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Academy of Arts picks new director

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After a six-month search, the Honolulu Academy of Arts named Stephan Jost as its new director. He will assume the post on May 2.

Jost comes from Vermont’s Shelburne Museum, where he was director for the past five years. The Shelburne Museum, like the Honolulu Academy of Arts, is the state’s primary art museum. Under Jost’s tenure the museum produced art exhibitions of major artists including Mary Cassatt and Ansel Adams, along with a seminal exhibition on Shaker furniture design and a popular motorcycle show.

Jost’s appointment comes at a pivotal time for the academy, which is poised to merge with The Contemporary Museum.

A December letter to members stated that the two museums would sign an agreement this month.

"Stephan Jost’s accomplishments and past experience make him an ideal director to lead the Honolulu Academy of Arts," said Lynne Johnson, chairwoman of the board of trustees and acting director since March. "From understanding the needs of a museum that serves a highly regional audience as well as acts as an important tourist destination, to having a strong fundraising track record, to having a deep knowledge of art history and a passion for contemporary art, Stephan is poised to successfully steer Honolulu’s art museum into the future."

Jost was also director of the Mills College Art Museum in Oakland, Calif., which he reinvigorated as a cultural center for the community; museum attendance increased 50 percent during his first year there. Jost visited more than 200 artist studios, including some in Europe and Asia, resulting in nationally reviewed exhibitions. He also devoted a small gallery at Mills to house exhibitions he rotated every two weeks.

"This approach allowed us to integrate different communities into the museum," he said.

A Michigan native, Jost, 41, has a Bachelor of Arts in art history from Hampshire College in Massachusetts and a Master of Arts in art history, specializing in the history of photography, from the University of Texas at Austin.

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