Dr. Alex Rich Appointed to Head Polk Museum of Art

May 23, 2019

by FSC Staff

The Polk Museum of Art at Florida Southern College has appointed Dr. H. Alexander Rich to be the Executive Director and Chief Curator for the Polk Museum of Art at Florida Southern College in Lakeland. Dr. Rich joined Florida Southern in August 2014 as assistant professor of art history, heading the art history program and directing the galleries and exhibitions. In June 2017, he assumed the additional role of curator and director of galleries and exhibitions for the Polk Museum of Art, as part of an affiliation agreement between the two organizations.

“It’s a great honor to be given the opportunity to lead a distinguished community and academic art museum,” Dr. Rich said. “The Polk Museum of Art at Florida Southern College has long been a core contributor to the life and culture of Lakeland and Central Florida. Since its affiliation with Florida Southern, the Museum has begun to make new and important contributions as an academic museum, promoting diverse areas of scholarship and broader community education and outreach, among other initiatives.”

Dr. Rich looks forward to “continuing to enhance the Museum's offerings and maintaining its integral relationship with the broader Lakeland community,” and building upon the strong legacy of excellence established by Claire Orologas, who has announced her retirement.

Dr. Rich earned his A.B. degree in English and Art History from Dartmouth College, and both his M.A. and Ph.D. in Art History from The Institute of Fine Arts at New York University. His museum experience began with a high school apprenticeship as a tour guide at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, followed by internships at the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Met, membership in the Exhibitions Committee at the Hood Museum of Art, and a research/writing fellowship in the Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. He also worked as assistant to the Head of Museum Interpretation in the Education Department of the Whitney Museum, and as an adjunct professor at Hunter College, City University of New York, and the Fashion Institute of Technology.

“Dr. Rich has been a transformative leader as he has helped to guide the affiliation between Florida Southern College and the Polk Museum of Art,” said Museum Board Chair Lynda Buck. “He has worked to strengthen the Museum’s vital role in the local arts community while expertly directing its added mission of becoming a superior academic museum, bringing in world-class exhibitions that benefit the public and students alike.”

Founded in 1966 as the Imperial Youth Museum and renamed the Polk Public Museum in 1969 to better reflect its emphasis on art, history, and science, Lakeland’s premiere not-for-profit art museum doubled its exhibition and classroom facilities with the purchase of a vacant Publix Super Market building in 1970. Together with the School Board of Polk County, staff members worked to establish and sustain a curriculum-based art education program. The institution received accreditation from the American Association of Museums in 1983, and was renamed the Polk Museum of Art. Its current facility on Palmetto Street was formally dedicated in September 1988.

Claire Orologas, executive director and chief curator of the Polk Museum of Art since 2012, will become Executive Director Emerita. She ably led the Museum to national prominence. Ms. Orologas plans to continue a life-long role as an ambassador for the Museum and give presentations on various art topics. She will be relocating to a new home in Micanopy, Florida. In addition, Ms. Pal Powell will continue as Deputy Director. Ms. Powell has been in a leadership position at the Museum for more than twenty-seven years and is highly regarded.