American LGBTQ+ Museum Hires First Executive Director

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Ben Garcia has been hired as the American LGBTQ+ Museum’s first executive director.

 The board of the New York-based American LGBTQ+ Museum has hired a new executive director ahead of the museum’s anticipated 2024 launch. 

Ben Garcia, formerly the deputy executive director and chief learning officer at the Ohio History Connection, will lead the LGBTQ+ Museum during a pivotal period of development as it looks to stand out as the city’s first museum dedicated purely to LGBTQ life, culture, and history.

Garcia, who will assume his new role on February 14, is charged with spearheading the museum’s fundraising efforts to support exhibitions, educational programs, and operations, according to a January 18 announcement. 

“To lead the American LGBTQ+ Museum into this next phase is a dream realized,” Garcia said in a written statement. “Together, we will tell the stories of queer people in this country from its Indigenous beginnings to the present; thousands of stories that haven’t been told before in museums. Stories brought to life through the work of LGBTQ+ creatives and scholars. This museum will be a space of celebration, connection, activism, and deep meaning.”

Members of the museum’s board of directors pose for a picture at a groundbreaking event in September.Donna Aceto

Garcia is entering his new position after several stints working in museums and cultural centers in other parts of the country. In his most recent job with the Ohio History Connection, he highlighted the history of Indigenous individuals and boosted environmental and economic sustainability efforts across 58 museums and sites. Garcia also worked at the Los Angeles-based J. Paul Getty Museum and the Skirball Cultural Center. 

Among other leadership posts, Garcia is on the board of directors at Equality Ohio, a statewide LGBTQ organization.

Richard Burns, the chair of the museum’s board of directors at the American LGBTQ+ Museum, said Garcia “brings the experience, knowledge, and vision we need to lead our museum to our opening in 2024 and beyond.”

Imara Jones, a board member of the museum who delivered remarks at the groundbreaking event in September, praised Garcia for showing that he understands the need to highlight those who have been “left out and left behind.” 

“This understanding is one that he gets profoundly and clearly,” Jones said. “It is why our museum will be unique in important ways as a result. It’s exciting, quite frankly.”

The new hire marks the latest step in the development of the forthcoming museum, which will be constructed at the New-York Historical Society at the corner of 77th Street and Central Park West. Board members and community leaders gathered in September of last year — four years after beginning the planning process — for a star-studded groundbreaking ceremony featuring tennis legend Billie Jean King, Broadway actor André De Shields, and others who emphasized the importance of bringing a dedicated museum to the community.

The first part of construction, set for next summer, will focus on building out the museum’s library before fleshing out galleries and classrooms. The museum will stretch across 60,000 square feet of space and is expected to boast a well-rounded base of queer artifacts. Board members intend to ensure that the space brings renewed attention to the diversity of the queer community.

“A key goal of this museum is to right many of the historic wrongs committed through the deliberate erasure of the gender and racial diversity of our community for political expediency,” Jones said.