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Erin M. Coe
Erin M. Coe is the Director of the Palmer Museum of Art and Associate Clinical Professor in the College of Arts and Architecture at Penn State. Since her appointment in September 2017, she has provided transformative leadership re-envisioning the museum’s mission and goals, as well as the strategic direction of the Palmer, which celebrated its 50th anniversary as the university art museum at Penn State in 2022. She oversees the museum’s operations, including the development of its business plan, permanent collection, exhibitions, and educational programs. She is at the forefront of the University’s initiative to construct a new state-of-the-art building for the Palmer Museum located in the Arboretum at Penn State. The new 71,254-square-foot museum, designed by Allied Works, is nearing the end of construction, and is scheduled to open to the public in spring 2024.
Her commitment to providing the resources to support staff success and achieve the museum’s goals has led to the development of several groundbreaking exhibitions, including Plastic Entanglements: Ecology, Aesthetics, Materials (2018); From the Rooftops: John Sloan and the Art of the New Urban Space (2019); Field Language: The Painting and Poetry of Warren and Jane Rohrer (2021); and Global Asias: Contemporary Asian and Asian American Art from the Collections of Jordan Schnitzer and His Family Foundation (2022). These exhibitions were accompanied by significant publications, providing new scholarship that emphasizes local, global, and interdisciplinary perspectives. Under her leadership, the permanent collection has grown by 30 percent, and she has stewarded several significant gifts, including the John Driscoll Collection of American Drawings and the bequest of 200 works of art from museum namesake Barbara Palmer. She has prioritized the acquisition of works by underrepresented artists to bring greater diversity to the museum’s holdings, and has spearheaded new initiatives to address access, equity, and inclusion in the organization’s culture, as well as its exhibitions and public programs.
Coe is the former Executive Director of The Hyde Collection, an accredited art museum and historic house located in the Capital Region of New York. She led a capital project that included an expansion of and renovations to the museum’s 1989 wing. Moreover, she secured a major gift of postwar modern art that resulted in the addition of a new gallery dedicated to modern and contemporary art. Prior to serving as Executive Director, Coe was the museum’s Chief Curator for 15 years. During her tenure she curated more than 45 exhibitions, authored over a dozen publications, contributed to national art periodicals, and juried several regional and national shows.
She has received awards from organizations such as the Attingham Trust and the Association of Art Museum Curators, and before stepping down from The Hyde Collection in 2017, Congresswoman Elise Stefanik honored her with a Congressional Recognition for her years of dedication to cultivating and promoting the arts in New York’s 21st District.
Coe holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of New Mexico, a master’s degree from the University at Albany, State University of New York, and worked on a doctorate in the history of art and architecture at Boston University. She has held prior positions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the University Art Museum, University at Albany.
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