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Sculpting the Landscape

Dr. Jack Becker Executive Director and CEO Joslyn Art Museum

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In April, Dr. Jack Becker arrived as Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of Joslyn Art Museum. Raised in Minnesota with a keen appreciation for the Midwest, Becker earned his MBA from the University of Michigan, one of the top five U.S. business schools. There are “only a handful” of museum executives in the United States who have earned this degree, says Becker.



Securing this credential “is one of the best” professional experiences for Becker to date, due to his “acquisition of a set of tools” which he feels serve him well, rarely developed from within most artistic academic backgrounds.

Explaining his overall role using broad-brush strokes, Becker says: “My role is multi-faceted, serving as the external face. I see my role as building relationships with key constituents; donors, members, arts and academic institutions, staff, board and community leadership.”

Tongue-in-cheek, Becker admits that part of the listening and learning process of running a museum the caliber of Joslyn is to “observe and obsess,” suggesting a creative perspective and vibrant personality. His artistic sensibilities lie at the heart and foundation of the very realistic financial and challenging business decisions that face a museum executive.

“Omaha is a very generous, prosperous community
which believes in the treasures of the city,
and holds a strong tradition for the arts.”

He relishes key responsibilities of setting the strategy and serving as principal fundraiser in the quest to secure short and long term resources for the future. “My efforts will position, maintain, enhance and expand the role of Joslyn as a premier arts institution and regional art museum.”

As president and CEO of Cheekwood Botanical Garden and Museum of Art in Nashville, Tennessee, Becker secured an important exhibition which featured rare Faberge decorative eggs. Significant donor development achievements were also critical elements of his success at his most recent career post.

In the formative first years of his career, he found his professional niche by focusing his vision on museum leadership roles. For over two decades, Becker has blended his personal interests within a strategic, and perhaps at times, serendipitous career path.

Head And Shoulders Above

Jim Young, Chairman of Joslyn’s Board of Directors and Chairman and CEO of Union Pacific Railroad, understands the challenges and opportunities top leadership positions require.

Young says that Becker’s attainment of an MBA shows “initiative on his way to assume greater responsibilities” while praising his straightforward and impressive communication skills.

During the national search process, Young and his committee encountered candidates with great artistic and educational credentials. Becker stood out to Young by demonstrating his understanding that leading a not-for-profit is in fact running a business.

Describing his character, Young says Becker “knows and has a passion for the arts” while demonstrating the ability to generate revenue and cost control budgeting of an institution. Paramount to his selection were skills revolving around leadership, vision and the ability to motivate staff and constituents.

Sitting across the interview table, he liked the fact that Becker is “aggressive in terms of donor fundraising and ensuring that programs are in place” and says “he’s straightforward when you ask him a question. He is very articulate and good with people.”

Artistic and Personal Interests

Worldwide traveling rates high on Becker’s list of favorite leisure time pursuits, which enhance a sincere and ever-deepening appreciation for his Midwestern roots. He and his partner Lester Katz, an interior designer, frequently entertain at their home, sharing good food and wine with their guests. Prior to coming to Omaha, they enjoyed a three-week tour of Europe. Naturally, visiting museums in the cities they toured was part and parcel of their agenda.

His personal interests include exercising and hiking while admiring the natural artistic highlights compliments of Mother Nature. From an early age, Becker could be found playing in parks. Good naturedly, he admits to running in museums during field trips as a five year old boy.

“My efforts will position, maintain, enhance and expand
the role of Joslyn as a premier arts institution
and regional art museum.”

Creative focal points include photography, three-dimensional objects and the decorative arts. He has a keen appreciation for antique furniture and early twentieth century silver. His artistic ear extends to his enjoyment of the Opera and the Symphony.

Personal experiences while living, visiting and working in cosmopolitan locales such as Washington D.C. and New York make an early assessment of his new-found city significant. “Omaha is a very generous, prosperous community which believes in the treasures of the city, and has a strong tradition for the arts.”

The Jewel Known as Joslyn

Well known within the museum community for its collections and in Omaha’s physical landscape for its Art Deco stylings, the institution’s website states “Nebraska’s largest and most distinguished art museum, Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha has served as the premier center for visual art since opening in 1931. Joslyn’s collection features work from antiquity to the present, with an emphasis on 19th- and 20th-century European and American art.”

Characteristic of his aggressive and friendly nature, Becker invites everyone to “come visit Joslyn.”

-end- metroMAGAZINE




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