cincinnati Museum of Art from 1998 to 2007 and then at IMA from 2007 to 2010. As deputy director, she was promoted to increasing responsibilities.
Haigh became chief operating officer of IMA at Newfields in 2017, planned the institution’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and in 2021 became interim director and chief operating officer.
Haigh will be the fifth chief executive or museum director in the Eiteljorg’s history and its first female president and CEO. She will arrive a few weeks before Vanausdall’s departure, so that the outgoing and incoming CEOs will overlap during the transition.
Haigh starts her new job in May.
For about the museum, visit eiteljorg.org/