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Orange County Museum Hires Courtenay Finn as Chief Curator

Ahead of its reopening in October following an expansion, the Orange County Museum of Art (OCMA) in Santa Ana, California, has made two significant hires. Courtenay Finn, chief curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland in Ohio, has been hired to fill that same position at the OCMA, and Meagan Burger, formerly the manager of adult learning at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, was brought on in October as director of learning and engagement.

Finn had joined MoCA Cleveland in 2018, and is currently on the artistic team of the 2022 edition of the Front International: Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art. Prior to joining MoCA Cleveland, she had been a senior curator at the Aspen Art Museum in Colorado.

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Finn and Burger had both been on staff at the Aspen Art Museum under the leadership of Heidi Zuckerman, who is now the OCMA’s director. “As we create OCMA’s next chapter, they already have countless ideas of how to collaborate and serve Southern California’s many communities, cultures and interests,” Zuckerman said in a statement.

Over the past two years, two shows that Finn has worked on at MoCA Cleveland were canceled. A 2020 solo show by Shaun Leonardo featuring works about police killings was called off after local Black activists spoke out against it. The activists echoed claims by Samiria Rice, who alleged that Leonardo did not have the right to depict the killing of her son Tamir Rice by a white police officer. (The exhibition had been mounted at the the Maryland Institute College of Art’s Decker Gallery beforehand, and later traveled to MASS MoCA in North Adams, Massachusetts.) In an apology, Finn and the museum’s former director, Jill Snyder, who left in 2020, said that they did not “engage in critical research and investigation of its content, requirements, and potential impact on moCa staff and the Cleveland community.” Leonardo accused the museum of censorship.

In 2021, MoCA Cleveland also called off “The Regional,” which Finn had co-organized and which was billed as the first biennial-style show to survey contemporary artists working in the Midwest. The museum did not explain why it canceled its showing of the exhibition, which is now on view at the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati, Ohio, and is set to travel to the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City. Finn is not listed as a curator of the exhibition on the Contemporary Arts Center’s website.

The OCMA is set to complete a $93 million expansion later this year. That expansion will add 53,000 square feet to the museum, including 25,000 square feet of exhibition space. In 2021, the museum announced that, following a $2.5 million gift from Lugano Diamonds, it would offer free admission to all for a decade. Its first exhibition upon reopening will be a rebooted version of the California Biennial, which is being guest curated by Elizabeth Armstrong, Essence Harden, and Gilbert Vicario.

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