University of Iowa Museum of Art Names Sean O’Harrow New Director

Sean O’Harrow, executive director of the Figge Art Museum in Davenport, today was named the new director of the University of Iowa Museum of Art (UIMA). His selection follows a nationwide search process.

When he begins his new duties Nov. 15, O’Harrow will oversee the management and care of UIMA collections as well as its curatorial, educational and administrative activities. In addition, he will play a leading role in planning and fundraising for a new museum building.

“As President Mason has declared, the University is committed to building a new campus art museum to house its extraordinary art collection. Dr. O’Harrow will provide the vision, energy, and leadership to enable us to realize that goal,” said Wallace Loh, UI executive vice president and provost, who announced the appointment. “Just as important, his vision commits the UIMA to enhancing the UI’s educational mission while serving the larger community as well.”

A native of Hawaii, O’Harrow has been executive director of the Figge since 2007. During his tenure, the Figge has been re-accredited by the American Association of Museums and has seen increases in both fund-raising and attendance, setting an all-time record for annual visitors and program participants in 2009-10 of over 69,000, including more than 20,000 students from pre-school to college age.

He was instrumental in helping the UIMA house, preserve and display its vast collection at the Figge following the flood of 2008 that devastated the UI arts campus.

Beyond that, in a recent news story in The Quad-City Times, he was credited with creating educational programs that have attracted museum visits by everyone from families to young professionals. Likewise, he has partnered with several area colleges, including St. Ambrose University and Scott Community College in Davenport as well as Western Illinois University in Macomb, Black Hawk College in Moline and Knox College in Galesburg, Ill. He also arranged for artwork from Deere & Co. in Moline to be displayed at the Figge.

Prior to arriving in Iowa, O’Harrow was an official fellow and development director of St. Catharine’s College in the University of Cambridge for five years, where he helped raise $34 million. He spent three years as a senior executive in a U.S.-based investment banking firm in London, responsible for strategic growth in Europe. He also worked for four years as chief operating officer of an international financial consulting and software firm in London.

O’Harrow earned his doctorate in history of art from the University of Cambridge in 1997 and a undergraduate degree with honors in history of art from Harvard University in 1990. He is the recipient of a number of academic awards, including a British Academy postgraduate studentship.

Former UI President Willard (Sandy) Boyd is serving as interim UIMA director until O’Harrow begins work in Iowa City.

The UIMA’s collection is currently on display at two locations: the [email protected], located in the third floor Richey Ballroom of the Iowa Memorial Union (IMU) on the UI campus, and at the Figge Art Museum, 225 West Second St., Davenport, Iowa.

Temporary UIMA offices are located in the Studio Arts building, (the former Menards store), 1840 SA, 1375 Highway 1 West, Iowa City, Iowa, 52242.

For more information on the UI Museum of Art, visit

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