The Exit Interview: Frank Goodyear and Anne Collins Goodyear

May 17, 2013

They did not arrive at the Smithsonian together, but Frank H. Goodyear III and Anne Collins Goodyear, longtime curators at the National Portrait Gallery, are leaving it as a pair. After 12 years at the Portrait Gallery, this husband-and-wife team will begin their tenure as co-directors of the Bowdoin College Museum of Art in Brunswick, Maine, next month.

Forget splitting the household chores. They’re proof that a couple can share everything. Their upcoming experiment in management and marriage is one that would make Sheryl Sandberg fans downright euphoric.

“Co-directing is a very compelling 20th-century leadership model,” Frank Goodyear, 46, said of their next career move. “We are both going to have the chance to equally throw ourselves into this new challenge.”

“It wasn’t something we were looking for, but the thought of re-imagining the direction of leadership was so intriguing,” Anne Goodyear, 43, said.

Beginning in June, the couple will work together to fulfill all the functions typically fulfilled by one executive. Together, they’ll oversee the museum’s research, publications and a permanent collection of 20,000 items, which range from ancient sculptures to contemporary paintings.


Frank H. Goodyear III and Anne C. Goodyear, 2013 (Dennis and Diana Griggs)

The museum isn’t getting two for the price of one though: They’re both full-time employees, receiving separate salaries. And that model makes sense given their backgrounds. The Goodyears have different specialties and tastes.

Anne was the associate curator of prints and drawings at the Portrait Gallery, learned in the works of French-American painter Marcel Duchamp. Frank specializes in photography and served as the curator of photographs at the Portrait Gallery. Their partnership will bring their specialties together in one directorship, though they’re not exactly sure how that will look.

“We haven’t determined how to split the responsibility yet, “ Anne said. “The novelty will give us and our colleagues a chance to see what works best.”

The shared directorship has gender-related implications for the museum’s leadership, since the male and female perspective will be equally represented, Frank said. The Goodyears said some of their friends were amazed that the couple wanted to work together so closely. They have no children and have worked in the same museum for more than a decade: Aren’t they sick of each other yet?

“Some people initially said, ‘Is this going to be good for the marriage?’ ” Frank said, laughing.

The couple met in graduate school at the University of Texas at Austin and became fast friends, bonding during a photography seminar.

“We were always intellectual equals,” Anne said. “And we didn’t immediately start dating in school. It helps that our lives have always been intertwined, socially and intellectually.”

They married in 2000, a year before they received Smithsonian appointments, a rare occurrence in a sector where it can be hard to find joint appointments at museums or universities. Frank joined the small staff at the Portrait Gallery in 2001, five months before Anne did, hoping that she would also find a position.

“We were very lucky to have this opportunity and our appointments at the Portrait Gallery, because it’s hard to find positions that are deeply satisfying for both of us,” Frank said.

If anyone at Bowdoin was worried about marital drama, 12 years together at the Portrait Gallery proved that the Goodyears can work as a team. They’ve co-curated exhibitions, including “Portraiture Now,” the contemporary portraiture series in its seventh year, and they worked hand in hand on the opening of the Portrait Gallery’s Colonial and turn-of-the-century galleries.

The Goodyears are leaving at a time of transition for the Gallery. In April, Kim Sajet became director of the Portrait Gallery, and Anne is thrilled to have worked with the first woman to be appointed director, if only for the first month of Sajet’s tenure. (Sajet is the first appointed director. Wendy Wick Reaves served as an interim director last year.)

But now, the Goodyears are forging their own first, pioneering a model for museum management that Frank hopes that others will adopt. Performing arts companies often have executive and artistic directors, and Teach for America tapped two people as co-directors when founder Wendy Kopp left the organization. The Goodyears are hoping their experiment helps others rethink models for management.

“When you think about what a director might look like in the 21st century, you might see someone with an eagle-eye focus on fundraising,” Frank said. ” If you have two people lending their perspectives, hopefully, you won’t lose sight of the other aspects of the job.”

Katherine Boyle reports on arts, museums and culture for the Style section.
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