Williams College has announced the appointment of Pamela Franks as the Class of 1956 Director of the Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA). Franks is currently the senior deputy director and Seymour H. Knox, Jr., Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Yale University Art Gallery (YUAG) and previously worked at the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas.
Franks, who will begin her appointment in mid-September, comes to WCMA with a passionate commitment to the role of the museum in higher education and the inspiration art can bring to all audiences. After earning her Ph.D. in the history of art from the University of Texas at Austin, Franks started her career as a postdoctoral curatorial fellow at YUAG and became its first curator of academic affairs in 2004. Throughout her 14-year career at YUAG, she has played a central role in shaping and carrying out priorities for teaching, exhibitions, public programs, community engagement, technology, and collaborations with other academic art museums.
“I am thrilled to be joining the Williams College Museum of Art and the strong tradition of excellence in the arts at Williams,” said Franks. “WCMA is clearly a vital resource for the college and a longstanding model for academic museums. Moving forward, it is exciting to think about the possibilities for growing the collection and cultivating WCMA as a vibrant hub of art and community with students at the center. A vast potential for student engagement, along with faculty partnerships and museum collaborations, ideally positions WCMA to be a catalyst for new thinking about art and audiences and an incubator for innovative approaches to museum practice.”
Following the launch of YUAG’s academic program, Franks moved into the role of deputy director and helped lead a major renovation and expansion, overseeing strategic planning, educational programming, and exhibitions. She also served as the lead curator for its modern and contemporary art department, fostering a dynamic program of special exhibitions and collection displays, making numerous major acquisitions, and engaging artists in the museum.
“Pamela’s experience and vision make her the perfect choice for Williams,” said President-elect Maud Mandel. “Her commitment to learning and faculty partnerships will help promote WCMA’s collections as an academically inspiring learning resource and WCMA itself as an intellectual center at the college. At the same time, her vision for the arts will open up exciting possibilities for engaging the public in ways that distinguish WCMA from and complement our neighboring institutions like the Clark, MASS MoCA and the Bennington Museum.”
Franks was made acting director of YUAG in 2016 and then moved into her current position as senior deputy director, chairing the Gallery’s senior management team. Jock Reynolds, Henry J. Heinz II Director of YUAG, called Franks “a born leader, deeply knowledgeable art historian, and expert administrator whose innovative work mentoring a legion of Yale student curators is highly esteemed.” At Yale, Franks significantly increased the number of college courses that incorporated the Gallery’s collection into their syllabi, as well as the range of opportunities for students to learn about museum practice. She also produced a steady stream of scholarly publications, presentations, and lectures.
“Pamela brings a remarkable combination of deep experience in one of the greatest academic museums in the world, a passion for the arts, and a commitment to collaborating with and supporting a dynamic community of students, faculty, staff, and art lovers,” said Dukes Love, provost at Williams College. “Her skill at uniting the academic and public-facing aspects of a vibrant campus art museum and her interest in art as an avenue for exploring and fostering diverse identities and perspectives make her an outstanding choice for WCMA and for Williams.”
Williams College Museum of Art
The Williams College Museum of Art makes dynamic art experiences to incite new thinking about art, museums, and the world. At the heart of the Williams College campus the museum draws on the collaborative and multidisciplinary ethos of the surrounding college to enliven the more than 15,000 works in its growing collection. The museum and its collection are a catalyst for student learning and community engagement.
Founded in 1793, Williams College is the second-oldest institution of higher learning in Massachusetts. The college’s 2,000 students are taught by a faculty noted for the quality of their teaching and research, and the achievement of academic goals includes active participation of students with faculty in their research. Students’ educational experience is enriched by the residential campus environment in Williamstown, Mass., which provides a host of opportunities for interaction with one another and with faculty beyond the classroom. Admission decisions on U.S. applicants are made regardless of a student’s financial ability, and the college provides grants and other assistance to meet the demonstrated needs of all who are admitted.