Kosinski, 67, said she is especially proud of the diversity and equity work.
“It reflects a strong ethical compass in our institution. We have trustees and staff and community all invested in it, in powerful ways,” she said. “And you see all the [other] work — in terms of exhibitions, acquisitions, programs, how we hire — unfolds from that. It is the red thread that knits together a lot of these initiatives.”
Kosinski will stay on through 2022 to assist in a smooth transition for her successor and to reach her 15-year milestone. Then she will become director emerita, an honorary title that she said feels “like a warm embrace from my trustees.”
“It allows us all to celebrate together, to mark our 100th anniversary, which we’ve decided extends to next year,” she said of the next 18 months. The board has formed a search committee, led by trustee Amy Meadows, to hire the next director.
Kosinski came to the Phillips in early 2008 from the Dallas Museum of Art, where she was a senior curator. Since then, she has grown the permanent collection from 2,000 to 5,000 pieces, with a focus on contemporary art and photography and adding to the diversity of artists. She pushed to address social issues, too, including presenting the 2019 exhibition “The Warmth of Other Suns: Stories of Global Displacement” (organized by the New Museum in New York) and last year’s “Riffs and Relations: African American Artists and the European Modernist Tradition.”
This year marks the centennial of the private museum, an anniversary marked by “Seeing Differently: The Phillips Collects for a New Century,” an exhibition showcasing recent acquisitions alongside the museum’s favorite holdings.
Kosinski also led the museum to partner with the Town Hall Education Arts Recreation Campus (THEARC) in Southeast Washington and with the University of Maryland in College Park to create the UMD Center for Art & Knowledge at The Phillips Collection.
“I will miss her openness and appetite for partnerships. She understands that museums must evolve with the times, and that in order for the Phillips Collection to be a ‘joy-giving, life-enhancing’ force for the community as it was meant to be, then it would have to grow and change and authentically be connected to the community,” board Chairman Dani Levinas wrote in an email that quotes museum founder Duncan Phillips. “Museums must get outside the walls — get in the community, and bring the community in.”
The pandemic was not a factor in her decision to step down, Kosinski said, although she conceded that it was “a very stressful year.” She decided long ago that 2023 was a target — “a good round 15 years,” she said.
“I don’t think there is any inherent virtue in serving forever. I think you do a disservice to the institution and the next generation of leadership,” she said. “I want for myself the time to explore new opportunities, pursue projects long deferred. In my field, we in leadership roles should be keenly aware of paving the way for the next generation of leaders.”