On the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the Fingerman Lecture, and the public announcement of our positioning statement, the Des Moines Art Center presents a series of four lectures by leading museum directors about the role of museums in addressing the complexity of today’s cultural, political, and social concerns. James Rondeau, Kaywin Feldman, Franklin Sirmans, and Kevin Gover will visit us this spring and fall and present ideas that challenge long held beliefs about museums and help us envision a bold and relevant future for our cultural institutions.

This series is made possible through generous gifts by Louis and Lois Fingerman. The artists and scholars who have spoken at the Art Center have enriched the understanding of the works of art collected here, as well as provided the opportunity for the community to become familiar with ideas and topics embodied in the art of our time. We invite the community to join us for these presentations and hope the resulting conversations promote curiosity, further critical and empathetic thinking, and inspire dialogue outside the museum.

  • Senior Curator Alison Ferris

    primer lecture + reception and community conversation

    Thursday, March 7 / 7 pm
    Alison Ferris, Director of Curatorial Affairs / Senior Curator

    Setting the stage for this series is a primer lecture by Director of Curatorial Affairs and Senior Curator Alison Ferris on the state of the field. In this presentation, Ferris will discuss Scaffold, a sculpture by Sam Durant at the Walker Art Center (2017); Dana Schutz’s painting Open Casket in the 2017 Whitney Biennial; the Hollywood film Black Panther; and Decolonize This Place—an arts-activist collective devoted to the decolonial overhaul of New York City museums.

    Ferris’s lecture poses complicated questions that both artists and the museum field are grappling with: What are art museums’ responsibilities in this fraught moment in history? Who gets to decide which histories to address in art? Who should tell stories and how should they be told? Are there limits and responsibilities that go along with artistic freedom and curatorial judgement?

    Following the lecture, guests are invited to attend a reception and community gathering in the lobby where we will have an opportunity to continue processing these questions. Guests are encouraged to grab a drink and join a conversation.

  • James Rondeau

    james rondeau: expanding the path forward for museums

    Thursday, April 11 / 7 pm
    James Rondeau, President and Eloise W. Martin Director of the Art Institute of Chicago

    In 2016, James Rondeau became the President and Eloise W. Martin Director of the Art Institute of Chicago. Mr. Rondeau joined the Art Institute in 1998 and has led two of the eleven curatorial departments. Over the course of his tenure he secured numerous major gifts, most notably in 2015, when he ushered in the largest gift of art in the museum’s history—the Edlis / Neeson Collection. Under Rondeau’s leadership, the contemporary galleries have been reinstalled with a more global and diverse narrative. The installation transforms the museum’s presentation of contemporary art, bringing new depth and perspective that makes this collection the strongest of any encyclopedic art museum in the world. Mr. Rondeau holds a BA in American civilization from Middlebury College, Vermont and an MA in the history of art from Williams College, Massachusetts.

  • Kaywin Feldman

    kaywin feldman: art and empathy: The wonder of wonders

    Sunday, May 5 / 1:30 pm
    Kaywin Feldman, Director of the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC

    Beginning in March 2019 Kaywin Feldman will serve as the first female director of the National Gallery of Art and only the fifth director in the institution’s 77-year history. Prior to her new appointment, Feldman led the Minneapolis Institute of Art since 2008. She transformed the museum’s relationship to its city through free membership, community dialogue, and direct engagement with social issues like equity and empathy. A past president of the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) and the American Alliance of Museums (AAM), she has galvanized the field and doubled Mia’s attendance through innovative exhibitions and programs. Feldman’s own fascination with museums began with childhood visits and an early interest in archaeology. She earned her BA in classical archaeology from the University of Michigan and an MA from the Institute of Archaeology at the University of London. She also earned an MA in art history from the Courtauld Institute of Art at the University of London, and received an Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree from the Memphis College of Art, Tennessee.

  • Franklin Sirmans


    Thursday, September 12 / 7 pm
    Franklin Sirmans, Director of the Pérez Art Museum Miami

    Franklin Sirmans is an art critic, editor, writer, curator, and has been the director of the Pérez Art Museum Miami since October 2015. His directorial initiatives include ensuring the museum’s art program reflects Miami’s community and securing donations. In his first six months as director, he procured the largest donation of works in the museum's short history—more than 100 pieces of art from the collection of Craig Robins. In 2017, Sirmans worked with Jorge Pérez on a gift that transformed the museum’s holdings with a donation of more than 170 works of contemporary Cuban art. He has held curatorial leadership positions at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, California and The Menil Collection in Houston, Texas. In 2007 Sirmans was the recipient of the David Driskell Prize—the first national award to honor and celebrate contributions to the field of art of the African Diaspora, which is administered by the High Museum of Art, Atlanta. He holds a BA in the history of art and English form Wesleyan University, Connecticut.

  • Kevin Gover

    kevin gover

    Sunday, October 27 / 1:30 pm
    Kevin Gover, Director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian

    Kevin Gover is the director of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian and a citizen of the Pawnee Tribe of Oklahoma. He began as director in December 2007. Under Gover’s leadership, visitation has grown to 1.8 million visitors per year, achieving the museum’s mission of “advancing knowledge and understanding of the Native cultures of the Western Hemisphere—past, present, and future and working to support the continuance of culture, traditional values, and transitions in contemporary Native life.” Mr. Gover earned a BA in public and international affairs from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University, New Jersey, a JD from University of New Mexico College of Law, and received an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Princeton. Before entering the museum field, he operated the largest Indian-owned law firm in the country and served as Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs in the United States Department of the Interior under President Bill Clinton.

entirely unexpected