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What a museum director does in a workday

Sally Tallant with her colleague Lauren Haynes. (Courtesy of Sally Tallant)

Welcome to The Work Day, a series that charts a single day in various women’s working lives — from gallery owners to chief executives. In this installment, we hear from Sally Tallant, a museum director who recorded a day in August.

Name: Sally Tallant

Age: 54

Location: Queens

Job title/current role: President and executive director of the Queens Museum

Previous jobs: I’m lucky to have made a career in the arts. Initially, I started out as an artist, which led me to teach at several art schools and universities in Europe. Those experiences led me to become an educator and curator in London, first at the Hayward Gallery and then at the Serpentine Gallery, where I worked as head of programs from 2001 to 2012. My work then led me to oversee the Liverpool Biennial in 2012, where I was the director until 2019. That year, right before the pandemic, I moved to New York to join the Queens Museum.

What led me to my current role: I believe that art and education hold the power to transform how we experience and construct the world around us. A focus of my work has been to make arts and culture accessible for everyone, to create spaces where diverse voices are valued and represented. The Queens Museum is a unique cultural institution defined by the ongoing conversations we have with our communities. It has been a great privilege to have the opportunity to shape the vision of the museum and its future along with my team. We are in the process of building a new children’s museum on-site, an exciting journey to imagine a new vision for intergenerational arts engagement to be enjoyed by future generations in Queens.

How I spend the majority of my day: I spend a lot of my time in meetings. Every day I meet with my team, supporters and museum trustees as well as a wide range of constituents that include artists, educators, politicians and community members. Together, we make possible all the exhibitions, programs, community and education events that happen at the Queens Museum. Most days I also meet with colleagues from New York and around the world, especially if they are passing through the city. My evenings tend to be filled with exhibition openings, talks and events — as well as dinner plans with friends or colleagues.

My workday

7 a.m.: Early-morning swimming session — it helps me wake up and start the day with a clear head!

8 a.m.: Breakfast at home. My go-to is fruit and toast with Marmite (as a Brit, Marmite is a must — I bring it in large quantities from the U.K.).

10 a.m.: All-staff potluck breakfast. This was a special breakfast to welcome new staff, paid interns and fellows, and it was a great way to gather in person which feels so important now after years of social distancing. I brought delicious croissants from my local bakery Cannelle in Long Island City.

11:30 a.m.: I attended an event in the museum galleries organized by artist Suzanne Lacy and our community organizer Gianina Enriquez and the leaders of the La Jornada and Queens Museum Cultural Food Pantry: Patricia Aldana, Adriana Aquino, Emma Confesor, Karina Mendieta, Maria Morales and Maritza Terrones.

2 p.m.: Check-in with artist Charisse Pearlina Weston. Charisse will have her first solo museum exhibition at the Queens Museum this fall. She has been busy working on-site, setting up for the show and making a large-scale installation that will be tremendous — I can’t wait for people to see it.

4 p.m.: I attend a gathering at the Met with colleagues across the cultural sector to celebrate a historical investment in culture by the city. The event is hosted by Laurie Cumbo, commissioner of the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, and members of the Cultural Institutions Groups — a diverse coalition of organizations across all five boroughs.

7 p.m.: I return from Manhattan to host a welcome celebration for Lauren Haynes, our brilliant new director of curatorial affairs and programs at Anable Basin in Long Island City.

9 p.m.: I normally end my day by streaming films or series to unwind. I am currently watching “Westworld