Dr. Susan H. Edwards, executive director and CEO of the Frist Art Museum since 2004, has announced she will retire at the end of the year.
“As the Frist is always in a state of becoming, it is difficult to pinpoint a good moment to step down. During our 20th anniversary year, it seems an opportune moment to transition to the next generation of leadership,” said Edwards at the museum’s board of trustees meeting. “Serving the community, the mission, and the field in this position has been rewarding on every level. I remain ever grateful.”
During her 17 years, Frist has grown in stature and significance in the national and international art world as well as locally, according to her peers.
“Susan Edwards has elevated Nashville’s museum in ways we could only imagine in our early days,” said Frist Art Museum Chairman Billy Frist. “Not only has she made the presentation of the visual arts and discourse surrounding them diverse and accessible during her time at the museum, she also changed lives and Nashville in the process.”
During Dr. Edwards’ tenure, Frist was awarded accreditation by the American Alliance of Museums and has presented more than 225 exhibitions, ranging from The Birth of Impressionism: Masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay to Carrie Mae Weems: Three Decades of Photography and Video, which toured nationally, and the current Picasso. Figures from the Musée National Picasso-Paris.
She also served as curator for many exhibitions, including Vesna Pavlovic: Projected Histories, William Eggleston: Anointing the Overlooked, Claudio Parmiggiani: Dematerialization, Kara Walker: Cut to the Quick from the Collections of Jordan D. Schnitzer and His Family Foundation (co-curated by Dr. Edwards and Ciona Rouse, opening July 2021), and was a contributor to many museum publications.
Edwards is just the second-ever director in the museum’s history.
Now she will set about aiding efforts to secure a successor to take the reigns. Edwards thanked her entire team for their support over the years during the meeting.
“From its inception, the visionary founders put the museum at the forefront of so much of the exciting work now taking place including the ongoing commitment to and full embrace of diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion,” said Edwards. “The decision to eschew a collection was a foundational tenet that set the museum on a sometimes difficult but ultimately rewarding path, allowing us to bring a wide range of regional artists and world cultures to Nashville.”
Edwards earned BA and MA degrees at the University of South Carolina and a Ph.D. from the City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate Center.
Prior to leading the Frist Art Museum, she held positions at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, Hunter College, and served as executive director at the Katonah Museum of Art.
In 2011, Edwards was decorated with the rank of Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et Lettres (Knight in the Order of Arts and Letters) by the French Government.
A widely respected expert in American art and photography, Edwards has organized exhibitions, published, lectured and taught at the college level in both subject areas.