Maruja Baldwin Executive Director and CEO
Roxana Velásquez is the Maruja Baldwin Executive Director and CEO at The San Diego Museum of Art. As a passionate advocate for the arts, Ms. Velásquez has focused on fostering cross-cultural dialogues within the San Diego community as well as nationally and internationally. Throughout her professional career, she has organized many high-profile exhibitions in her capacity as the Executive Director of the Museo Nacional de San Carlos, Museo Nacional de Arte (MUNAL), the Museo del Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City, and currently with The San Diego Museum of Art.
In all held leadership positions, Ms. Velásquez elevated each respective institution to international recognition. As the Executive Director and CEO of The San Diego Museum of Art, she has increased the institution’s holdings with the donation and acquisition of works of art by world-renowned artists including Francisco de Zurbarán’s Saint Francis in Prayer in a Grotto, 1655, Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida’s On the Seashore, Valencia, 1908, and Jusepe de Ribera’s Saint Bartholomew, ca. 1632. In 2018, the Museum acquired Lucas Cranach the Younger’s Nymph of the Spring, ca. 1540, and John Singer Sargent’s Portrait of John Alfred Parsons Millet, 1892. During Ms. Velásquez’s tenure, the Museum has acquired more than 1,100 works of art through donations and gifts. High-level exhibitions and loans from the Museum’s collection travel continuously around the world, reinforcing cultural exchange while at the same time raising the global recognition of the institution. These include United States Art from The San Diego Museum of Art at the Suzhou Museum in China (2010), Visions of India at the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid (2012), Mexico’s National Museum of Anthropology (2013), and the National Museum of Fine Arts in Quebec (2014), and the loan of René Magritte’s The Shadows, 1966, to the National Art Center Tokyo (2015) and the Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art (2015). Most recently, Giorgione’s Portrait of a Man, 1506, was on loan to the Royal Academy of Arts (2016) and Juan Sánchez Cotán’s Still Life with Quince, Cabbage, Melon, and Cucumber, ca. 1602, was on loan to the Musei Reali di Torino (2018).
Since Ms. Velásquez’s arrival at the Museum, exhibitions have included From El Greco to Dalí, Gauguin to Warhol, Sorolla and America, The Invention of Glory, The Human Beast (German Expressionism), Mexican Modern Painting from the Andrés Blaisten Collection, and The Art of Music, an exhibition that included over 200 works of art with more than 50 lenders. At the conclusion of the exhibition at The San Diego Museum of Art, The Art of Music traveled to Museo del Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City, Mexico. Opening in 2017, Modern Masters from Latin America: The Pérez Simón Collection–an exhibition of 100 works from 15 countries featuring 75 artists celebrating the multifaceted history of Latin American modernism–was the Museum’s most-attended exhibition over the past decade. In 2019, Ms. Velásquez oversaw the internationally recognized Art & Empire: The Golden Age of Spain. This exhibition was the first in the U.S. to examine the notion of “Golden Age” beyond the shores of the Iberian Peninsula by bringing together works from Spain’s European, American, and Asian realms. Also under the guidance of Ms. Velásquez, the Museum has successfully collaborated with local peer institutions including the San Diego Symphony, the San Diego Youth Symphony, and the University of California, San Diego.
In addition to ongoing public and educational programs and bilingual initiatives, Ms. Velásquez has embraced innovation by bringing technology to the Museum’s galleries. This includes an award-winning mobile app featuring audio and video tours. And in 2020, SDMA launched its 360 Virtual Gallery Experience that allows an immersive digital exploration of the Museum galleries. Ms. Velásquez further participated in new information-exchange programs, including presenting at the first TEDx event staged simultaneously in two countries with speakers presenting in San Diego, California, and Tijuana, Baja California.
It is under Ms. Velásquez’s leadership that the Museum has published new catalogues and children’s books in addition to receiving multiple grants for exhibitions. Grants have been received from the Getty Foundation as well as the James Irvine Foundation to fund the Museum’s public art program Open Spaces for at-risk areas within the San Diego community.
Fall 2020 marked Ms. Velásquez’s 10th anniversary at the Museum. Read more about her accomplishments from the past 10 years: See the Decade in Review.
Ms. Velásquez is a member of multiple boards, including Association of Art Museum Directors; International Council of Museums; American Alliance of Museums; Asociación Mexicana de Profesionales de Museos; San Diego Tourism Authority; Curatorial Advisory Board at University of San Diego; and a Trustee of the Balboa Park Cultural Partnership (BPCP).
Ms. Velásquez has been distinguished by the King of Spain with the Cross of Isabel la Católica for outstanding cultural projects of Spanish art organized in Mexico (2007). The Belgian government awarded her with the prestigious decoration of the Knight of the Order of the Crown for cross-cultural relations between Belgium and Mexico (2014). Ms. Velásquez served on the Paris Biennial Commission responsible for selecting the international galleries and antique dealers to exhibit at the 2017 & 2018 Biennials. Most recently, she received the Charles Nathanson Memorial Award for Cross-Border Region Building at LEAD San Diego’s 18th Annual Visionary Awards. This award recognizes visionary leadership by addressing and demonstrating joint solutions to cross-border issues and further uniting San Diego and Baja California for a common future.
