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Taubman Museum of Art Names New Executive Director

Chief educator at Virginia Museum of Fine Arts to lead Roanoke landmark

Della Watkins
Della Watkins

The Taubman Museum of Art has introduced Della S. Watkins, chief educator at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, as its new executive director.

Watkins brings to the Taubman extensive experience in museum management, volunteer engagement, public programming and development in addition to art education.

“We are delighted to introduce to the Roanoke Valley a statewide leader in the arts from a renowned institution to lead the Taubman Museum of Art to a new level of accessibility, engagement and outreach,” said Nicholas Taubman, chairman of the museum’s board of trustees. “In searching for a new executive director, trustees were seeking a proven leader who believes in engaging the community through art and creating programming that resonates with our diverse audiences.”

Watkins has been at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) in Richmond since 1997, taking on increasingly more responsible positions in education and management, most recently as the museum’s chief educator. She also has served as acting director of education and statewide partnerships and as manager of school and family programs. She started her career as an art educator in public schools in Richmond, Virginia Beach and Charlottesville.

“Della is well-rounded in her experience and grasps the educational and outreach priorities of a museum like ours dedicated to serving the community,” Taubman said. While at VMFA, Watkins was responsible for all educational projects, long-range planning and departmental objectives for the museum’s educational division, and managed a staff of 18 employees, 190 contract teachers and 250 volunteers and interns.

“I look forward to working with this community, outstanding staff, and committed board to take the Taubman Museum of Art to new and lively levels, applying the skills and knowledge I gained over the years while serving at one of the nation’s leading art museums,” Watkins said. “I am committed to leading the Taubman to be an even more engaging social, educational and cultural destination.”

In addition to creating workshops, classes, lectures and exhibits, Watkins developed budgets, grants, strategic plans and policies for VMFA.

She earned a degree in art history and art education at James Madison University and a master’s degree in art education from Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). She also completed leadership programs at Georgetown University, University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business and the Getty Leadership Institute, among others, and has presented at numerous industry conferences. In addition, she has taught a graduate-level course at VCU.

She is a member of the American and Virginia Associations of Museums, Virginia and National Art Education Associations and the VCU Art Education Alumni Advisory Board.

“Della’s experience on the management team of one of the foremost institutions in the nation will be an asset to the Taubman Museum as we continue to set a course for the future,” added Heywood Fralin, vice chair of the board.

In October, the museum announced a new board of trustees and a plan to offer free general admission with a $150,000 contribution from Advance Auto Parts. Through Dec. 31, 13,608 people have taken advantage of this, increasing museum attendance by about 30 percent.

“The Taubman Museum of Art is a vital part of the fabric of the Roanoke Valley. Every day, it touches the lives of children, college students, art lovers, visitors, fellow cultural institutions and non-profit organizations throughout the Roanoke Valley and beyond,” Fralin said. “We are confident that Della can continue on the path we’ve created to expand our programming, introduce new exhibitions, grow our membership, offer more classes, and build partnerships and relationships while enhancing Roanoke’s vibrant cultural scene.”

Watkins will begins her new position on Feb. 4th.

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