Alex Rich, who came to Lakeland in 2014 to head Florida Southern College’s art history program and galleries, has been named executive director and chief curator of the Polk Museum Art. He succeeds Claire Orologas, who has announced her retirement after leading the museum since 2012, according to a news release issued today by Florida Southern College, which formed a partnership with the museum two years ago.

Rich, 37, became curator and director of galleries and exhibitions for the museum in June 2017 as part of the partnership with FSC.

Rich’s promotion and Orologas’ retirement take effect June 1, according to FSC spokeswoman Rebecca Paul-Martin.

Orologas, 66, will continue to promote the museum in her new role as executive director emerita, according to the news release. She is relocating to Micanopy.

“It isn’t easy leaving an organization I love, to say nothing of all the wonderful people I have worked with and come to know,” Orologas, who is on annual leave, told The Ledger via email today. “It’s the right time for me, though, and I have some ideas about what I might do in my future life.”

In an email sent to museum members this afternoon, Orologas urged continued support: “Dr. H. Alexander Rich has helped us forge this new path through the fabulous exhibitions he has organized and brought to our community. He is eager to bring his expertise to bear as the new leader of this wonderful institution. Please join me in congratulating him. Your continued support of the museum, of Dr. Rich, and of the staff will be as important as ever.”

Pal Powell, who has held leadership positions at the museum for 27 years, will continue as deputy director.

“It’s a great honor to be given the opportunity to lead a distinguished community and academic art museum,” Rich said in a prepared statment. “The Polk Museum of Art at Florida Southern College has long been a core contributor to the life and culture of Lakeland and Central Florida. Since its affiliation with Florida Southern, the Museum has begun to make new and important contributions as an academic museum, promoting diverse areas of scholarship and broader community education and outreach, among other initiatives.”

Rich, who grew up in New York City, majored in English and art history at Dartmouth College and earned master’s and doctoral degrees in art history from The Institute of Fine Arts at New York University.

Previous experience includes:

  • A high school apprenticeship as a tour guide at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • Internships at the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Met
  • Membership in the Exhibitions Committee at the Hood Museum of Art
  • A research/writing fellowship in the Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum of Art
  • Assistant to the Head of Museum Interpretation in the Education Department of the Whitney Museum
  • Adjunct professor at Hunter College, City University of New York, and the Fashion Institute of Technology.

In a prepared statement, Museum Board Chair Lynda Buck said: “Dr. Rich has been a transformative leader as he has helped to guide the affiliation between Florida Southern College and the Polk Museum of Art. He has worked to strengthen the Mmuseum’s vital role in the local arts community while expertly directing its added mission of becoming a superior academic museum, bringing in world-class exhibitions that benefit the public and students alike.”

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Barry Friedman founded Lkldnow.com in 2015 as the culmination of a career in print and digital journalism. Since 1982, he has used the tools of reporting, editing and content curation to help people in Lakeland understand their community better.

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