The Honolulu Museum of Art announced Tuesday it has selected Halona Norton- Westbrook as its new director, following a national search.
Norton-Westbrook currently serves as director of curatorial affairs and curator of modern and contemporary art at the Toledo Museum of Art in Ohio. She begins her position at HoMA on Jan. 6 and will be the 11th director to lead the museum in its 92-year history.
At Toledo Museum, which serves over 400,000 visitors a year, HoMA’s board of trustees said Norton-Westbrook implemented new and innovative approaches to exhibitions, operations and fundraising. She has also served as the museum’s director of collections and associate curator of modern and contemporary art.
“Halona’s expertise and passion for museums and her desire to continuously seek and define the role of the modern museum aligns perfectly with HoMA’s mission and goals,” said interim Director Mark Burak in a news release. “It’s the perfect time to welcome someone with her skills, vision and energy to our institution as we plan for our future, and I’m confident she’ll be a boost to HoMA’s growing success and a champion for our local community.”
Over the summer, HoMA’s trustees announced they had decided to close Spalding House, formerly known as the Contemporary Museum of Art in Makiki Heights, by the end of the year and put it on the market, along with the historic Diamond Head home that has traditionally been the museum director’s residence.
The board said it was a tough decision but that it was doing so to focus on the main South Beretania Street campus.
Norton-Westbrook, a graduate of Mills College in California, holds a master’s degree in art history from the Courtauld Institute of Art in London and a Ph.D. in museology, or the study of museum leadership, and art history from the University of Manchester.
She is also a graduate of Claremont’s Getty Leadership Institute, an executive program for future museum leaders dedicated to focusing their careers on museum management.
“Here is an individual who has seemingly dedicated her entire adult life to preparing for this moment with us here at the Honolulu Museum of Art,” said trustee Herb Conley, who headed HoMA’s extensive director search, in a statement.
Norton-Westbrook was selected from five finalists chosen from a candidate pool of 162. She will replace HoMA’s last director, Sean O’Harrow, who assumed the position for two years in 2016 and is now executive director of the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City, Mo.
“I’m honored to be joining the HoMA team and am delighted to become a part of Hawaii’s vibrant art community,” said Norton-Westbrook in a statement. “HoMA has done an incredible job in advancing the role that art plays in the state, pushing important conversations and defining the future of what museums should look like. I look forward to joining my new colleagues, continuing their great work and meeting the many wonderful artists, leaders and diverse communities that define Hawaii.”