A Closer Look at a Business Renaissance Executive: An Interview with Joan Marshall

Business Renaissance Quarterly, Winter 2007 | Go to article overview

A Closer Look at a Business Renaissance Executive: An Interview with Joan Marshall


Joan Marshall is Executive Director of the Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena, CA. one of only four museums in the country exclusively devoted to the arts of Asia and the Pacific Islands. The Museum is committed to education, scholarship, and conservation, to intellectual independence and to critical inquiry and dialogue.

Since joining the museum in 2003, Ms. Marshall has increased operating revenues by 40 percent and has launched the museum's first comprehensive campaign to restore its signature building listed on the National Historic Register. The museum is well known for its innovative exhibitions, which have included the first American exhibitions of contemporary Chinese art after the Revolution, the first exhibition of Aboriginal art in this country, and the first major exhibition of Tibetan furniture in the United States. Through its exhibitions and programs, the Museum has positioned itself at the forefront of an active, forward-looking dialogue about the arts and cultures of Asia and the Pacific Islands that explores new ideas in education, in understanding cultures and the values they represent.

Ms. Marshall joined the Museum in 2003 and has an extensive background in museum management, development and arts education. Before joining Pacific Asia, Joan was Director of Development at the Autry Museum of Western Heritage where she consistently grew revenues and successfully integrated the development operations of the Southwest Museum and the Women of the West Museum after their mergers with the Autry. She was also with Los Angeles' Museum of Contemporary Art, where she led their successful $25 million endowment campaign.

Her past experience also includes seven years as a program officer at the National Endowment for the Arts in Washington DC where she oversaw funding for nationally significant exhibitions and arts education programs. Ms. Marshall has an undergraduate degree in economics and an MBA from the University of Texas and began her career in real estate development and banking in Houston, TX.

BRQ: What makes you a business renaissance executive?

JM: Well, I'd have to say that keeping a non-profit museum going is a constant job of giving new meaning to what I do, and new meaning to art. Finding something "new in the old" to spark the interest of today's museumgoers is a constant challenge. Educating people about other cultures and developing a sense of cultural literacy is critical today. Many people talk about the crisis in education in terms of learning the basics of reading and math. But cultural literacy is essential; it's not a frill when trade, communication and the environment have become so global and interconnected.

BRQ: How do you think you stand out compared to other business executives?

JM: Running a non-profit museum is endlessly fascinating. Unlike a corporation, there is no profit and loss at the end of the day. Sure, we have to balance the budget and meet payroll but finding meaningful measures of success is not always easy. …

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