After years of obstacles to open new cultural and exhibition spaces that reflect the true diversity of American society, like the Museum of the American Latino, things seem to be changing. Now, the LGBTQ+ community will also have its Museum.
According to a press release from the board of directors, the American LGBTQ+ Museum has appointed Ben Garcia as executive director of a project that will see the light of day in 2024.
“Bringing more than 20 years of experience in museum leadership, development, and intersectional LGBTQ+ advocacy, Ben will lead the Museum’s exhibition and program development, advocacy efforts, communications and community outreach, and fundraising,” the announcement reads. “He is charged with bringing the American LGBTQ+ Museum into its next stage of growth as we work toward the opening of our physical home at the New-York Historical Society in 2024.”
Previously, Ben Garcia served as Deputy Executive Director and Chief Learning Officer at the Ohio History Connection. In that role, he oversaw initiatives to bring Ohio’s untold stories into focus, repatriate Indian ancestors and belongings, and increase the environmental and economic sustainability of its 58 museums and historic sites. His previous museum experience includes leadership roles in the education departments of the J. Paul Getty Museum and the Skirball Cultural Center, and administrative roles at the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology and the Museum of Us. Ben also serves on the Board of Directors of Equality Ohio and the Midwest Association of Museums.
“To lead the American LGBTQ+ Museum into this next phase is a dream realized,” García said. “Together, we will tell the stories of queer peoples in this country from its Indigenous beginnings to the present; thousands of stories that haven’t been told before in museums. Stories brought to life through the work of LGBTQ+ creatives and scholars. This museum will be a space of celebration, connection, activism, and deep meaning. A liminal space where the connection to our ancestors will be strong and queer magic, real.”
The New York Times reported that the American LGBTQ+ Museum, which will share space with the New York Historical Society, will be the first museum dedicated to LGBTQ+ history and culture in the city. (The Leslie-Lohman Museum of Art, in SoHo, focuses on art and artists). As such, it will seek to strike a careful balance between New York’s queer and national history.
“After five years of working to get to this point, after our groundbreaking with the New-York Historical Society last fall, the board is delighted to welcome Ben Garcia as our first executive director,” said Richard Burns, Chair of the American LGBTQ+ Museum Board of Directors and Interim Executive Director of the Johnson Family Foundation. “Ben brings the experience, knowledge, and vision we need to lead our museum to our opening in 2024 and beyond. We’re all excited to begin working closely with him come February!”
Garcia’s addition to the American LGBTQ+ Museum team is also part of an effort to decentralize the narrative around queer identity. As the new Executive Director told the Times, “many of the early cultural touchstones around queer identity […] represented a cisgender, white perspective.”
“While crucial to opening up people’s hearts and minds,” he said, “they also formed a very incomplete picture.”