Connie Wolf Abruptly Resigns as Director of Stanford's Cantor Arts Center

Connie Wolf (Photo: Courtesy of Linda A. Cicero / Stanford News)

Connie Wolf, director of the Cantor Arts Center for nearly five years, announced Wednesday that she's leaving her post, according to a statement released to the center's staff and friends.

Talking to the San Francisco Chronicle, Wolf said she’d simply accomplished what she set out to do at Stanford. It's not clear why she decided to leave and leave now, but it's widely accepted Wolf took the museum from a campus treat to a regional powerhouse.

Stanford’s Dean of Humanities and Sciences, Richard Saller, has only high praise for Wolf. "I’ve appreciated her energy, intelligence, discernment," Saller told KQED. "In many ways, she’s leaving Cantor a stronger museum than she found it." He adds one of her main mandates was to more tightly integrate the museum with the campus, and Saller says she succeeded, noting "There are many more students in the museum doing internships and taking classes."

Wolf is credited with increasing the free museum's annual attendance by 60 percent, and improving both the museum's collection and standing in the art world. Under her leadership, the Cantor acquired works from artists such as Edward Hopper, Andy Warhol and Richard Diebenkorn, and exhibited big name photographers like Lee Friedlander and Robert Frank.

Before coming to Stanford in 2012, Wolf was the director and CEO of San Francisco's Contemporary Jewish Museum (CJM). After taking the position in 1999, Wolf would go on to raise $110 million for the CJM, which was used to build a 63,000-square foot-facility in the city's downtown -- before then, the CJM was located in a 2,500-sq. ft building -- and create a $25 million endowment.

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Wiley Hausam, who last year left his position as Stanford's head of performing arts, wrote "She is obviously brilliant at her job, and this is evidenced by the succession of major exhibitions she brought to campus. I know Stanford will miss her, and I look forward to hearing what is next for her."

Stanford officials will not appoint an interim director while a committee searches for Wolf's replacement.

Below is the statement released to the Cantor Arts Center staff and friends on Wednesday:

Dear Members and Friends,

The Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford University announces that Connie Wolf, the John and Jill Freidenrich Director, is on sabbatical this summer and has elected not to return in the fall. She departs leaving the museum a vibrant and thriving resource for the community with a senior management team at the Cantor who will manage daily operations until a new director is on board, and all exhibitions, programs, and projects will continue to move forward.

Connie Wolf joined Stanford in January 2012 and her achievements while at the helm of the Cantor are numerous. Attendance is up nearly 60% from five years ago. The permanent collection has been enriched and strengthened, particularly in the area of twentieth century art with major acquisitions of works by Richard Diebenkorn, Edward Hopper, Jacob Lawrence, and Andy Warhol. Nearly all of the permanent collection is accessible online after a comprehensive inventory and digitization project and museum hours increased from five days a week to six. Family Sundays tours and art-making activities have become a community favorite.

Connie oversaw the construction of an art-viewing classroom, the Wilsey Family Classroom, and significant expansion of Stanford course visits to engage with the collection. She also secured two grants from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support the training of art history PhD candidates through seminars, publications, and exhibitions focused on the permanent collection.

We are grateful for your support and engagement and we hope you will have a chance to visit soon!

Sincerely,
Matthew Tiews
Associate Dean for the Advancement of the Arts
Stanford University