Connected \\ February 8, 2023
A word with new COO Kurt Steinberg
2023 has already brought some new faces to the PEM employee roster – installation technicians, librarians and Development staff, to name a few. One of the newest employees is the museum’s Chief Operating Officer, Kurt Steinberg. He joins the staff from nearby Montserrat College of Art in Beverly, where he served as president from 2018 to 2022 after 17 years as Executive Vice President and Interim President at Massachusetts College of Art and Design.
Working under the guidance of our Executive Director and CEO Lynda Roscoe Hartigan, and in collaboration with the Museum’s Executive Leadership Team and Board of Trustees, Steinberg will oversee the museum’s collection services, employee experience, facilities, financial, marketing and communications departments and security operations. He’ll also serve as a strategic advisor to maximize team performance, streamline everyday processes and further our sustainability goals. In the first all staff meeting of 2023, Steinberg shared some reflections on his first week at PEM.
A welcoming spirit
Coming from a “close-knit, supportive and creative place” like Montserrat to a bigger institution in Salem, Steinberg hoped he’d find a similar atmosphere. “From day one, the first minute or hour I was here, I could already sense the welcoming and generous spirit of this place,” he said. “That is a reflection from someone coming in from the outside…[PEM is] a special and wonderful place, and I know that the spirit of that will continue as we move on.”
A 2019 PRIDE Dance Party. Photo by Kathy Tarantola/PEM.
Music and books
Steinberg would DJ from his office on some Fridays at Montserrat and hinted that it might be a good tradition to start at PEM. “I’m a huge EDM electronic dance music fan. I will bounce all over the place to that stuff.” Perhaps this bouncing accounts for why he prefers moving around to sitting in front of his computer. “I walk around a lot. I can only sit at a desk for so long, and I actually like to meet people where they work, and have real, good, honest human conversations with people.”
Originally from Buffalo, New York, Steinberg attended High School in Washington, DC, where he spent time becoming a classical music fan at the symphony and wandering the National Gallery of Art. He also has a lifelong interest in comics and graphic novels, which he’ll now be indulging at Harrison’s Comics on Essex Street.
Kurt Steinberg is PEM's new Chief Operating Officer. Photo by Kathy Tarantola/PEM.
Global and personal art movements
Steinberg shared that his favorite art movement is Fluxus, a global but loosely organized group of artists, who, like the Dadaists before them, rejected the authority of museums or the highly educated to determine the value of art. “Anything with a manifesto is worth knowing something about,” Steinberg said. He then alluded to his own art practice and said he looks forward to finding time in his studio again.
Why we do what we do
“I am 100 percent behind two concepts: [one is] our ability to support creative lives, our own and our visitors’ and the artists’ that we work with,” he said. “That’s incredibly important in the world we live in. The other one is being active witnesses to truth. Art and design and culture transform the way people view the world. I’ve learned that more than anything piloting Montserrat during COVID.
Visitors in the 2021 exhibition Alexis Rockman: Shipwrecks. Photo by Kathy Tarantola/PEM.
“The stuff we do on a daily basis is witnessing truth and bringing stories and context to people who need it. There is comfort, challenge and growth that happens within the walls of the museum…I thank you for your generosity and I look forward to building solid relationships at PEM for an extended period of time.”
To learn more about the PEM leadership team, visit our website.
TOP IMAGE: PEM photographer Kathy Tanantola captures Kurt Steinberg's headshot as he is welcomed as the museum's new Chief Operating Officer. Photo by Mackenzie Ullrich/PEM.