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YAM executive director announces resignation
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YAM executive director announces resignation

Bryan Knicely, executive director of the Yellowstone Art Museum, has resigned. His departure will be in September, according to a press release sent out on Monday. 

Knicely joined the museum staff in 2018. Prior to that, he was executive director of the Evansville Museum of Art, History & Science in Indiana, and director of the Coral Springs Museum of Art in Florida.

During his three-year tenure at the YAM, Knicely oversaw the popular art auction fundraiser, which drew the works regional artists and big names in the art world, including Renoir, Dali, and Picasso, as well as regional stars Kevin Red Star, Ted Waddell, Josh DeWeese, and others.

Knicely's long-range planning brought changes to the museum mission statement and set out organizational goals to increase access, engage the community, achieve sustainability, and preserve assets, approved by the board in November 2019.

Under Knicely's direction, the museum broadened its focus beyond Montana and the surrounding region, bringing in artists for major solo exhibitions from the U.S. and Canada, including Michel Desroches, Clyde Butcher, and Jill Krutick. Major exhibitions of works by the late Montana modernist Bill Stockton and Wyoming's Neltje — the last major show the artist would have before her death in April — were also presented.

The museum also saw a refresh of the main floor exhibitions, including the Will James room, and changes in venue to the annual Summerfair fundraiser.

COVID-19 provided challenges for arts organizations across the country, and the YAM was not immune. In 2020, the museum made cuts to staff in the executive and finance departments. During the pandemic, the museum was closed to visitation, and responded to the challenges by investing in equipment to create 3-D tours of the museum and shifting educational classes to a virtual format.

The executive director position will be advertised and the YAM’s board of trustees will conduct a nationwide search for Knicely’s replacement, according to the press release. Calls to Knicely were not returned as of press time.

Even with changes, YAM's fundraising auction remains a tricky business

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