A change of the guard: Eric Carle Museum taps new executive director

By STEVE PFARRER

Staff Writer

Published: 08-16-2023 2:35 PM

AMHERST — A significant change is afoot at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, where a new executive director is poised to come on board.

Jennifer Schantz, who has an extensive background with a number of organizations in New York City, will join the Carle Sept. 18, taking over for longtime director Alix Kennedy, who has led the museum since 2008. Kennedy announced in January that she’d be stepping down to pursue other projects.

Schantz, who most recently has been an independent consultant for cultural organizations, was previously the executive director of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, an educational research and circulating library at Lincoln Center that also serves as a museum of theater, dance, music, and recorded sound.

In addition, Schantz spent over a dozen years in various positions with the New-York Historical Society, ultimately becoming the organization’s executive vice president and chief operating officer.

That combined experience, plus a background in the law, including a stint with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, sent Schantz to the top of the list after a national search took place for Kennedy’s replacement, Carle officials say.

“Jen brings unparalleled skills to this role, with more than 20 years of experience running New York cultural institutions,” Carle Board Chair Christopher B. Milne said in statement.

“From our first meeting with Jen, it was clear she shared our passion for art and literacy and recognized the critical role The Carle plays as an institution dedicated to artistic expression,” Milne added. “We were also enormously impressed by the breadth of her experience. Her enthusiasm and confidence were contagious.”

Schantz said she’s excited to come to Amherst and build on the Carle’s mission to champion picture book art, a goal introduced by the museum’s founders, Eric and Barbara Carle, who Schantz called “visionaries.”

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“It’s through their vision that The Carle has become more than a museum,” she said “[It’s] a thought leader and a haven where picture book art, literature, and imagination come alive — and I can’t wait to start.”

She’ll become just the museum’s third director, taking over after Kennedy spent 15 years extending the museum’s reach.

Milne says The Carle saw “extraordinary growth” during Kennedy’s tenure, going from a “burgeoning museum” to one “that now leads the field, sharing picture-book art with museums and educators around the world.”

After Schantz arrives, Kennedy will continue at the Carle in a limited role that will focus on connecting the new director with museum partners and donors; her last day will be Nov. 21.

“I’m so excited to introduce The Carle’s supporters to Jen,” Kennedy said, adding that she’s looking forward to seeing her successor take the museum “to all-new heights.”

The Carle will launch a fundraising campaign later this month to honor Kennedy’s accomplishments as executive director, with a donor celebration for her planned at the museum on Nov. 4.

Steve Pfarrer can be reached at spfarrer@gazettenet.com.

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