Big transition ahead for Yellowstone Art Museum with loss of long-time executive director

October 28, 2017 GMT

Finding a new executive director at the Yellowstone Art Museum with the organizational skills and passion that Robyn Peterson exhibited during her 11 years here will be difficult, board members say.

An emergency board meeting has been called for Nov. 1 to discuss conducting a national search to replace Peterson, who notified the board on Thursday afternoon that her last day will be Dec. 8.

“How sad is that?” said Kris Carpenter, past president of the board of trustees. “I’m really excited for her, but dang, it’s going to be a big transition for the museum and the community.”

Carpenter noted that in Peterson’s typical fashion, she has everything laid out for the board to move forward next week.

“That’s just the way she is. She’s so organized.”

Peterson said she plans to work seven days a week until she leaves on Dec. 8 to help the board establish a search committee and set parameters for the new director.

“The staff has never been as good as it is right now,” she said. “The staff will roll out our exhibitions and our education programs and events with a high level of professionalism.”

Peterson said she was recruited to help turn around an ailing museum in her home state of California. She said it will be difficult to leave Billings because the community has been very generous in its support of the museum, but she does miss the sunshine of California. And she loves a challenge.

“I’m going to miss the really good people here. That’s why my husband Nick and I stayed longer than we thought we would. It was easier to get things done with people who didn’t waste a lot of time on pretension.”

Board member Dan Burkhart said Peterson has always kept the museum in the black. Beyond that, she has brought vision to the YAM, and worked hard to gain financial support to complete projects.

“I was so impressed with how thoughtful and purposeful she is,” Burkhart said.

Kevin Stenberg, president of the YAM Board of Trustees, said Peterson has made impressive strides during her tenure at the YAM.

“She’s done a lot, let me tell you,” Stenberg said. “I would have to say the biggest accomplishments were the expansion campaign, the Visible Vault, and the national reaccreditation. Only 2 percent of the museums are accredited. She did a wonderful job getting back our accreditation.”

The national accreditation helps the YAM bring in national art exhibits and the Visible Vault allows the museum to showcase its collections and host visiting artists.

Stenberg said he is confident that curator Bob Durden can get the day-to-day tasks done at the museum until a new director is in place.

“What we need is someone to write grants,” he said. “Robyn did a great job at that. She is going to be missed.”