Amada Cruz
Amada Cruz

The Santa Barbara Museum of Art (SBMA) has appointed of Amada Cruz as the Robert and Mercedes Eichholz Director and CEO effective Oct. 30.

Presented by the museum’s selection committee, Cruz’s appointment was voted unanimously by the Board of Trustees.

“We are grateful to the more than 100 stakeholders, including members of the community, employees, trustees (past and present), and donors who participated in the selection process,” said Lynn Cunningham Brown, selection committee chair.

“Their inputs were used to inform our decision making and following an international search and reviewing many impressive candidates, we are delighted with the outcome,” Brown said.

Cruz comes to SBMA from the Seattle Art Museum (SAM) where she served as the Illsley Ball Nordstrom Director and CEO since 2019.

“I am thrilled to be joining SBMA with its important mission to integrate art into the lives of people,” Cruz said. “That inspiring charge is a call to engage the different communities of the Santa Barbara region by increasing the museum’s local relevance and global visibility.

“I look forward to working with the staff and board to build upon the strong foundation of scholarly exhibitions and robust educational programs established under my predecessor, Larry Feinberg,” she said.

“As we move through the 21st century, museums are being challenged to prove their purpose by centering audiences and building community,” Cruz said. “The varied collections and programs of SBMA offer myriad ways to celebrate and embrace a rapidly diversifying population.”

“Amada has a proven track record as a consummate professional, a visionary leader, and a change agent who has succeeded wherever she has been,” said Nicholas Mutton, SBMA Board chair. “We are embracing a wonderful opportunity at this moment in time.

“This change will allow us to craft together a compelling strategic vision for the future, engage with the Santa Barbara community, champion inclusion, diversity, equity, and access, empower and inspire our Museum staff, and enhance the institution’s resources.

“The museum is thankful to Larry Feinberg, retiring at the end of this year, for his contributions during his successful 15-year tenure at SBMA.”

Over her 30-year career, Cruz has held posts as the director of the Phoenix Art Museum; executive director at San Antonio-based Artpace, an artist residency program; director of the Center for Curatorial Studies Museum at Bard College; and acting chief curator and Manilow Curator of Exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago.

Cruz has also worked as a grant maker and was the founding program director for United States Artists in Los Angeles.

She also has served as executive director of Artadia: The Fund for Art and Dialogue in New York City, which awarded grants to visual artists in San Francisco, Houston and Chicago.

Born in Havana, Cuba, Cruz received a bachelor’s degree in art history and political science at New York University. She was honored with the 2018 Virginia Cardenas Arts Advocacy Award by Xico, an Arizona cultural institution serving Latinx and Indigenous artists.

In 2015, W Magazine named her one of the 11 most powerful female museum directors in America.