Nov 6, 2017 at 9:12 PM
Ashley Occhino, a University of Massachusetts Dartmouth graduate, has been named as the new executive director of the New Bedford Art Museum/ArtWorks!, officials announced Monday.
“I’ve always found myself coming back to New Bedford again and again. There’s such a rich art community there,” said Occhino, who is in her mid 30s. She’s from Attleboro and lives in Taunton.
Occhino has served as the manager of studio class programs at the Worcester Art Museum since 2014.
Occhino is set to take the helm Nov. 27. Her leadership follows retirement of Noelle Foye who shepherded the merger between the New Bedford Art Museum and ArtWorks! which occurred in 2014 and directed the combined organization. Under Foye’s guidance, exhibitions and educational programs grew while collaborations with other institutions expanded, according to a news release from the museum.
“Noelle Foye’s leadership positioned the art museum to be central to the community and that strength has allowed us to attract such a new talented leader,” said Lee Heald, director of AHA! and a member of the museum’s board and search committee for a new executive director. “We expect that Ashley will continue our strong support of community expression in the arts as well as support for excellence and achievement in the local arts community.”
Heald also said Occhino has a lot of enthusiasm and will bring a fresh perspective to the city.
“New Bedford holds a very special place in my heart and it’s through my times at UMass Dartmouth that I really learned about the city,” Occhino said.
She has a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) from UMass Dartmouth College of Visual and Performing Arts and has an MFA from Savannah College of Art and Design. She was one of the first classes to experience the Star Store in New Bedford, part of her thesis involved displaying work at ArtWorks! and she’s also taught art classes there, she said.
At the Worcester Art Museum, Occhino said she was in charge of developing programming, managing staff and working with community partners. Also, an education wing with dedicated exhibition space fell under her purview. The museum has an intensive education program with more than 100 classes each season, Occhino said.
She’s previously held leadership positions at Danforth Art in Framingham and the Fuller Craft Museum in Brockton, each time serving in education departments.
“I really just want to embrace the idea of a community museum,” Occhino said. She praised Foye for being successful with the merger, adding “I’m really honored to be following in her footsteps.”
“We are excited the New Bedford Art Museum/Artworks! has hired Ashley Occhino as the museum’s new Executive Director. The NB Art Museum/Artworks! is ideal for arts travelers and invigorates the community. Ashley is familiar with the arts & culture landscape in New Bedford as well as her years of experience and passion for the arts, we look forward to working with her,” said Dagny Ashley, the city’s director of tourism and marketing, in a statement.
Jamie Uretsky, curator at NBAM/ArtWorks! said she looks forward to removing her hat as acting director.
“I’ve only heard good things about Ashley,” Uretsky said. “It’s going to be nice to have her energy in the space.”
Follow Aimee Chiavaroli on Twitter @AimeeC_SCT