Honolulu Museum of Art Director Sean O’Harrow will be leaving after two years at the helm to take over as executive director of the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City, Mo.
Mark Burak, a long-standing trustee and chairman of the Honolulu museum’s Finance Committee, will serve as interim director, the Honolulu Museum of Art announced in a news release Friday. The Honolulu museum said in the release that O’Harrow, whose departure is effective Feb. 8, was leaving due to family health issues, but did not mention he had accepted a job in Kansas City. O’Harrow’s new job with the Kemper Museum, which begins Feb. 11, was announced in a separate news release by that museum. A Honolulu museum spokesman could not be reached after hours regarding O’Harrow’s new position.
O’Harrow, who previously had left a director’s post at the University of Iowa Museum of Art, had seen the Honolulu position as a homecoming when he took it in January 2017. He was the museum’s first top administrator in its 90-year history to have grown up in the islands, according to a 2017 article in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
He had taken the position following the departure of previous director, Stephan Jost.
“I returned to Honolulu to the institution where I spent much of my childhood and which put me on my life’s career path,” said O’Harrow in a statement. “It saddens me that family health issues require us to leave Hawaii and this wonderful place of transformative art experiences. I wish the museum a future of continued success in serving the public in Hawaii.”
In a statement, Violet Loo, chairwoman of the board of trustees, said, “The past two years of Sean’s leadership have been a time of great progress in advancing the museum as a professionally organized and sustainable institution. We are deeply grateful for his efforts to create a more effective and viable organization.”
Kemper Museum said in its news release that O’Harrow was selected after an extensive search.
“At this point in our history, it was critical to bring in an executive director with solid experience, who embraces artists, staff, community, and fundraising responsibilities alike,” said Mary Kemper Wolf, chairwoman of the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art board of trustees, in a statement.
O’Harrow said in the Kemper Museum release that “this year marks a quarter of a century since the Kempers established the museum, and I feel most fortunate and honored to be chosen as executive director on this auspicious anniversary.”
He did not address any family health issues in the Kemper news release.