With the recent departures of the Center for Contemporary Arts Cinematheque Director Jason Silverman and Creative Santa Fe Executive Director Cyndi Conn still ringing in our ears, contemporary arts institution SITE Santa Fe announced today its longtime Phillips Director and Chief Curator Irene Hofmann will step down in January after 10 years with the museum.
The news comes just after SITE's 25th anniversary celebration last month.
"It's a big change, and I guess it's sad to step away from an institution I've really loved, but it's also a moment of opportunity—it's a lot of emotions," Hofmann tells SFR. "But I've been there an amazing 10 years, which, for a 25-year-old institution, is a long time. I feel really proud of a decade of really rewarding work. There was so much we were able to do and build, but it also is a milestone that hasn't gone unnoticed by me."
Under Hofmann's watch, SITE grew from a locally notable contemporary institution into one of the most respected outfits in the country. A major part of that growth was Hofmann's revitalizing SITE's biennials as SITElines in 2013.
"By the time I got here, the biennial here and many other places had become formulaic, with a lot of the same curators and artists cycling through," she says. "It was feeling increasingly like a closed system, which I didn't see relating much to this place—the idea was we'd reposition the biennial to no longer be so focused on looking at Europe, to…focus on the Americas."
Hofmann also oversaw the 2016 renovations to SITE which brought expanded space and amenities as well as the striking hull-like element jutting from the museum's facade. Through such steps and other initiatives, including a combination of visual arts, performance pieces, talks, concerts and community engagement, Hofmann helped create a more accessible bent to SITE's exhibitions and events than the museum had had in years.
Last year's Bel Canto, for example, pulled together the artistry of international opera, while events from hip-hop legend Rakim, indie-electro duo Princess and Ross Hamlin's Dovetail Orchestra—a live music event set to silent film—courted a more youthful audience.
This year's Displaced proved a moving show as well, with works examining refugee crises by South Africa's Candice Breitz, India's Reena Saini Kallat and Santa Fean Cannupa Hanska Luger among others. Hofmann, who co-curated the show with SITE Assistant Curator Brandee Caoba, says she even managed to raise enough funding to make the entire run of the show (through Jan. 24) free to the public.
This is the second high-profile departure for SITE Santa Fe this year following director of external affairs Anne Wrinkle's exit in July. Clara Samayoa, director of finance and administration, will step into the director role while the institution conducts a search for Hofmann's replacement.
Hofmann tells SFR the museum is on solid financial ground, and her decision to step down is not about money. At last month's 25th anniversary virtual celebration, also a fundraiser, SITE wound up raising roughly $20,000 more than its goal.
Regardless, Hofmann says, she doesn't have plans for the future just yet.
"This is the longest I've been anywhere, at least in a job, and I've never taken a break between jobs," she tells SFR. "But I'm more grownup now. I can see the importance of just being open to whatever comes next and really giving myself a break. Who knows where the next adventure will take me? Who knows."
SITE Santa Fe has been closed due to public health orders and is scheduled to reopen on Thursday, Dec. 10.