Deputy Director for Curatorial Affairs and Education
Anita Feldman joined the Museum as Director of Curatorial Affairs in May 2014. Prior to this, Ms. Feldman was Head of Collections and Exhibitions for the Henry Moore Foundation in England, curating exhibitions of his work worldwide. She has collaborated with Tate Britain, London; the Kremlin Museum, Moscow; the State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg; the Musée Rodin, Paris, and The Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, as well as many other museums throughout Europe, the United States, South America, China, and Japan. She was responsible for managing a collection of more than 15,000 objects including French Realist, Impressionist, and Post-Impressionist paintings, arts from Africa, pre-Columbia, and archaic Greece, as well as Henry Moore’s home, studios and sculpture park in rural Hertfordshire.
She served on the senior management team of the Foundation and as a Director of the Foundation’s Trading Company, member of the Grants Committee, and member of the Henry Moore Authentication Committee. Feldman wrote her thesis on Richard Serra at the Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London, where she also studied the development of modern art in France. Prior to this she received a degree in American and Modern Art at the University of California Los Angeles and organized exhibitions for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Her publications include the definitive books on Moore’s textiles and his original plasters, as well as a new perspective on Rodin and exhibition catalogues worldwide.
Since arriving at SDMA, Ms. Feldman was instrumental in organizing Art of the Open Air, which brought several outdoor sculptures into the Plaza de Panama. She oversaw the rehanging of all the museum’s collection galleries and the creation of the Visible Vaults, an interactive space allowing an additional 300 works of art to be on view. She was the lead curator for the British contemporary sculpture exhibition Richard Deacon What You See Is What You Get.
Kari A. Kovach
Chief Operating Officer
Ms. Kovach oversees facilities, security, IT, marketing, communications, and earned income. Previously, she was the Museum’s Director of Marketing and Communications, responsible for branding, cross-platform promotions, digital assets, and media. Prior to joining the Museum, she was a consultant for international digital & print news outlets, entertainment information providers, and national marketing agencies. Ms. Kovach spent a decade in New York City as a marketing strategist and researcher working for various magazines & digital properties at Condé Nast Publications, including The New Yorker, Golf Digest, and Golf World. She also helped launch and served as the marketing director at Condé Nast Portfolio, one of the largest print debuts in magazine publishing history. A graduate of Georgetown University, Ms. Kovach started her career as a media relations and logistics aide to Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, the former Secretary of State and National Security Advisor.
Director of Development & Membership
Stacey Loomis brings to the Museum 14 years of development experience in fundraising, including her most recent role as director of major gifts and planned giving at the San Diego Opera. During her time there, Loomis secured major and planned gifts from individual prospects, and managed donor acquisitions and cultivation events. Loomis’ fundraising career also included roles with Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego; University of Maryland, College Park; the Aspen Institute, Washington D.C.; and National Public Radio.
A Southern California native, Loomis received her bachelor’s degree in English from Reed College, and her Master of Business Administration in Non-Profit Management and Marketing from the George Washington University.
Ladan Akbarnia, Ph.D.
Curator of South Asian and Islamic Art
Dr. Akbarnia comes to the Museum with 20 years of curatorial and research experience in the arts of the Islamic world, in particular from Iran, Central Asia and India. She has worked with reputable institutions across the world, including in her most recent role as Curator and Assistant Keeper for the Islamic Collections at The British Museum in London, where she was a lead curator for the Albukhary Foundation Gallery of the Islamic World. Akbarnia previously served as Executive Director at the Iran Heritage Foundation in London and Associate Curator of Islamic Art at the Brooklyn Museum. She has published extensively on a variety of topics, including cross-cultural transmissions between Iran and East Asia, Sufism and Islamic art, and contemporary Middle Eastern art. Included among her many languages are Persian, French, Arabic, and Spanish. She received a Master of Arts in art history from the University of California, Los Angeles, and a Master of Arts and Ph.D. in the history of art and architecture from Harvard University.
Michael Brown, Ph.D.
Curator of European Art
Dr. Brown oversees the permanent collection of European Art before 1900, organizes related exhibitions, and contributes to the Museum’s provenance research and art-acquisition programs. His main area of expertise is painting in Spain and the Hispanic Americas. While completing his doctoral dissertation at NYU’s Institute of Fine Arts on 17th- and 18th-century Spanish Colonial portraiture, Brown served as the Mayer Curatorial Fellow and subsequently postdoctoral Research Associate at the Denver Art Museum. Dr. Brown has taught at the University of Colorado at Boulder and the University of Denver and is the author of numerous articles on Spanish portraiture and the history of collecting Hispanic art. His recent exhibitions at the San Diego Museum of Art include Divine Desire: Printmaking, Mythology, and the Birth of the Baroque, Venetian Views, and Brueghel to Canaletto: Masterpieces from the Grasset Collection.
Rachel Jans, Ph.D.
Associate Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art
Rachel Jans is a curator of modern and contemporary art. Her exhibitions, writing, and research focus on artistic exchange between artists and cultures, and the way contemporary artists draw on the past to explore and challenge the present. Most recently she was an assistant curator of painting and sculpture at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. She worked for over eight years with the museum’s outdoor sculpture program, artist commissions, oversaw its collection of postwar German art, and organized many exhibitions, including New Work: Nevin Aladağ; Lineage: Paul Klee and Ruth Asawa; Rebecca Horn; Nam June Paik: In Character, among others. She has lectured at institutions around the world and has contributed essays to major catalogues produced by SFMOMA, Tate Modern, MoMA, the Block Museum of Art, the Smart Museum of Art, and Museum Villa Stuck. She holds a Ph.D. in art history from the University of Chicago, where her research was supported by numerous awards, including a Fulbright Fellowship, the Berlin Program for Advanced German and European Studies at the Freie Universität, and a Whiting Dissertation Fellowship.