Phoenix Art Museum director Jim Ballinger is retiring. Here’s what notable locals have to say about his 33-year tenure.
“If you had to name the pillars on which today’s Phoenix is built, Jim Ballinger would be a major one. With consummate skill, artistic acumen and irrepressible energy, he has built a first-class art museum, one that is uniquely ours. It was never easy. But, whether he was chiding the city for not watering the grass or impressing a major donor, Jim knew his target and hit the mark. Most important over an extraordinary career, he never stopped reaching for more and better, his vision exceeding even his most optimistic supporters. And nine times in ten he got what only he considered possible. If institutions were to look like their most important contributors, the Phoenix Art Museum would be long, lanky and dark haired, the shape of a never-satisfied Jim Ballinger.”
– Terry Goddard, former Arizona Attorney General
“Jim has been a steady and solid visionary for the Valley’s cultural growth. He knew that Phoenix could and should support a world-class art museum, and steadily and solidly he advocated for that vision, was passionate about it and he put in the long hours – in the office, but even more importantly, in the community – to bring the entire Valley behind his vision. Jim has advocated for the power and significance of cultural contributions for every community, and he built for his city a premium example of what he was advocating for. Jim is the ultimate colleague, supportive, welcoming, and happy to share his experiences and his network to advance cultural programs across the Valley. We will miss his leadership at the Phoenix Art Museum, but will continue to count on and enjoy his knowledge for and enthusiasm about cultural organizations across the state.”
– Gordon Knox, director of the ASU Art Museum
“Jim is the last of a generation of Arizonans’ arts leaders who leaves a visible and lasting legacy for the museum and the arts in the state.”
– Shelley Cohn, former executive director of the Arizona Commission on the Arts
“I have known Jim the last ten years. I believe his greatest contributions to the Phoenix Art Museum would be the literal expansion of the complex and growth in outreach to the Phoenix area, to civic government, the arts community, to individuals and the general public at large. During the past year, I have been aware of countless programs in not only the visual arts but music, photography, home decor, floral displays, poetry, movies and history. People of all ages, ethnicities, religious and economic backgrounds are invited to stroll through the museum and join a volunteer organization using their area of talent.”
– Kathleen Duyck, retiring president of the Phoenix Art Museum League
“Jim has been there for nearly the entire maturation of the arts as we know it in Arizona, which is quite something! He’s grown the institution from a regional art space into what it is today.”
– Lisa Sette, owner of the Lisa Sette Gallery
“Jim Ballinger has not only done a wonderful job of guiding and shaping a cultural jewel for our region, he has also been a strong national advocate and activist for the central role the arts play in building creative thinkers, innovative leaders, strong communities and healthy economies. Jim is eloquent and convincing when he speaks about the value of investment in the arts, and his contributions to the field have been significant.”
Cindy Ornstein, Executive Director of Mesa Arts Center and Arts and Culture Director for the City of Mesa
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